30 years, 40 months, and 5 archetypes

What has come and is yet to become of the CMO

Did you know that marketing was first given a seat at the table over 30 years ago? One would think that after three decades, the CMO role would be at a maturity stage. The position, however, continues to rapidly evolve. In fact, the responsibilities of today’s CMOs are multiplying faster than ever. Leaders grapple with increased competition, how to meet consumer demands throughout complex customer journeys, looser control of their brands with influencers, and wrangling the ever-changing data privacy landscape.

The added responsibilities of the CMO have raised the stakes. According to executive recruitment firm Spencer Stuart, the average CMO tenure in the US fell to 40.0 months in 2020, its shortest since 2009. To succeed, CMOs must closely align their marketing initiatives to their business and drive measurable results. After all, it is the CMO who ultimately represents the voice of the customer or—in revenue speak—the path to purchase.

To help CMOs on the path to success, eMarketer recently defined three key initiatives: Connecting the marketing strategy to the business strategy; adopting a leadership style that matches the organizational strategy; and, seeking roles in which the CMOs’ core strengths align with the needs of the specific opportunity.

As no two businesses are alike, no two CMOs are identical. It takes different skill sets to manage through the key initiatives we identified. To help marketers, CMOs, and business leaders understand what it takes to recruit, refine, and retain a successful CMO, eMarketer identified five CMO archetypes to match attributes to the expected focus of the role.

1. Strategy-Focused CMOs Set the Company’s Vision

  • Use deep analysis of consumer insights, competitive behavior, and social trends to define the company’s positioning
  • Own planning, go-to-market strategies, pricing decisions, and product innovation
  • May sit in a centralized function within multibrand organizations in which marketing communications and operations are owned by business units. In some companies, these responsibilities may be owned by other members of the C-suite

2. Revenue-Focused CMOs Drive Business Growth

  • Drive sales and view all activity through this lens
  • Heavily use test-and-learn strategies and rapid optimization for paid media initiatives. Often oversee performance marketing to include referral programs, affiliate, and native advertising
  • In high-growth and challenger brands, they may own innovation and channel management. In some industries, a chief revenue officer is responsible for both marketing and sales

3. Brand-Focused CMOs Build Equity and Value

  • Define a brand’s creative strategy and oversee all aspects of execution
  • Set the strategic positioning for the company and its products while focusing on tactically executing advertising and marketing campaigns to bring the brand to life
  • A chief brand officer may oversee these initiatives in some organizations

4. Engagement-Focused CMOs Seek Customer Connections

  • Head communication planning and campaign management to ensure the right message is being delivered to the right customer at the right time
  • Own marketing technology, data functions, and possibly customer loyalty
  • Differs significantly by industry and business type. For example, in retail and ecommerce companies, the CMO is less likely to have responsibility over the website or app than in industries such as automotive or consumer packaged goods. In certain organizations, responsibilities may be shared with, or owned by, other C-suites

5. Experience-Focused CMOs Act as the Customer Advocate

  • On the front lines of listening to customer needs, distilling customer insights, and advocating for customer needs within the organization
  • Represent the needs of the customer at every turn. Identify opportunities to become customer-centric and align employees, partners, and vendors to meet the customer’s needs
  • The chief customer officer or chief experience officer roles may also oversee these responsibilities