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The nature of marketing has changed - it’s time to reboot the CMO role

09/05/18 Greg McHugh Search Partner

In the three decades since it earned a place in the C-suite, marketing has changed fundamentally. A new generation of marketing leadership has emerged. Guiding more than just the classic marketing mix, successful Chief Marketing Officers (CMOs) are driving corporate strategy, holding general management responsibility and developing next-generation talent in a function that was once relegated to the ‘Four Ps’ of marketing (product, price, place, and promotion).

The evolution of new technologies, tools and market dynamics are ever changing the job specification of the Chief Marketing Officer. In this modern marketing era, CMOs are facing an expanded mandate to reimagine their role within the C-suite and across the enterprise. Their new challenge is to set new standards for how marketing gets done.

Formerly, the CMO was responsible for mainly the advertising strategy. Now the CMO’s role is fully fledged and involves a whole host of responsibilities from internal communications to how to price and package a product correctly, to understanding demand generation and product marketing.

Greg McHugh, Redline Executive Search Partner has over 20 years executive search experience and has a great understanding when securing high calibre C and D level executive marketing candidates. “Today, the CMO plays a major role in creating a climate of innovation and using internal data to come up with new ways to market to customer segments. CMOs must recognise the considerable work required to have employees embrace the culture of learning and change to understand the possibilities represented in emerging technologies and the insights they can provide to enable growth.”

As brand stewards and customer champions, CMOs need to strategically address how to help their organisations compete by increasing value, creating exceptional, personalised customer experiences and transforming corporate cultures to think and operate in truly customer-centric ways.

“The role of the CMO is evolving into ‘Chief Experience Officer.’ They need to own the client experience from beginning to end and across the organisation, says Greg.  According to the IBM Chief Marketing Officer insights from the IBM C-suite Study, today’s C-suite respondents said that market factors surpass technology as the most important external force impacting their businesses for the first time since 2010. As more companies adopt foundational digital technologies, these become less differentiating for brands. Instead, changing market dynamics, changing customer preferences and new distribution channels are once again the external factors that the C-suite is prioritising. And these factors sit squarely in the CMO wheelhouse. If ever there was a time for CMOs to take centre stage, it’s now.”

Revolutionising the CMO role to become a fully evolved and strategic business leader can be a complex endeavour. Fortunately, there are clear steps CMOs can take to gain the critical development, experience, and organisational respect required. CMOs can start by:

Where should CMOs start? Based on research from Deloitte’s report on ‘Redefining the role of the CMO’, there are three areas which stand out:

1. Relentlessly pursue customer expertise. By positioning themselves as customer experts—and bringing the benefits of that expertise to other functions in the organisation—CMOs can trade tactical responsibilities for enterprise-wide strategic influence.

2. Make marketing make sense. CMOs can make their voice heard by translating marketing insights into the language of their C-suite peers, be it financial, strategic, sales-oriented, or talent-related.

3. Establish a centre-brain mentality. Much has been said about the increasing need for strong data-analytics capabilities in marketing, and rightly so. Yet this should not tempt CMOs to undervalue the creative, right-brain skills that marketers have more traditionally valued. Only by marrying the two can CMOs bring insight and actionable guidance to organisations, and it requires a forward-thinking, strategic mind-set.

It’s time to reboot

On the one hand, it can be argued CMOs have been set up for failure. A paucity of direction, communication, or strategic empowerment to bring about change has led to their role definition not only often being ambiguous but in a state of constant flux. In addition, a focus on the tactical details of the marketing function itself can act as a hurdle to CMOs having an enterprise-wide vision, despite that being expected of them.

The good news is we’re confident that this need not be the permanent state of things. By using customer analytics and organisational partnerships, by communicating clearly with the C-suite, and by skilfully melding the right brain and left brain aspects of their role, CMOs can take charge of customer insights to not only justify their seat at the board table but to become the strategic counsel their responsibilities and knowledge demands. The nature of marketing has changed. It’s time to reboot the CMO job role.

To find out more about the Chief Marketing Officer role, click here. Should you need assistance to identify and recruit a Chief Marketing Officer then please do not hesitate to get in touch with our Executive Search team on +44 (0)1582 450054.