Why CMOs Fail: 60% Blame The Company

Fired-ExecutiveIt’s no news that CMOs are among the most oft-booted execs. And a new survey from recruiter Korn/Ferry reports that most marketing insiders say when CMOs fail, the fault isn’t with the individual, but with companies that aren’t as open to change as they think they are.

Some 60% of those responding to the recruiter’s questions say the primary reason a CMO gets bounced is that “the CMO is brought in to drive change, but the organization was not aligned behind the change agenda.” Only 24% chose the second-most popular answer: “The CMO is not in direct alignment with the CEO about what success looks like and in what time frame.”

The respondents say the most common reasons for recruiting a CMO from outside an organization is to transform current marketing and business strategy (44%) and to infuse the company with new skills (36%.)



“CMOs are hired to drive a change agenda, which is great, but they are not always fully supported. And one person is not enough to drive change,” says Caren Fleit, Korn/Ferry’s senior client partner and leader of its Marketing Center of Expertise.

Finding the right CMO for a company, she tells Marketing Daily, requires a company with a clear business mandate. Without that clarity, CMOs hired from the outside often don’t fare any better than the CMOs they replace. 

But there are plenty of other reasons that CMO tenure tends to be short. “While jobs like CFO and CIO tend to be fairly straightforward in definition, there are more interpretations of a CMO’s role. Does it include responsibility for brand? Communications? Strategy? Analytics? Digital? We find it blurring more often, and companies aren’t always very clear on exactly what they expect.”

Another challenge for CMOs is a growing “bifurcation of talent” says Fleit. “There’s an increasing need for specialists—mobile, social, SEO, data people. At the same time, companies need to cultivate generalists, the people who can lead and integrate all efforts.”

She says that CMOs that are most effective are “learning agile,” the ones best equipped to transfer experiences from previous work into different industries and situations.

"Fired Executive photo from Shutterstock"

1 comment about "Why CMOs Fail: 60% Blame The Company".
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  1. John Ellett from nFusion Group, February 27, 2013 at 2:01 p.m.

    These findings are very consistent with what I learned in researching and writing The CMO Manifesto: A 100-Day Action Plan for Manrketing Change Agents ( The first step for a successful CMO is to get clarity on the expectations for the change they are to lead. It is essential to be aligned with the CEO about those expectations. The 60% who blame the organization for not embracing the CMO's changes may have been out of sync with the organization from the outset. Whose fault is that?

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