Relevance might be the CMO’s biggest challenge - MARKETING Magazine Asia

Relevance might be the CMO’s biggest challenge

BY GREG PAULL, Principal, R3

The C-Suite has become a battleground as executives across all industries work to restructure their companies and redefine their businesses to align with emerging consumer demands.

Pressure is especially falling on the shoulders of Chief Marketing Officers, who are seeing their roles change, their territory fragmenting and knowledge requirements expanding.

As job requirements shift, so do the CMOs. Executive search and consulting company Spencer Stuart noted that while the average tenure of CMOs has remained relatively steady at the top 100 most-advertised brands, an unusually high number of CMOs at well-known brands have changed jobs.

Chief marketers are moving from company to company, or assuming different roles within their current company.

New Roles for New Levels of Expertise

The past few years have seen a host of new positions being established in the C-Suite to fill the demand for new levels of expertise, particularly in areas related to digital technology and innovation.

Chief Digital Officers, Chief Growth Officers and Chief Consumer Experience Officers are welcome additions to many marketing teams, though there are some who astutely observe that conflicts between these positions and that of the CMO are inevitable.

“When you have a Chief Digital, Chief Customer Experience Officer & Chief Revenue Officer, what is marketing supposed to do if they no longer handle any of those components?” said Raja Rajamannar, Chief Marketing & Communications Officer at Mastercard in the book Global CMO: Best Practice in Marketing Effectiveness & Efficiency Around the World. “That is an existential threat to the CMO at one level.” 

Up, Over; Down Or Out

This shake-up is defined by the simple phrase “up, over; down or out.” Some CMOs are being promoted into new roles, like that of President or Chief Concept Officer, giving them greater influence. For others, their title remains the same as their job scope expands to include more responsibilities.

With increasing fragmented leadership within areas related to marketing, there is the risk of a CMO losing influence within an organisation, or in some instances, the role of the CMO being eliminated altogether.

Regrettably, CMOs are often directly in the firing line if business growth targets are not met. This is by no means the end of the CMO, but merely a call to arms for those in marketing leadership positions to rethink their purpose and impact.

Five ways for CMOs to keep their roles fresh, effective and relevant:

1. Keep communication lines open

Tangible goals are often the hardest to communicate,  yet the most imperative to have. Communicating accomplishments and goals to the CEO, as well as fostering communication across departments is vital if CMOs want to demonstrate where they can drive effective change.

2. Adopt a start-up frame of mind

Innovation as a way to add business value is the way forward. This means that CMOs must adapt both their role, and those of their team, to continually challenge the status quo and test new concepts and ideas whenever possible. This includes creating a fact-based decision-making funnel, prototyping and setting up agile teams, and partnership structures.

3. Innovate or acquire

It’s time for CMOs to invest in incubators and new platforms, or even acquire companies to bridge gaps where an organisation can’t build certain capabilities in-house. Mergers and acquisitions with the right company can drive innovation and allow the parent company to learn and absorb knowledge through proximity and experience.

4. Spend on new technologies

Invest directly and thoughtfully in technology. The converse to mindful adoption is following technology trends without understanding short-term demands on resource and longer-term impact to the bottom-line. CM are advised to choose a point where technology and product can meet, and work things out from there.

5. Know what you’re talking about

Better questions always lead to better answers. While it’s not possible for one CMO to know everything, it is important for the CMO to know enough to identify what lines of inquiry need to be taken on any issue related to marketing and the consumer. This demands a more collaborative environment where the CMO’s role is akin to a network orchestrator than the more traditional command and control executive.

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