2020 has been a wild ride, and it is far from over. With the pandemic-induced economic recession at the doorstep, marketing leaders will be faced with unique challenges.

The words ‘new normal’ have quickly become the go-to phrase for describing the world created by the pandemic. The new normal is still many months away for marketers already fatigued and hard-pressed by this year’s exceptional circumstances.

2021 will be the year digital experiences, ecosystems, operations, and products come to fruition. It promises to be another challenging year with harsh economic conditions that threaten to engulf floundering marketing technology and systems that have survived too long on the back of a strong economy.

Traditional business models will face enormous overhauls as new methods to create replacement revenue streams have become crucial in many cases.

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Unprecedented events resulting from the pandemic have exposed the muddle developing for marketing leaders over the past few years. Reinventing themselves and the marketing function will be the theme for successful CMOs in 2021.

The leaders will have to drive customer obsession within the company and not just guide ad procurement and promotions. It means marketing leaders and teams must put the customer at the center of everything, including leadership, operations, and strategy.

It’s time to hack the business model. Today businesses won’t survive without supplementing delivery and revenue models to accommodate changing customer priorities. The pandemic has also prompted a return to branding as marketing’s main priority, at the expense of investment in analytics.

2021 will be another year of diminished media expenditures, lean tech, scanty teams, agency partner networks, and continued vacancy of business. Tough times will bring on the reckoning that was predicted last year; CMOs would have to claim responsibility and be the drivers of customer obsession or stand to lose the role to an experience officer or a chief customer officer.

CMOs will have to get their hands dirty with their teams. New commercial and delivery models need to tackle unique market circumstances and keep the company debt-free.

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The leaders will need to create an active organization or marketing function that builds agility by creating warning indicators. This will allow for the adaption of plans in response to changing market conditions.

Generic messaging has never been appealing or helpful for the customers at the best of times, and the case remains the same in the current climate. Authenticity is what the customers expect and deserve.

It is essential to show the customers that their pain points are noted and that the company can provide solutions that solve the primary concerns.

Another aspect that CMOs must pay closer attention to, is the buyers’ personas during this time. A better understanding of the buyers’ emotional drivers in the decision-making process will help obtain necessary insights and add more relevance and value to the communications strategy.

It is not easy to think about longer-term goals and objectives these days, but maintaining a positive customer experience and reputational impact will support revenue engine and long-term value creation. So it is vital not to cut back too aggressively on lead and demand generation activities.