Are CMOs really facing extinction? I think not. While a recent Fast Company article made a compelling case, the reality is the CMO role is going to evolve, not die off.
Author Lisa Nirell identifies some important issues—budget reprioritization, social media impact, ROI pressure and sales function encroachment, among other issues—that threaten CMOs if they don’t reframe their role.
Still, CMOs can survive and thrive in this climate. It starts with the necessity of CMOs having the ability to communicate their vision and value positioning in the organization. Having a vision that touches, implicates and enhances nearly every part of the corporate enterprise is key.
It is also about gaining buy-in of that vision by traversing corporate functions, speaking their language and leveraging marketing’s understanding and ownership of the customer—the source of sustenance for any business proposition.
“Silo-ing” the marketing function, as David Aaker (professor emeritus at the Haas School of Business of the University of California, Berkeley) attests, will lead to a minimized, ever-shrinking role for marketing and the CMO.
The CMO role must be broadened and thus perhaps the title—not its vision or discipline within the organization—changed. The CMO brand itself needs to be redefined, updated and possibly renamed.
The CMO title may be somewhat limiting in what today’s marketing executive is or should be doing in the organization—relative to the vision of the discipline. Case in point: Michele Buck, formerly Hershey’s SVP, global chief marketing officer, was repositioned through a reorganization last year, with added responsibilities that required her title to change to SVP, chief growth officer. Hershey did away with the CMO title. Other organizations have done the same with various focuses, e.g., chief commercial officer, chief revenue officer.
Some time ago, Dev Patnaik, author of “Wired to Care,” noted that CMOs need to focus on the value they are expected to bring to the organization—growth! Identifying the common and most essential value thread that marketing and, subsequently, the CMO can bring to bear on the organization will lift and expand the CMO’s role.
In a recent report titled “The CMO and the Future of Marketing” and published by AMA’s Marketing Management, George Day and Robert Malcolm argue that once the marketing executive reaches the C-level, “the skills and functional mastery that got them there matter less than their leadership skills and general business acumen.” They note that those who are successful are “whole-brain” thinkers rather than focused on the right (creative) or left (analytical) parts of their brain.
Their report reinforces the point that marketing is expected to become even more complex as it addresses a dynamic marketplace where consumer empowerment, technology and new media accelerate change, which are challenges for not only marketing’s adaptability but also the actual overall enterprise, especially the C-suite.
Day and Malcolm’s observations and remedies are as expected: “The marketing function exists to deliver increased enterprise value in the short-, medium- and long-term. And it does so by owning both the numerator (generating top-line growth) and denominator (reducing the cost of delivering the growth) of the ‘value equation’….”
If one thing can be gleaned from all the commentaries, soothsayers and critics of the CMO’s survival or demise, it is that value enhancement must be delivered. Quite frankly, that principle has never changed. Perhaps the CMO title should be changed to CVBO, or chief value-building officer.
Bryan Thomas is president of gyro Denver