Aviation Marketing: How CMO leadership affects advertising agency performance

If aviation industry CMOs receive work that is creative, meaningful and inspiring, a covenantal relationship is built that fulfills the emotional needs of both CMO and agency.

What type of relationship do you have with your agency – contractual or covenantal?

We all want to be needed. This is never more apparent than when you work with a group of creative people. Agency folks by their very nature are a high touch, service-oriented bunch that will work themselves into a frenzy trying to please their clients.

Unfortunately, due to circumstances or culture beyond the CMO’s control, the relationship starts to sour because it is viewed as a contractual relationship. Contractual relationships lack emotion, are based on obligations written in legalese, and work to the detriment of group dynamics. This type of relationship is based on reciprocity driven by the finance types to find the lowest cost producer.

Typically, contractual relationships are viewed as client and vendor.

As an example, an RFP is sent to 8 agencies (kiss of death) for the development of a new corporate website and an inbound marketing program. Due to the economic climate, the agencies don’t want to say “NO” to anything. These agencies work diligently on their proposals, developing strategies and sighting technologies that will meet the RFP requirement. A couple of agencies even develop mockups of their ideas to help the client visualize the concepts they are proposing. Then the contractual mentality kicks in and the project is awarded to the agency with the lowest cost.

The flip side of the contractual relationship is the covenantal relationship.

Covenantal relationships reward creativity and change. This type of relationship fulfills the emotional needs of both CMO and agency, resulting in work that is:

  • Creative
  • Rewarding
  • Meaningful
  • Inspirational
  • Accountable

In his book “Leadership is An Art,” Max DePree, Chairman emeritus of Herman Miller Inc., identifies seven ground rules for a covenantal relationship:

  1. The right to be needed
  2. The right to be involved
  3. The right to understand
  4. The right the affect one’s own destiny
  5. The right to be accountable
  6. The right to appeal
  7. The right to make a commitment

Achieving a covenantal relationship requires strong CMO leadership – someone who is confident in their abilities yet trusts others on whom they depend for their success.

The covenantal CMO/agency relationship is a group dynamic with one side or the other demonstrating leadership at different times. Throughout this cycle, CMO and agency take on two roles – one as creator, and the other as implementer.

In the covenantal relationship, all parties are emotionally involved with the outcome. In many instances, the CMO’s implementation is just as creative as the creative act he/she is responding to.

One thought on “Aviation Marketing: How CMO leadership affects advertising agency performance

  1. Great piece BB. I would add that currently the CMO position has become very transitional. They have a very short runway to establish themselves and demonstrate tangible results.
    In my experience, the extreme pressure requires they arrive with a “slash and burn” strategy…primarily to demonstrate cost savings to CFO and CEO.
    Additionally, successful campaigns require testing, testing and testing. We now live in a world of immediate results.
    The CMO has to commit to a longer term success strategy that includes milestones to demonstrate a vision. Most importantly this requires effectively communications with the CFO/CEO suites for buy in.

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