For decades, the average tenure of chief marketing officers at the nation’s biggest brands slipped. By 2006 it bottomed at a scant 23.2 months, according to the annual CMO tenure study conducted by executive search firm Spencer Stuart.
But in a stunning reversal that started several years ago and seems to be accelerating, the average CMO tenure has hit 45 months (3.8 years) – nearly double what it was in 2006 – according to Spencer Stuart’s latest (2013) study. That’s a remarkable recovery that has yet to sink in. The Spencer Stuart survey is based on CMO tenure at the nation’s top 100 advertised brands which, according to AdAge, account for more than $100 billion in annual marketing spending. So that’s $100 billion in steadier hands as the revolving CMO door slows.
What’s Going On?
While several factors contribute to the CMO’s increasing “star power,” one major driver is the rise of advanced marketing analytics and data-driven marketing. A tectonic shift toward making marketing a technology- and data-driven discipline is having a major impact on the CMO role.
The move to inject new technical and predictive analytics capabilities into marketing organizations is, quite simply, paying off for CMOs and their organizations alike. This shift has allowed many chief marketers to tell a dramatically different and more compelling story to the rest of the C-suite. For example:
- How to best allocate resources across products, geographies, segments and channels
- How spending less can sometimes produce better results
- How social media marketing impacts ROI
- What the company can expect by adding such things as mobile and online video to a marketing mix
- How marketing is contributing to overall business goals and delivering shareholder value; among others
And all the while, as CMOs take on expanded and increasingly complex responsibilities, they are becoming more accountable than ever. This fosters better relationships with CFOs and CEOs and helps elevate CMO status.
Greg Welch, who initiated Spencer Stuart’s first CMO tenure study nearly 10 years ago, sees the CMO role finally coming of age. “The marketing function and its impact today are much more compelling given the emergence of new technologies and ‘modern marketing,’” says Welch. (Here at MarketShare, we’ve used the term CMO 2.0 to describe this new breed of major brand marketer.)
CMO roles have become more complex and now carry more strategic responsibilities. Brand marketing’s role has become broader than ever as organizations realize that – due in part to search, social media and other digital factors – marketing must be involved in all client and customer touch points because they are all now interrelated.
Marketing Science Joins Marketing Art
As marketing science and analytics gain impact and importance, marketing’s ability to demonstrate value increases along with its Board Room recognition. CMOs who lead integration of data-driven thinking and marketing analytics practices and technologies become more indispensable to the organization.
All this leads to the inescapable fact that the strategic importance of marketing in the C-suite is expanding, says Scott Brinker, who speaks about technology’s role in marketing to CMO audiences worldwide and writes the Chief Marketing Technologist blog. “Marketers are evolving from sergeants of tactical communications to generals of strategic customer development.”
Brinker sees this increasingly confident and secure CMO 2.0 as a master “Marketer-Scientist” who is equal parts storyteller, data analyst, brand champion, experimentalist, experience designer, technologist, change agent and systems thinker.
Blending in Big Data
And far from blowing away CMOs, the big data revolution is breathing new life into the role. The best are quickly acquiring, adapting and adopting analytics technologies and capabilities to extract real value from that data deluge. They are leading efforts at their companies to integrate analytics, sophisticated attribution techniques and data-driven thinking into the organizational DNA. As Brinker notes, they are looking to data not just for confirmation, but as a tool for uncovering new insights about their customers.
It was just last year that the Economist Intelligence Unit issued a report called Outside Looking In: The CMO Struggles to get in sync with the C-suite which described the CMO’s mandate as “muddled.” This report, based on a global survey of top executives, argued that the main problem CMOs continue to face is one of perception. Not only do they serve many masters, the role also differs widely by industry, so filling the perception gap is tricky.
But any disconnect between CMOs and the C-suite appears to be on the mend. And at least some CMOs are smiling more these days.
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