Tim Moran is the CEO of the CMO100 Network, a newly formed organization of the IMA that conducts research, content, events and programs around “Digital Transformation”. Prior to this, Tim has built and managed CMO.com for Adobe into the most profound online resource for marketing executives, with a subscriber base of over 60,000 professionals and an overall impression rate of over 50 Million, due to Adobe’s amplified channels.
He has worked as a journalist and editor for more than 25 years. Prior to joining Adobe, he worked for CMP Media, later UBM, in a variety of editorial-management roles, including Executive Editor of EE Times and Editor in Chief of EETimes.com, which he launched in 1996.
Adobe’s CMO.com has long been a poster child for the “brand as a publisher” movement and I am delighted to have Tim take my questions!
- Tim thanks so much for agreeing to take my questions, tell us about your new role at the CMO 100 Network and what you hope to accomplish?
The CMO100 Network is part of the Internet Marketing Association, headed by Sinan Kanatsiz. The idea for the group is to bring together some of the best and sharpest minds in marketing today–such as Cory Treffilitti, from Voicera; Paul Smith, from Tangram; and Olga Pancenko, from Perrin Paris–to further the concept of digital transformation through the marketing side of the business. Clearly, there is no faster-moving business discipline today than marketing, and staying ahead of the curve is the only way CMOs and their companies can flourish. The real value of being part of the CMO100 lies in the membership—the whole will equal much more than the sum of the parts. We are looking for marketing leaders who share a passion for marketing and leading the digital transformation in the enterprise.
- There is so much talk about how B2B brands should do media, become publishers, acquire an audience and take control of their own messaging and user journey. Do you still actively evangelise this to the CMO’s you meet or within your network? Why should CMO’s look at a long-term investment like a media play – also given that the venture may bear fruit only after the incumbent CMO’s tenure with the organisation? What are the biggest benefits?
I am fully committed to the idea that at least some portion of marketing must create independent, media-like content for customers and potential customers. Much of what is called “content marketing” today is no more than old-time white papers and campaign copy given another name, and perhaps pushed out via new channels. Too many marketers still believe that the customer is as interested as they are in the brand’s product, mission, go-to-market strategy, POV, marketing themes, and on and on.
The benefit of being an independent source of education, information, and entertainment is that the customer begins to think of the brand as a trusted source, rather than a sales/marketing entity. And this is what consumers are looking for today.
- Is there any resistance there to these concepts that you obviously pioneered with CMO.com? What do they (CMO’s) perceive as the top challenges? Cost of setting up the editorial operations, quality of content, vision and roadmap? Or does the need for short term lead gen and ROI get in the way?
Yes, there is often resistance of one kind or another. It is hard to determine direct ROI and worth when the content is not meant to be direct lead generation or demand generation. As time goes by, with more and more data available and better ways to measure, it will become somewhat easier to do that, but the idea of independent media-like content can be a hard sell. Also, even when marketers “say” they are on board with the idea, there can be constant pressure to perform in some way the justifies the time and expense of the operation. And, finally, it takes time–this kind of brand publishing is not like a campaign; nurturing an audience takes months and years, and marketing leaders are not always able to accept that.
- I see a lot of B2C brands actively pursuing this strategy, and with a lot of creativity! Do you feel it’s a matter of time before it all sort of moves into the B2B space?
B2C brands are often more free to do this kind of publishing because of the nature of their business and the expectations of the consumer. One of the great quotes I heard a few years ago was: “Red Bull is a really a media company that happens to sell an energy drink.” Not at B2B companies are in that kind of position.
Nevertheless, brand publishing is tailor made for B2B, in that educating your customer about the industry or technology can be half the marketing battle.
It really was only 20 years ago or so when B2B brands used the “trade publications” to produce this kind of content in the form of “advertorials.” Today, savvy marketers can recreate that concept with their own network and audience.
- I was speaking with Sangram Vajre, Co-founder at Terminus recently and they have been bullish on building a strong event brand (#FlipMyFunnel) with high recall, a community of practitioners and recently Sangram completed 100 episodes of a podcast series. These are disparate elements but cohesively also represent a media strategy of putting out content that is both curated and created in-house. What are your thoughts on this approach? Does it all need to come together in a “media property” or can it exist outside of that vehicle?
First, there is nothing wrong with curated content. Using it is a great way to get into the brand as publishing business–it provides a real service for your readers/customers, in that you can be a one-stop shop for all content they are interested in by curating and publishing it so they don’t have to scour the web. I firmly believe that this kind of content–curate and original–should exist beyond the corporate identity.
Perhaps it is my publishing background and bias, but I believe that readers will be more apt to respect the content when it’s offered independent of the main brand/site.
- What was the north star metric you tracked at CMO.com? Views, newsletter sign-ups or engagement? How did you track and perceive ROI? Did new CMO’s bring about a change of vision and strategic direction or was it pretty much constant?
We mostly tracked the same metrics that any media property would–page view, subscribers, time spent on site, unique visitors, newsletter opens, etc.
- Tim, with Google going all in with voice assistants and with chatbots popping up on every site, what do you think the future holds for brands that are publishers or that are contemplating jumping into the fray? Will this model such as a CMO.com still hold? Will it have to morph into something else? Will long form journalism and content survive a world that is increasingly low on attention?
I wish I knew the answer to this. What I do believe is that the idea of brand as publisher will continue to evolve, because each generation seems to be less and less responsive to the old “push” marketing techniques.
CMOs and other marketing leaders will be forced, at some point, to create content that educates, entertains, and informs the customer while having nothing to do–directly–with the brand’s product or services.
John Deere has been publishing The Furrow since 1895–a magazine and now web site that’s about farming, and not Deere.