CMOs Embracing Change

The role of marketing has come a long way from the days of "Mad Men." Marketing has always been the subject of the classic "art vs. science" debate. While recent advances have given the idea of marketing as a science legs, marketing still is, and always will be, a bit of both art and science, because in the end it's about communicating with people. As technology increases the number of ways companies can communicate with people, the practice of marketing continues to grow in importance, along with the role of the CMO.

John Quelch, board member of WPP, professor of marketing at Harvard Business School, and author of one of my favorite books of all time on the subject of marketing, "Greater Good,"  wrote a recent post reacting to a new study showing the longer average tenure of CMOs at large companies and outlining what he believes to be the key skills required by CMOs during the recession.  From the post, "How CMOs Should Function in a Recession": "The economic recession has, perhaps surprisingly, elevated the standing of the CMO. It hasn't always been this way, to be sure. So how can CMOs solidify this standing with the chief? Here are the four top marketing issues on which today's CEOs are looking to their CMOs for guidance...."



Quelch goes on to list the four key areas where CEOs -- and organizations in general, in my opinion -- are turning increasingly to CMOs for guidance: shifting consumer behavior, price positioning, stretching marketing dollars, and embracing digital. To these areas, I would add that organizations are looking to marketing to reduce market research costs while increasing the amount of consumer feedback in the product development process and the timeliness of said consumer feedback. Organizations are also realizing that managing communications with people in real time, through social media and other online tools, greatly impacts sales. All of this leads to an increased reliance on the ever-expanding discipline of marketing.

CMOs are obviously benefiting from this trend, according to the study that Quelch cites -- but with increased reliance comes the responsibility of evolving marketing's role within their organizations. Much has been discussed about the future agency business model, including my assertion that "The Future Agency Of Record Will Be Social."  Today I will take the stage at OMMA Global Hollywood with John Battelle (, Ian Schafer (, Robert Hayes (Showtime) and Joe Ferry (Nestle) to discuss this very idea.

But the question of the future agency business model is hopelessly dependent on how the role of marketing is evolving. As with agencies, the silos of market research, advertising, communications/PR and other marketing disciplines must be torn down. Effective marketing will mean having the best integrated approach to extracting value from the many channels through which people communicate with each other and with brands. Effective marketing will mean making the overall value of marketing to an organization much greater than the sum of its parts. Breaking down the walls to get the most out of marketing will start with CMOs who embrace their role in redefining marketing yet again, and will bring new ways in which companies both communicate with people and produce the goods and services that meet functional and emotional needs.

What do you think? How do you see the role of marketing evolving at major brands? Send me a message on twitter @ and/or comment below. As always, I read everything, even if I can't respond to them all, and your thoughts help shape future posts.

3 comments about "CMOs Embracing Change".
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  1. Mike Kelly from LIN Media, March 24, 2009 at 2:12 p.m.

    Glad to hear that the avg tenure of CMOs is going up...for a change...As far as integrating the various components of R&D, marketing, media and & PR it seems it boils down to first understand the share of mind we have in a customer's eyes, then monetize and data mine it to find ways to grow it further. If all stakeholders in the process can embrace a simple platform like this and direct their activities these ends, the brand or product should be better off.

  2. Rick Lavoie from RUCKUS, March 24, 2009 at 4:35 p.m.

    Joe, I'm also glad to hear that CMOs are hanging longer than 9 months. CEOs are relying on CMOs and CMOs are relying upon....other colleagues but also agencies. Coming from an agency perspective, we need to do whatever we can to provide the intel and appropriate marketing solutions as customers change by the minute and use of new devices by the second. There's too much at stake and they need our support.

  3. Jacco de Bruijn, March 25, 2009 at 9:24 a.m.

    Joe, thank you for this post. Very interesting, and happy to add some thoughts based on your question. Also followed you on twitter (@unboundedition), feel free to reach out if any questions.
    Much has changed for marketing these days and there is an opportunity for companies and brands to better listen and understand consumers and have a direct and honest relationship with them. In this video that I think you'll find interesting we have described the 6 new priorities for marketing in a practically post-agency era: (balance of art and science is one;)

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