The Push/Pull Balancing Act Of Content And Customer

joannaoconnelrevised“Marketer’s Note” is a weekly column informing marketers about the rapidly evolving, digital marketing technology ecosystem. It is written by Joanna O’Connell, Director of Research, AdExchanger Research.  

I had a really interesting conversation with a Director of Digital Marketing at a financial services company recently as part of my “customer lifecycle management” research (which I’ll be presenting during day one of Industry Preview on Jan 21st), that got me thinking about the balance marketers are increasingly being asked to strike between, a) pushing their brand’s ideas to consumers versus, b) delivering what consumers are asking for based on two way conversation.

This rumination was born out of a seemingly simple question – Do you think your company needs a “Chief Customer Officer“? Her response was interesting: “I don’t think of it as a Chief Customer Officer.  I think of it as more of a Chief Content Officer – how do we disseminate our assets?”

As we talked more, a loose definition on what each of these roles would entail surfaced. Someone geared toward Content logically focuses on pushing content out, where someone focused on Customers is charged with getting the right things (content, advertising, products) into the hands of current and future customers*.

That led this marketer to say to me, “It’s a fair distinction that can be made about a Chief Customer Officer versus a Chief Content Officer. For me, it’s about relevance at the right time and in the right format -I was hung up on the thought of content, but it’s really more about customer experience.”  By the way, it’s worth noting that her company’s current efforts to maximize value at each stage of the customer journey are, in her words, “creating customer-centricity as a byproduct.”What struck me about this conversation with this seasoned, digitally savvy marketer is that it gets to the heart of one of the big challenges organizations face today – how to balance the needs and wants of the company with the needs and wants of the consumer?

It really made this recent piece about Vail Resorts jump out at me. Long and short: Vail built a consumer-facing app that backfired, and used the lessons learned during round 1 to iterate its way into something better. It’s a great example of how a brand tested its way (with an ever increasing reliance on data) into an offering that was both valuable to consumers and maximized value for Vail Resorts as a company.

Let’s be frank: the basic reality is, television is a “push” medium. Digital has the capacity to be both push and pull, but there’s still an awful lot of pushing going on, if all those one-banner media campaigns are to be used as evidence.

With all this said – I’d love to know from you, how is your organization managing this balancing act?  Are you pushers? Pullers? Or both?


*Did you know there’s a Chief Customer Officer Council?  (I didn’t!)  They define a Chief Customer Officer as  “an executive that provides the comprehensive and authoritative view of the customer and creates corporate and customer strategy at the highest levels of the company to maximize customer acquisition, retention, and profitability.”

Follow Joanna O’Connell (@joannaoconnell ) and AdExchanger (@adexchanger) on Twitter. 

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  1. I don’t believe you need a Chief Content Officer who creates–your colleague’s words–“customer-centricity as a byproduct.” One can’t compel a prospective customer to see or interact with your assets because your prospective customer flat out doesn’t care about your company, your products or your “content.”

    Once they know what the company believes in and stands for, the successful marketer finds others who believe the same things about the world. As that point, marketer and customer can enter into a long-term relationship that transcends the failings of the current product roadmap.

    To answer your question: I don’t think you have long term success without being a puller.

  2. Hi Mark – thanks for the note, and great points.

    I should have been clearer – this marketer thinks of “customer-centricity as a byproduct” as being a step in the right direction, but not the desired end state. Her comment reflected the business reality she is operating under today – her organization is working to extract additional value out of its marketing efforts and happens to be impacting the customer journey along the way, rather than explicitly treating customer-centricity as a goal. She’d like to see customer-centricity become a directive rather than a byproduct.

    I appreciate your comment that long term success necessitates the “pull”. That’s good to hear, as it’s certainly my belief. I’m still struggling with the balance question though.

  3. Chris Karl

    The era of customer centric thinking has created an opportunity for today’s CMO to organize around Marketing efforts (CRM, Remarketing or “pull”) and Advertising efforts (media or “push”). I would put content in the latter category as a high value, high cost, hard to scale reality. At the core of the CMO’s go to market plan is their customer. They must maximize the opportunity to reach those customers while not overextending themselves on the amount they are pushing. The Programmatic revolution has done a nice job with “pull” in digital. The next couple years will introduce “push” models that properly weight and balance media in both digital and broadcast tv mediums. So we are getting closer to being able to strike the balance between push and pull across all channels (well maybe more than a couple years ;))

  4. Thanks for your thoughts, Chris. You make a great point – advertising is inherently “push”. I was thinking of the “pull” opportunity in advertising as created by tech like DCO or even DMPs and other audience management and targeting systems with preference centers, where the consumer is – even implicitly or explicitly telling brands, “This is what I am interested in/care about/am shopping for. I supposed tailored advertising falls somewhere in the middle – it’s not one size fits all “push” but nor is it, “dear advertiser, please send me display ads”. I’m thinking about this more. The wheels are turning in my brain…