As Marketing Technology Grows So Does the CMOs Status

The age of the customer may also turn out to be the age of the chief marketing officer (CMO).

Marketers with strong business skills are in demand, earning more money and developing closer ties to CEOs, according to management experts interviewed by CMSWire.

Much of this increased status results from CEO directives to show returns on investments in marketing technologies designed to attract consumers, who have gained an advantage over marketers by using technologies of their own.

What CEOs Want

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"CEOs want somebody who's got a business perspective as a marketer," said Tom Seclow, who leads the North American Marketing Officer Practice for Spencer Stuart, a search firm that helps to fill about 200 senior marketing positions a year.

Seclow said companies are posing tougher questions to marketers now. They're asking, "How are your marketing actions going to impact our business? And don't tell me the soft, squishy stuff about how the brand attribute ratings are going to go up and people will feel better about our product in the marketplace. Tell me how they're going to equate to more sales."

All of this has nudged-up the job security for senior marketers, though the median tenure is still shy of four years. A recent Spencer Stuart study put the average longevity of a marketing officer at 45 months, nearly double the low-point of 23 months seen in 2006.

A second study, released in late July by the 7,000-member CMO Council, ties the highest compensation to executives who focus on restructuring marketing efforts to "drive results, improving the yield/accountability of marketing, and building digital capabilities."

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"The advent of digital [technology] is enabling marketers to do a better job of empowering their positions," said Donovan Neale-May, the council's executive director. "It's  also allowing them to work more closely with CIOs, CFOs and chief operating officers."

Neale-May said marketing technologies are giving CMOs "far more credibility, far more legitimacy" and enabling them "to take on the voice of the customer as we've never seen."

Churn Remains

To be sure, there are exceptions. Kathleen Schaub, vice president of research in IDC's CMO Advisory Practice, said the Spencer Stuart tenure study simply doesn't match her daily reality of working with hundreds of technology companies.

"I'm just not seeing that," she said. "In our high tech  business, we're continuing to see churn. We're not seeing any flattening. If anything, it feels like it's heating up." She estimated that a third of the CMOs she knows have been in the job less than two years.

Schaub said part of the churn may stem from the fact that consumers have gained an upper hand in technology markets. Another consideration is that the sort of digital transformation that already changed the retail, auto and financial sectors now appears to be rolling over technology companies. "And as the Internet of Things comes about, there will be other companies entering that realm," she said.

"So with customer expectations changing and the huge impact as digital rolls through the industry, there is a huge impact on marketing," she said. "Much more of the responsibility of what's going on in business has to sit in the marketing sphere."

Career Guide Posts

Schaub, Seclow and Neale-May each noted factors that may help senior marketing managers navigate today's tricky employment environment.


First, as Schaub put it, traditional brand-oriented marketers may be "pushed into a communications role" in larger companies, "and we see a new profile of people coming up with more sales or channel capabilities, or maybe a GM who has run a division."

Second, many marketers themselves are looking for change. "They will often look to be repotted, sometimes in entirely new industries," said Seclow, who noted that it may appear they've been fired. Or as Schaub explained, "Part of it is opportunistic. The good ones get opportunities elsewhere."

Third, Neale-May estimated that half of new CMOs were recruited to "fix broken marketing organizations. In most cases, this means having to upgrade, replace, realign and bring in new talent." On the other hand, he said CMOs often lack the authority or responsibility to make needed changes.

Too Many Chiefs

Neale-May also complained there are too many "chiefs" running around companies today.

"We have chief officer sprawl," he said. "We have a chief digital officer, chief experience officer, chief revenue officers, chief insight officer, chief relationship officer -- all of which should be under one title: the chief marketing officer."

Title image: W. C. Fields as a carnival sideshow barker in the 1927 Paramount Pictures film Two Flaming Youths.