No member of the C-suite has a riskier or more-short-lived term than the chief marketing officer (CMO). The average tenure of a CMO at the ‘100 most advertised’ US brands is 28.4 months, according to recruiting firm Spencer Stuart in a recent Advertising Age column by John Quelch. In fact, as a marketer, few things are as much of a sure-fire, eventual career killer as being named CMO. Strange … you’d think that getting to the top of marketing hierarchy would be the pinnacle of one’s career.
The challenges faced by the CMO speak to many of the fundamental strategic problems underlying marketing organizations and marketing science today and that are linked to a permanent shift in power from brand-company to customer and to a proliferation of communication channels and information sources.
For CMOs to succeed they must sit at the top of a newly-agile marketing organization, built from the ground up with sophisticated, financially-savvy and technology-empowered closed-loop systems and processes in place that can scale, that can manage increasingly complex and customer-centric communication execution and that can provide necessary transparency into multi-channel program performance. And this transparency must provide other C-suite colleagues with the real-time status of key performance indicators (KPIs) and on the return on investment (ROI) of marketing programs in net present value (NPV) terms. “[F]inancial accountability of marketing is here to stay,” argues Quelch in the Advertising Age column. “[I]mproved accountability requires CMOs to be financially literate, to understand the balance sheet as well as the income-statement effects of marketing initiatives.”
Too often, though, such an organization does not exist. “Although the marketplace has changed beyond all recognition due to Web 2.0 and the explosion in digital – marketing technology and process have not kept up with the changes,” commented Bob Barker, VP of corporate marketing at Alterian, in a recent post on DM News.
The imperative for the CMO, thus, is to drive change.
And that change must be focused on building just such an organization. It is not sufficient to manage execution of the existing organization or to believe that your company is already ‘getting it right’ today. There is no room for complacency or incremental efforts. Marketing is a dynamic practice that keeps an organization in check with the dynamic needs of its customers and of the marketplace. CMOs must drive change because their organizations must constantly change to remain competitive – a fact that was validated in a recent CMO Council report, which noted “… 61% of respondents believe that marketing operational transformation will be an essential area of focus for them in the months ahead.”
So how do CMOs do this? And where should they focus their efforts to transform the marketing organization?