Chief Endangered Marketing Officer

I have written in the past that the CMO of today is really the chief advertising officer, because many of the traditional CMO duties have been taken over by chief technology officers, chief growth officers, chief innovation officers, chief revenue officers and other members in the C-suite. I noted that of the four traditional Ps, only the poorly named P for “promotion” was still part of the CMO’s responsibilities.

Some CMOs are actually only chief paid media advertising officers — i.e. they have no responsibility for advertising in important touch points such as the company’s websites, social media, customer service, packaging, in-store/point of sale, etc..

I posited that, as a result, the CEO of today is truly the CMO, as the CEO alone has end responsibility for all four Ps (to refresh your memories, or teach you a relic from old school marketing, the four P’s stand for price, place, product and promotion).



This assumption has now been confirmed by research presented in the Harvard Business Review in an article called “Why CMOs Never Last” by Kimberly Whitler and Neil Morgan. They describe the exact scenario outlined above, noting that most CMOs last about four years, and many do not even make that number. This is in stark contrast to CEOs who typically record double that number of years or more.

And Debbie Qaqish, author of “The Revenue Marketer” and partner at The Pedowitz Group, noted in her research that up to five C-suite members now share growth and revenue responsibility, but the CMO is almost 100% responsible for missed targets. In other words, the CMO is in the crosshairs for a shared responsibility.

Whitler and Morgan offer four remedies that might offer an improved survival rate for CMOs:

Step 1: Define the Role
Step 2: Match Responsibilities to the Job’s Scope
Step 3: Align Metrics with Expectations
Step 4: Find Candidates with the Right Fit

None of this sounds like rocket science. Not surprisingly, these are all steps that need to be taken inside the company prior to hiring.

The challenge of the misaligned CMO can be seen in the broader context of how a company runs marketing. Often there are challenges that permeate the whole marketing department, from a misaligned definition of roles and responsibilities, metrics and expectations to problems with having the right people in the right role.

One of the key issues is that the organizational structure and the operational process are often based on how the world was a decade or two decades ago. Yes, companies have added new functions to manage new areas such as social, e-commerce, CRM, etc. but these are typically “bolted on” rather than integrated as part of a new model and approach.

Most marketers agree that, given a blank piece of paper, they would design a very different structure and process than the one they are managing in reality. But change is hard, and the daily grind of the existing model eats up all the time available. Plus, what matters most is results: every month, every quarter, every 12 months.

Of all the recommendations listed above, I think clearly aligned and shared targets and metrics are the number-one area to address, in a big move toward clarity and continuity. Then align the organization and process to these goals. None of this is easy, but it is critically important.

So, do you still want to be CMO?

1 comment about "Chief Endangered Marketing Officer".
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  1. John Leeman from True Customer Group, July 14, 2017 at 2:41 p.m.

    Thanks Maarten.  I agree that it's very challenging to align the 4 steps you outline AND keep them aligned for many years.  

    I've found that companies, especially smaller and very fast-growing firms, can benefit from evaluating the needed marketing leadership responsibilities in a phased approach, therefore allowing them to bring in a more senior CMO consultant than they would afford themselves at their current state to ensure they establish a sound, scalable marketing foundaion before hiring a permanent marketing leader to manage the program's growth over the next few years.  OR, CEO's can simply hire the CMO they know they will need in the future, despite the size of the current day marketing budget, as they do with factories or technologies...but this seldom happens, sadly.

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