The existential dilemmas of the new-age CMO
Arun Pillai, January 29, 2019
The marketing landscape is changing, and at a very fast pace. While this may sound exciting, it does bring in some key challenges for the present-day CMOs who, having started off their careers during the pre-digital era are now helming a department that is bound to be disrupted.
As businesses look to move ahead under tougher market conditions and stiffer competition, the CMOs are left with enough challenges to face, and steer both their companies and their careers in the right direction.
Let’s observe some of these challenges –
The perception battles
Unfortunately, at least in some sections of the industry, the perception of the role of a CMO is weakening. Some surveys have pointed out at the declining popularity of the CMO role (while this is subjective) and the shrinking tenure of the CMO, especially at the mid-market level. As new C-Suite roles get assigned and re-aligned, the role of the CMO is finding lesser prominence and in some cases, is not viewed particularly important. As Andy Lark, CMO and Chair of Group Lark aptly puts it “The CMO being the first in, is the first out. Suddenly you see more Chief Customer Officers (CCO) running marketing’’
The CMOs are facing a perception issue and it will require all sorts of efforts and measurable performances to dispel this perception. It goes without saying, that under such circumstances, the board and the CEO need to back the CMO.
Staying on top of tech-trends
You never know what has come and what has gone – that’s the speed at which technology is moving. Keeping track of new-gen technologies such as Big Data, Artificial Intelligence (AI), Machine Learning (ML), Virtual Reality (VR), Augmented Reality (AR) has become essential for CMOs. Understanding the potential of these technologies and how they can aid in marketing efforts and campaigns is of paramount importance for CMOs. This is easier said than done. There is only so much time and bandwidth. The key challenge will be – for CMOs to keep track of what’s happening in the current marketing / brand strategy while keeping abreast of technological advancements that can help better these strategies.
Revenue linked performance
Trying market conditions and increasing competitive scenarios is compelling business owners to look at revenue growth as a yardstick for performance. Some companies are moving the CMO role under the Chief Revenue or Growth Officer (CGO) while others, sadly, are letting of the role itself. In a recent leadership shake-up, Coke let go of its CMO Marcos de Quinto (who retired after 35 years of service) and altogether moved this role under the Chief Growth Officer.
A key challenge for current CMOs is to play a crucial role in the company’s growth and find a relevant place at the C-Suite table.
The other key challenge is how do CMOs link their efforts and experience to performance. It is important for C-suite execs to showcase their worth by pitting their efforts to some direct results. How do CMOs link all those promotional, branding and marketing activities to revenue growth? Now that is something the CMOs have to crack in order to send the right message across to various stakeholders.
While there are enough and more challenges facing the CMOs, this also comes as an opportunity for them to re-invent themselves, re-model their marketing efforts and redefine their roles for the better.
Next, let’s try to understand the goals of CMOs in the digital era.