Despite being one of the toughest and shortest tenured jobs in a company, the Chief Marketing Officer (CMO) has become all powerful. Everyone has an opinion and the heated debate continues over what it means to be a Chief Marketing Officer and how the role is measured. Despite that marketing continues to expand in headcount and scope of responsibility because it is how successful companies run their business.
The role of the CMO and why it continues to be a hot seat is the topic of this month’s BrightTALK program, “Disruptive Innovator Interviews with Christine Crandell”. The guests for the thirty minute video interview were Tony Zingale, Chairman and CEO, and Elisa Steele, EVP of Strategy and Chief Marketing Officer of Jive software. Zingale has a knack for disrupting industries and building companies with successful exists. His track record includes Clarify’s $2 Billion sale to Nortel and Mercury Interactive’s $5 Billion sale to HP. Elisa Steele recently joined Jive Software after leading Microsoft’s consumer brands marketing where she was corporate vice president and chief marketing officer of all consumer applications and services at Microsoft, including brands such as Bing, Internet Explorer, Lync, MSN, Outlook.com and Skype, among others.
CMO is a standard title but it is not a standard job function. Zingale believes that the CMO is a loaded discussion because the debate is rooted in how dramatically different the role is defined from company to company and across industries. Today, “you need to run your business strategy through marketing,” according to Zingale. Yet, branding and integrated marketing are table stakes. Integrated marketing is, however, not the endgame. Integrated marketing’s role is “to manifest your business through the marketing organization,” which ironically, is also the CMO’s charter.
Interestingly, marketing and strategy are two sides of the same coin. There’s a big disconnect around strategy because majority of CMOs claim they own strategy but few have the skills or the training to craft and drive company-level strategy. So, how do Zingale and Steele do it? The key to Marketing having the credibility to drive company strategy that employees will follow is through collaboration. Steele’s advice for CMOs is to facilitate and drive decision making against a common purpose. If they can achieve this, then everyone buys into the strategy and wants to achieve it.
Steele points out that the marketers’ job will continue to change as a result of evolving technology and customer expectations. She believes that Marketing is a blend of art and data science in addition to strategy. Steele spells out that the marketer’s primary responsibility is influence; not just the buyer but all audiences and stakeholders of a company. Influence is rooted is culture and Steele believes that marketing is the heart of a company’s culture. However, the CMO must be completely aligned with the CEO on where the company is going, what its values are, and how the company intends to reflect its culture.
Culture should be a competitive advantage. The CMO should be the voice of the CEO in crafting the company’s strategy and the rationale. Zingale believes a reason the CMO role is so challenging in the technology industry is that nobody – not engineering, sales, etc. – works for the marketing organization. The only course of action available to Marketing is influence, as Steele had pointed out. Yet marketing needs to deliver value every single day beyond just influence and do that through strategy, programs and bringing their work to life, according to Steele.
To hear (and view) the entire insightful interview which is packed with action items and best practices on how to increase the success of CMOs and marketing, tune into the interview at the BrightTALK channel “Disruptive Innovator Interviews with Christine Crandell”.