Is Your CMO - or Any CMO - Still Relevant?

  • by , Op-Ed Contributor, November 3, 2017

Is it blasphemous to say CMOs have outlived their usefulness? Marketing looks nothing like it did 10 years ago, yet the title of CMO still lingers like that well-worn suit in the back of your closet.

Our industry must come to terms with the fact that we are handcuffed to job titles that no longer reflect reality. Consumers today throw up ad blockers and go on Twitter rants against companies for any reason they like. Fake news, bots, ad fraud, and meaningless metrics abound. The rest of the C-suite members face their own challenges, but none of them have evolved quite like those of the CMO.

CMOs are trying to work off annual budgets and quarterly plans while consumers make purchasing decisions through complex, ever-changing webs of sites and social media. The CEO might have to answer for bad profit and loss statements, and the CFO might face an unexpected audit, but neither of those worries compare to a CMO sent reeling when Google changes its algorithm overnight.



I argue that it’s not blasphemy to call for the retirement of the CMO moniker: It’s evolution.

Rising From the Ashes

Marketing has become inherently ambiguous, and the measurements of yesterday no longer apply. Cannes Lion awards might feel nice, but as an old-school marketer celebrates a meaningless victory, a forward-thinking data scientist is building an algorithm to track and leverage real consumer behavior.

Customer experience, user, experience, influencer relations, artificial intelligence, and virtual reality are the terms of tomorrow’s marketing leaders. Ignoring the new lexicon while clinging to the past only delays the inevitable.

I advise agencies and brands to stop celebrating supposed creative success and start quantifying everything. Marketing has long been viewed as an expense, but today, there is no reason it should not be a profit center. Even an emotional, compelling brand video must be able to provide success metrics demonstrating its return on investment.

CMOs must take responsibility for the obstacles consumers encounter during their journeys. Those user experience burdens translate to bad reviews and social media rants, harming the company's reputation and affecting the bottom line. Marketing arms should no longer be satisfied with garnering attention for attention’s sake. Instead, they must attract and retain customers, proving their value through spreadsheets instead of slide decks. Agency types should also break their bad habits. Those who insist on promoting their sizzle reels should start planning retirement parties.

Modern marketing has eliminated the luxury of nostalgia. The CMO of the future must be both intellectually curious and highly adaptable, able to respond to changes in real time without waiting for someone else’s algorithm to change the game. Executive teams need relevant reporting, unique insights, and extreme accountability — and it’s up to engagement-oriented CMOs to deliver.

To make good on those promises, CMOs will need teams comprised of like-minded people. Experts in SEO, content marketing, paid media, and consumer intelligence must all hold themselves accountable for return on investment, empowering their CMOs to demonstrate clear value at C-suite meetings.

As times change, so must the way we prove our worth.

The CMO is dead. Long live the CMO.

8 comments about "Is Your CMO - or Any CMO - Still Relevant?".
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  1. Ford Kanzler from Marketing/PR Savvy, November 3, 2017 at 2:36 p.m.

    Seems you answered your own question. The marketing management exec's job description evolves as new tools and techniques arrive, regardless of their title - CMO, VP, Director. Whoever is in the driver's seat needs a range of currently-relevant talents working with them to be successful. That's not new.

  2. Jack Hodgkin, jr. from iEntry Network, November 3, 2017 at 2:38 p.m.

    Super good insights, Dan. Especially regarding adaptability and changes in real time. Here is an interesting side bar: CMO compenasation jumped 24% in the five years ending in 2016.

  3. Michael Margolies from Michael Margolies Photography & Design, November 3, 2017 at 2:47 p.m.

    Did the author just get woke to this? Like anything in this editorial was news to anyone? If your just realizing that the way we market has gone digital and requires analytics and ROI your way behind those CMO's your castigating.

    Cannes awards? Really does anyone care about those other than Hollywood insiders and advertising media? I've never worked with anyone who takes it seriously, it a rich person's play ground with attendee hipster creative wannabes from agencies with too much money from some blind investors or trust fund. More HR professionals go that true marketing people.

    This was an empty blow-hard attempt at a quick paycheck or ego boost. The definition of calling it in. Anyone involved in marketing that has not been doing everything you tried to make seem current and relevant has been doing it already for a decade or two. 

    Try again.

  4. Mike Cherepko from n/a, November 3, 2017 at 2:52 p.m.

    This was a timeless piece. It could have been written 10, 20 years ago if you put in different jargon. Wringing 10+ paragraphs out of "things are not the same, so other things ought not be the same either" is an impressive skill to get published for.

  5. Jerry Gibbons from Gibbons Advice, November 3, 2017 at 3:07 p.m.

    I have to admit that I am sick and tired of headlines that scream, "Is your CMO - or Any CMO Still Relevant?" or "Is TV Dead?" or "Is Creativity Still Important?" or...  Then the writer continues with something like, "Is it blashemous to say COMs have outlived theri Usefulness?"  Then they go on to say, well not really, but they do have to keep up with the changes that are oing on in the world as if the world has not alwys been changing and that marketing professionals have not always had to work hard at keep up with those changes.  Then they go on to tell how the important changes include the ares of their expertise and how those means of communications need to be included in adapting to the changes and, in fact, be put at the forefront of adapting to the changes.  Just saying that I, for one, am getting sick and tired of it.

  6. Ronald Kurtz from American Affluence Research Center, November 3, 2017 at 3:29 p.m.

    Ford, Jerry, and Mike have it right. The CMO position is critical. The essential tools and skills of the CMO may evolve over time, but the need for the 4Ps is always there.  To think otherwise shows a lack of understanding of business. 

  7. Jim Candi from Fluff Inc, November 3, 2017 at 5:16 p.m.

    Sadly this is a CEO question and most wusses in those C-suite roles won't be taking this decision anytime soon. The CIO/CMO role is merged. Yet, all large organizations have diversified roles that overlap to insane levels. It's employment sustenance. Very little to do with logical definition of responsibilities. As such, the CMOs will hang on for dear life to their roles, the CIO to theirs. Meanwhile, the end to end customer journey will remain incoherent because multiple departments jostle for power. We haven't even spoken about the Chief Sales Officer, or the Chief Servicing Officer (known by various names). 

  8. Jason Stone from Media Masters replied, November 3, 2017 at 8:24 p.m.

    Michael, you must have been laughing as hard as I was when you read this article. We had a great suggestion.... Try again.

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