It’s been a bit of a golden age for marketers recently. We’ve seen CMO after CMO reach the very top, becoming chief exec of such high-performing companies as Camelot (Andy Duncan) in the UK and Mercedes-Benz (Steve Cannon) in the US. But there are signs the tide may be turning.
Most recently, arch-marketers Coke announced that their global CMO, Marcos de Quinto, was due to retire -- and his role to be axed.
Instead, the company has installed its Mexico president, Francisco Crespo, in the new role of chief growth officer (CGO).
This is just one of many new board-level positions that involve marketing but whose title distances the holder from the discipline. Could we be seeing a rejection of the idea that marketing is a core business driver? Are we sliding back to being the colouring-in department?
I don’t think these new positions signal the end of marketing as a growth driver. I see them for what they are -- a closer representation of what the role entails.
In Crespo’s case, he will be overseeing Coke’s global marketing, corporate strategy, customer and commercial leadership teams.
If I think about the language of the agency, talk about marketing and people still tend to think of fluff and how to justify budgets. If we talk about growth it all becomes about delivering business outcomes, not media outputs.
The simple fact is that marketing has never been more important. We invest heavily in analytics and business modelling and focus on the strategy because, frankly, in the execution of media planning and buying we’re all as good as each other.
Our own agency’s future growth is about the business modelling against our client’s marketing and wider business objectives. It’s about justifying marketing spend before we’ve even got it. It’s about explaining what the budget will do before we’ve done it. As an agency, we’ve got to become true business partners if we’re to understand our clients’ needs.
And so it is for the marketers. Marketers aren’t losing ground to the chief customer officers, the chief experience officers or the chief growth officers. These people have often been marketers in the past.
It means that in taking a senior leadership role, the execution part of that role is delivering against business objectives, not delivering marketing campaigns. Marketing as a discipline makes a huge contribution to that, but the essence of the role is strategic and across the whole organisation.
What does it mean for the CMO role? It could become more closely tied to back to the day to day marketing operations. Maybe it vanishes altogether and the top title explicitly linked to marketing goes back to being Marketing Director.
But it also begs the question: “What is Marketing?”
Digital transformation - a misnomer in itself because what it really means is transformation tout court- is making definitions fluid and breaking down business boundaries.
In media alone, media buying is still led largely in teams yet the paid search guys are working in social and the programmatic bunch are targeting out of home.
You can expand that example out to the whole of Marketing. It’s not just creating insertion orders, signing off creative or setting off a DM campaign.
It’s about using analytics to get to the heart of innovation, it’s getting involved in top-level political lobbying and addressing global sustainability, it’s about mergers and acquisitions and strategic commercial partnerships. We’re not in Kansas anymore, Dorothy.
So name changes at the top to cut out the word ‘Marketing’ doesn’t mean the path to leadership for marketers is now barred, it’s moving forward if anything faster than it has before. It’s just that the branding is changing.
The great name change dance is going to keep mamba’ing on until we settle on what Marketing really means.