Chief Marketing Officer: The most thankless job in the corporate world?

Few people I know would claim that being the Chief Marketing Officer of a company is a job without risks. Indeed, numerous articles in the business press point to an average length of tenure in a CMO position that is often measured in months rather than in years – indeed, the shortest length of time among all C-level jobs.

And now, a recently completed survey of CMOs  underscores just how wide-ranging the reasons are for those employment characteristics. Branding consulting firm Brand Keys tested a number of issues to see which are the ones that keep CMOs “awake at night.”

Three-quarters or more of the respondents to the Brand Keys survey reported that every factor presented was significant enough to cause them to lose sleep.  Leading the list with near-universal high-alert concern is ROI factors. Other factors of concern to nearly every respondent in the survey are big tech and data security issues.

Listed below is how each of the factors tested by Brand Keys turned out with CMOs in terms of “losing sleep” over them.

90%+ lose sleep worrying about:

  • ROI/ROMI factors
  • Big data, big tech and big security issues
  • Establishing trust with customers
  • Innovation, AI, technology and marketing automation developments
  • Consumer expectations regarding privacy and transparency

80%-90% lose sleep worrying about:

  • Managing social networking
  • Creating relevant advertising content
  • Successfully deploying predictive consumer behavior analytics/technologies
  • Dealing with consumer advocacy and social activism
  • Developing long-term strategies that align with corporate growth goals
  • Having the ability to engage with audiences – not just find them

At the “bottom” of the pile … 75%-80% lose sleep worrying about:

  • “Democratization” of the digital world and protecting brand equity within it
  • “Political tribalism” and its effect on brand reputation
  • Being relevant when tweeted about
  • Keeping consumers engaged with the brand
  • Creating better cross-platform synergies for marketing campaigns
  • Creating an “unlearning curve” to move away from legacy marketing metrics
  • Creating marketing synergies among different generational/age cohorts
  • Being replaced by the chief revenue officer

This last worry factor – losing their job – seems almost preordained given the tenuous circumstances more than a few CMOs deal with in their positions.

… and likely made more so because CMO’s are quick to be blamed when things don’t go well, even if they aren’t in the strongest position to effect the changes that may be needed. “Responsibility without authority” is the stark reality for too many of them.

What are your thoughts about the dynamics faced by CMOs in their companies?  Whether you speak from personal experience or not, I’m sure other readers would be interested in hearing your views.


One thought on “Chief Marketing Officer: The most thankless job in the corporate world?

  1. I speak as a customer, but from this end of the telescope, marketing seems nearly impossible on grounds of brand loyalty, especially.

    I walk through Macy’s forlorn watch department, where hundreds look alike and tell time equally well, and ask myself why anyone would pay real money for them?

    Buy a TV these days, and you don’t care that it is no longer made by Sony (or Zenith, if you’re old enough!). You choose by price. And if Mercedes ever tempted you with Teutonic gravitas, you no longer encounter a serious burgher sitting behind the wheel listening to Beethoven. It’s promoted with rap music.

    Brands used to be easier to identify, tribally. If you bought a Volvo in 1969, you easily could have had Third World voodoo masks on the wall, breast milk in the refrigerator and protest signs in the trunk. These days Volvo is owned by Ford and seems no more Swedish or “1960s” than Stouffer’s Swedish meatballs. It’s just another high-tech car.

    Brooks Brothers was once worn by Abraham Lincoln, and being the “Brooks Brothers Man” meant you would successfully woo the elegant “Gibson Girl”. Today, salespeople at Brooks have no clue about the legacy; it’s just another clothing store with polo shirts that look like the ones at Old Navy.

    Now that I think about it, these days I might not even want to be in charge of marketing at Apple …

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