The Role of the CMO

The Role of the CMO

by kirkcoburn
1 comment

We all love and hate our CMO. They have the coolest job and the shortest tenure of any C-level, why?

In reference to David Churbuck’s 2006 article regarding the death of CMO magazine, I want to put my stake in the sand and claim that the Chief Marketing Officer is not dead, just barely breathing. The failure of the magazine is the perfect analogy for the role itself. Hey CMO, you have NO friends. Sponsors will not pay. Why? That is another bark for another day. Here is another nail in the coffin. The average CMO tenure is less than 24 months. Read Spencer Stuart’s White Paper on The Shrinking Tenure of CMO’s. I do not share their opinion on how to lengthen the tenure for a CMO. I believe that a CMO’s life should be SHORT. In fact. I am promoting that the CMO should put a hire and fire date in any new contract.

Here is my case. What we have learned is that the CMO’s main job is…well…everything that the Wiki says it is including “sales management, product development, distribution channel management, public relations, marketing communications (including advertising and promotions), pricing, market research, and customer service”. How can one person be so good? Well, I am here to tell you that it is possible but not in long periods. What the Wiki does not state is that a CMO must fight between short-term results and long-term strategy.

A true CMO must first look out for the long-term strategy of the company. The CEO must manage the board, investors and the employees. The CMO is supposed to be the right hand person of the CEO to fight for the future of the company. Who else will re-invent the company if it is not the CMO?

Okay fine, it is the CEO, but this is exactly why I am here. Why isn’t it the CMO? See the Forbes article on creative disruption called Reinventing Titans. I believe it is the CMO’s role to reinvent. Because of this, the CMO should take the role as an inventor (or re-inventor) and move on from the company once the large ship or even the startup has caught wind. The company can hire a really good marketing executive that is good at executing the vision outlined by the CMO.

Yes, it is possible for the same person to be the executor. Are you that good?

To do this well, the CMO must create an organization that measures both long-term strategy and short-term results.The Chief Marketing Outsider believes that the CMO should create 2 key teams. The first team is planning (whereby the market research team resides). The second team is the launch and execution team. For you product marketeers out there, yes, this is what you are used to, but the rest of the marketing world is not. The main issue in corporate America today is that there lacks good measurement on long-term strategy. We will be writing future blogs on this topic and how to create dashboards and measurement systems that can measure and track long-term strategy without driving in the rear-view mirror.

In future posts, I will focus on how to maximize the CMO as the Chief Strategy Officer or best named the Chief Marketing Outsider.

For all of you CMO’s out there that are afraid to rock the boat, keep the status quo, and be the fetching dog of your boss, I am here to tell you that “the Coyote is always out there waiting, and the Coyote is always hungry.” If you won’t do it, the next CMO will…


The Chief Marketing Outsider

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1 comment

governmentcheese February 8, 2016 - 3:18 pm

Thanks for dredging out the obituary of IDG’s late CMO Magazine from my blog. It was a great magazine in its day and Rob O’Regan the editor published some great features on legendary CMOs like Beth Comstock at GE and Deepak Advani at Lenovo before management pulled the plug. Nine years later and yes, the role is very different now than it was then — primarily because marketing has been tagged as the keeper of the vaunted Big Data role as the reader of the tea leaves. Add analysis, ownership of the customer experience, especially the digital experience, and combine with the fabled Gartner prediction that the CMO owns more technology budget than IT and you have what Steve Rubel at Edelman famously dubbed the rise of the “Geek Marketer”

I bet you’ll even find the old Spencer Stuart 24 month average tenure paper to be way of out of date. Data driven, technically adept digital CMOs are worth their weight in gold.

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