The CEO Is The New CMO

In the olden days, marketing consisted of 4 Ps (Place, Price, Promotion and, of course, Product). This approach made perfect sense, as each P defined a critical part of what ultimately made a product sell. And that really has not changed much in today’s world.

“Price” is still a powerful weapon (sometimes of mass destruction), as is “Product” (if you’re in the food industry, tell me you haven’t started looking at a gluten-free version of whatever it is you make). “Place” is the somewhat challenged description of where the product is sold, and finally, “Promotion” is the wholly inadequate descriptor for everything that is a touch point in today’s fragmented media world.

The 4 Ps described the full arsenal of weaponry at the disposal of each CMO. But in my work with global marketers, I’ve noticed that the CMO in today’s C-suite is no longer in charge of much that determines sales success or failure.



Let’s start with product. In many companies today, we find a chief product innovation officer, who deals with anything to do with the product, heading departments in charge of consumer insights (including consumer behavior and psychology), design, trend-watching and so on. CPIOs determine the sound of the exhaust system of your car, the ingredients in your oatmeal (“NEW! Now gluten-free!). In short, they decide the magic mix of components that will accelerate sales.

Obviously, they also need to be aware of the impact of all these options on cost, which brings us neatly to pricing, now the domain of either the chief revenue officer or chief finance officer. They are assisted by the chief manufacturing officer or chief logistics officer. Their challenge: How can we manufacture or create our product or service in the most efficient manner?

Once that is figured out, the chief trade marketing & sales officer or chief commercial officer gets involved. This person is in charge of understanding lead generation and all the sales channels, as well as managing relationships with the key sales partners. The CCO has a voice in pricing, packaging and activation at point of sale and consumption.

Finally, once all this is figured out, we come to the CMO, who in this model is really the chief communications officer, charged with how to best connect consumers to the product along the path to purchase.

The CMO task in this model is not easy, and the role is certainly part of marketing. But marketing (all 4 Ps together) in today’s fragmented world is now clearly a task for the broader C-Suite, so putting marketing in the title of just one person within it seems wrong and outdated.

I guess the conclusion must be that the true CMO today is the CEO. After all, the CEO is ultimately in charge of how all the strategies and plans come together, driving performance for the company as a whole. The CMO isn’t.

There is nothing wrong with this evolution. We just need to change the labels (a job for the chief product innovation officer!), as well as how we measure the performance of each of the players in this ecosystem.

Where this model does go wrong (often!) is when all these functions are silos working in a linear fashion, instead of as one connected marketing organism. But that is a post for another day.

2 comments about "The CEO Is The New CMO".
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  1. nadine baarstad from Wax Communications, February 9, 2015 at 11:37 a.m.

    I agree with your perspective on the growing trend of the CEO serving as the CMO. On the bright side, this means that the CEO now values the importance of marketing in the success of any company or product. On the not so bright side is the concern that the role of the CMO is being diminished and/or replaced with individuals who do not possess the skills or expertise to strategize or execute the marketing campaigns. Because, especially in the healthcare industry where we work, not all CMOs find themselves at the c-suite table, and therefore aren't recognized for the distinct value that they can bring. Lots of great talent being underutilized.

  2. James Pereira from Reputation Marketing Coach, February 9, 2015 at 6:13 p.m.

    Effective CEOs have always been the real CMOs for decades.

    Probably this is a revelation in certain industries but in the pharma industry I come from and every MNC organization I've read about, pricing is never determined alone by the person with the CMO title.

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