CMOs Cluster Into Six Personas, Revealing Strengths and Weaknesses in Their Path to Growth

New York — According to a new report by Forbes Insights, in association with SAP and gyro, over 90% of CMOs have a growth mandate. Yet only one in eight clears all the hurdles necessary to be considered part of the elite group of high-performing growth CMOs. 

The research, “The Growth CMO: Personas and Potential,” based on a survey of 318 CMOs and senior marketing executives around the world, revealed that CMOs can be classified into six distinct personas, each with its own strengths and approach to growth. The survey responses, together with a variety of statistical techniques and qualitative interviews, also helped develop a portrait of the CMO that includes surprising findings about their backgrounds, aspirations, and goals.

“There’s never been a better time for CMOs to become champions of growth within their organizations. These insights provide guiding principles that marketing leaders can use to help their companies thrive,” said Adryanna Sutherland, president of gyro Cincinnati. Among the key findings:

CMOs are a diverse audience unified by a strategic focus. CMO backgrounds and portfolios can be very diverse, and it’s incorrect to assume that the title means the same thing to all organizations. However, they are unified by one aspiration – their desire to influence strategy.

Common struggles and conflicts are related to data, digital, and alignment. Omnichannel marketing, digital channels, and Big Data are huge struggles for CMOs. In fact, few can confidently say they are engaging these areas well. Ownership of digital channels and social media among CMOs is low, and a great deal of conflict with other functions is focused on precisely this.

Key indicators separate the average from the elite. Key differentiators between high-performing marketing organizations and less successful teams includes their specific areas of focus within culture, capabilities, and outcomes, the level of planning and internal controls in place, the marketing team’s ability to listen and learn collectively, as well as the budgets and income available to drive marketing’s goals.

Every CMO can align to one or more personas. Each has strengths and weaknesses; each provides a distinctive path to growth.

“As achieving sustainable growth becomes one of the biggest C-suite challenges, organizations need leaders that can help drive the next wave of innovation and growth,” commented Madhur Aggarwal, senior vice president, SAP Digital. “Chief marketing officers and chief digital officers are increasingly looked upon by their CEOs and boards to ride at the forefront of this wave. By looking into the factors that enable success, this study offers aspiring executives a way to better focus efforts and further maximize results.”

The six personas:

Strategic Guru. Likely to be a longtime marketer with strategy-oriented responsibilities at a large company.

Dynamic Orchestrator. Achieves high scores on agility despite having a big personality and desire for control.

Selective Defender. Picks his/her battles to defend the marketing turf. Less ambitious and more risk-averse than average.

Conventional Coach. Carries out static plans under rigid controls for large, slow-growth companies.

Demand Driver. Typically comes from a sales background and has CRM and lead-generation responsibilities.

Untapped Potential. Works in slow-growth companies with weak corporate cultures and tight internal controls.

“This study can serve as an aid for CMOs to identify strengths and weaknesses in both themselves and their marketing organizations, helping them optimize their growth prospects,” said Bruce Rogers, Chief Insights Officer and head of the CMO Practice for Forbes Media. 


About this research

The insights and commentary found in this report are derived from both a survey and qualitative interviews. Partnering with SAP and gyro, Forbes Insights conducted a global survey of 318 CMOs and senior marketing executives in the summer of 2014. Personas were derived through a variety of statistical techniques such as factor analysis.

About Forbes Insights

Forbes Insights is the strategic research and thought leadership practice of Forbes Media, publisher of Forbes magazine and, whose combined media properties reach nearly 75 million business decision makers worldwide on a monthly basis. Taking advantage of a proprietary database of senior-level executives in the Forbes community, Forbes Insights conducts research on a host of topics of interest to C-level executives, senior marketing professionals, small business owners and those who aspire to positions of leadership, as well as providing deep insights into issues and trends surrounding wealth creation and wealth management. 

About SAP

For information on SAP, visit

About gyro

As a global ideas shop, our mission is to create ideas that are humanly relevant. gyro is the 2014 BMA Global B2B Agency of the Year and an Advertising Age Top 50 agency. gyro also serves as Global Marketing Advisor to Fortune. Our 600 creative minds in 14 offices work with top companies including Blackberry,, DuPont, eBay, FedEx, HP, John Deere, SAP, Tate & Lyle, TD Ameritrade, Time Inc. and USG.