The rise of the Chief Consumer Officer

Customers have never been this powerful before: they can make or break a brand on social media, they have more faith in each other’s opinions and experiences than in those of the brand owner, they put things into perspective and they have an increasingly critical attitude towards promises made by brands. So the arrival of the term ‘Chief Consumer Officer’ is no real surprise: it is a new role in the boardroom which is supposed to exert the customers’ voice and influence all through the entire organization.
Although techniques such as crowdsourcing, social listening and co-creation are well established by now, organizations too often appeal to them too tactically and insufficiently strategically. A comparison with teenage sex springs to mind: “Everybody is talking about it, few are doing it and only a couple are good at it!”. So it seems that many organizations create the function of Chief Consumer Officer in order to catch up; three major trends can explain the success.

Increased awareness with top management

Company leaders are convinced, more than ever, that the power and future of their organizations depend on the way the organization is capable of setting up valuable connections and collaborations with customers. In a recent IBM report, The Customer-Activated Enterprise, 60% of the more than 4,000 CEOs who were interviewed indicate that they expect the client’s influence to be the most tangible in the business strategy development in the coming 3 to 5 years. A Chief Consumer Officer facilitates the collaboration between CMO, CIO and COO, thus bringing down the existing internal silos and always starting from the customer’s point of view. CEOs also realize that they continuously need to search for a more open collaboration with the outside world. Or, as Stiven Kerestegian, Senior Manager Open Innovation at LEGO, explains it: “99.99% of the world’s smartest people don’t work for us”.

Clients ask for more involvement

A recent survey in the UK indicated that today’s consumers spend more time and money on innovation than all manufacturers of consumer products and services combined. Those who we used to mainly see as customers before, have also and increasingly turned into volunteers and contributors. Smart organizations appeal more and more to the wishes, the enthusiasm and the capacities of customers to help support brands’ challenges. This applies in particular to the youth: even more so than the typical consumers, youngsters expect brands to be honest, transparent and open and to actively involve them in the co-creation of their future.

Technology entails new options

The Internet technology created a wide range of new options for consumers to help brands. But they often miss the strategic brand context, they have trouble recognizing and understanding their own behavior and not all of them carry a creative gene. So to simply copy your consumer’s opinion as the basis for your company strategy is not such a good idea. But technology allows to filter, fine-tune or reinforce the consumers’ voice or to put it into perspective. You could for example gather consumers and use wisdom of the crowd techniques to develop a more detailed insight in consumers and thus increase your chances to come to fresh and reliable insights for your company.
Curious to see whether we will soon come across more and more Chief Consumer Officers in the boardroom and how their role will further evolve. Should you have any experience with the role of Chief Consumer Officer, we would greatly appreciate you sharing your feedback with us!

Eager for more? Get your free download of Why every company needs a Chief Consumer Officer: 5 steps towards becoming a consumer-centric company.

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