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.