Why Columbo Could Have Been a CMO

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Columbo StatueI loved Peter Falk as Columbo. Columbo was a TV crime series starring Falk as a frumpily-dressed seemingly disorganized homicide detective. He had a distinctive style of asking “just one more thing.” Here’s an example. Columbo would have made an amazing CMO by applying this questioning style to the marketing.

Columbo was dogged in his efforts to find the killer. His barrage of small innocuous-sounding questions would eventually lead the murderer to unwittingly expose their crime.

Can your organization handle the heat?

Marketing in most organizations is iterative, building upon prior initiatives. Campaigns build on prior efforts. Tactics are added to shore up possible communications or response deficits. The problem many times with this additive process is that it leads to incoherent and misaligned messaging.

But if you take on the role of Columbo how might that change? What if you assailed your new tactic and peppered it with questions?

  • What exactly is the goal of this new campaign?
  • How will success be measured? And to whom?
  • How relevant is this to customers?
  • Are you sure?
  • What are the call to actions?
  • How do your customers prefer to respond?
  • How do you know?
  • Just one more question…

A certain amount of frustration can ensue when you ask too many questions – similar to this exchange with actor George Wendt from Cheers fame. As you might infer from the clip, the character was uncomfortable because the questions hit close to home. The same can happen between marketing, sales, operations, and support.

Too often as marketers we are told to promote and not allowed to ask questions. Seth Godin shares a great excerpt here called Why Ask Why?  In the struggle of our day-to-day activities we place more importance on just that – activities – not the goals that those activities were meant to meet.

Marketing students are still taught the 4 P’s. Product, Price, Place, and Promotion. The domain of modern day marketers has been heavily weighted on the last of those four: Promotion. Driving prospects into the top of the sales funnel. Thankfully, though, there has been an increasing focus on the customer among top-tier marketers. Search for “customer centric,” “customer experience (cx),” and “customer journey” and you’ll see what I mean.

This is a great development for marketing professionals. It means you can interrogate every marketing activity unmercifully to ensure that your organization’s 4 P’s are aligned in the eyes of prospects and customers.

Columbo could hone in on any inconsistency in a suspect’s story, and so can your customers. Go ahead, question every touchpoint and tactic that your organization uses to ensure they are consistent in the eyes of your customers. Go ahead and make sure Sales’ messages resonate and that Customer Support is supporting the brand promise.

Go ahead, ask just one more question, Peter Falk would be proud.


Photo by Illustratedjc