The job of chief marketing officer has gotten more complicated. In 2020, executive search company Spencer Stuart found that the average tenure for a CMO was an average of 40 months. Though that may be because CMOs, on average, are younger than the rest of the C-suite and are more willing to take risks, the rate of CMO turnover is troubling for those who are seeking the position.
Chris Ross, vice president/analyst at Gartner, says that CMOs need to know their key values and use them to guide strategy, positioning and messaging.
We recently interviewed Ross about the state of the CMO position in 2022. Here are some excerpts from that conversation:
Marketing Daily: Is the CMO expected to do too much right now? Do you foresee the job being split at some point?
Chris Ross: The CMO job is expansive and shows no signs of becoming smaller or less complex. We do see some fragmentation of the role, but not necessarily what would be characterized as a split.
Given the magnitude of the position, one trend we see is the elevation of the CMO direct report team. By their own admission, the most successful CMOs live or die based on the talents and expertise of their direct report team. Building a seasoned, hyper-capable direct report team of real leaders, not just managers, is what often separates higher-functioning CMOs from the pack and allows them to tackle such a significant scope of responsibility.
Marketing Daily: How do CMOs bring the right customers into the
Ross: First and foremost, that requires having a clear definition of what the “right” customer means. Optimal customer profiles are typically developed in concert with other functions, like finance, and are built with extensive modeling. Once these profiles are developed, CMOs and their teams are tasked with going out into the world to find and engage those customers.
Given the expense of acquiring new customers and the importance of optimizing lifetime customer value, CMOs are spending more time on these definitions and assuring they’re pursuing the right audience.
Marketing Daily: Have customers changed what they expect from a brand? How have the most effective marketers
Ross: The word authenticity is overused in marketing circles, but customers expect authenticity, even if that’s not the language they would use. Authenticity from a customer perspective is simply doing what you say you’ll do, delivering on the expectations you set, the brand promises you make. Actions over words.
Customers want brands to be who they say they are but are appropriately skeptical of brands overall. Sixty-six percent of consumers trust big brands, up from only 53% in 2016. Brands that walk the walk are resonating with customers.
Marketing Daily: Which CMOs do you think are doing a great job right now -- and why?
Ross: The CMOs who are doing the best job are the CMOs with clarity about who they are as a brand, what their audience truly values, and how their products or services add value to the lives of their customers.
That may seem obvious or basic, but we all see plenty of CMOs chasing narratives that don’t authentically align with their brand, pretending to be things they aren’t, distorting or overreaching their brand position, and flailing around trying to get something to stick. Brand self-awareness, clear alignment of messages and actions, and effective solving of customer problems are always in fashion.