The life expectancy of a CMO has reached an all time high of 3.5 years (nearly double what is was five years ago) but it seems the rift between CEOs and their CMOs has never been greater. That was the conclusion of a study released this summer by The Fournaise Marketing Group who found that 80% of CEOs don’t even trust marketers no less value their work.
The report paints a rather black and white picture of the tight-lipped, number-oriented businessman on one side and the artsy, image-oriented communication aficionados on the other. On their own, neither of these skill sets will get a company very far today. That’s why these archaic depictions of the CEO and the CMO need to be removed from our collective memory and replaced with a new model.
Both archetypes are a by-product of the industrial revolution’s production-focused business environment when most of the world’s needs were under-served by commerce. Back when there were few brands and little competition this archetype served well to ensure efficiencies of production and distribution that made for black & white ROI calculations. Making money was all about ruthlessly shaving the costs off production and distribution. If, by chance, the consumer didn’t have a need for the product a sales person would create one for them and cajole them into making a purchase. Marketing as we know it didn’t matter much and neither did the person running it. Being an art enthusiast and handy with words was about all the qualification CEO’s saught.
That was the value chain model where products were conceived and made by companies then pushed out to the market. Since the product couldn’t conform to the consumer the role of sales and later advertising evolved to conform the customer to the product. In this model, profit comes from the cost management abilities of the CEO and the persuasive ability of sales to create synthetic demand in the absence of the real thing.
Times have changed. Today, consumers are faced with plenty of accessible options in almost every category. “Build it and they will come” no longer works. “Brand it and they will come“ is closer to the mark. To compete, companies today need to be marketing organizations skilled at positioning against competitors, anticipating consumer behavior and satisfying their needs profitably. This is a value loop model where the role of the marketer is central. In this model the product conforms to the customer from the start. Sales (in the sense of persuasion) becomes less important as the entire organization focuses on anticipating and addressing consumer needs to create organic demand profitably.
The widespread high turnover of the CMO suggest that either the people being fired are incredibly incompetent or that the people firing them are. In either case, it would indicate that the average CEO is not taking marketing as seriously as they ought to. The results of the Fournaise survey only amplify this.
One answer is to reinvent the CMO. That’s what the Fournaise survey concludes. But I say scrap the CMO position completely. In a true marketing company, marketing is not a departmentalized function like shipping or accounting. It's an orientation, a way of running a company that permeates every department and employee. And as such comes under the auspicise of the CEO.
Of course this CEO would need to be a skilled marketer and well versed in building brand equity. After scraping the position of CMO, her next official act should be to abolish the catch-all “marketing department” and replace it with a series of more delineated, yet integrated, departments covering the functions required by a true marketing organization. Such a structure might include departmentalizing functions such as consumer insight, inbound/content marketing, outbound/advertising and online networking or alternatively departmentalizing each step of the consumer’s journey to brand advocacy.