The Evolving Relationship Between the CEO and CMO

June  19,  2017 / By Cynthia Ramsaran

Ten years ago, a CMO’s average tenure barely passed the two-year mark. Although CMOs have been sitting in the C-Suite longer, it remains a volatile position. In 2016, CMOs from the top 100 U.S. advertised brands stayed in their respective roles for an average of 42 months according to a Spencer Stuart report.


This number is a little lower than in prior years, but when you look at the bigger picture, the role of the CMO has been elevated as the value that they bring to the table is shifting, putting them in a better position to succeed in their roles.


Critical to this shift is the evolving relationship between the CMO and the CEO. The way these two executives are increasingly collaborating is a sign that business is changing, and CMOs are responding to these changes in the business environment.


During a panel discussion recently held at the Mirren Live Conference in New York City, moderated by Harvard Business Review editor Amy Bernstein, CMOs and other senior-level marketing professionals on the panel all agreed that marketing executives have come a long way from the days of low CMO tenures driven primarily by low CEO confidence in marketers.


“We are increasingly having conversations with CFOs, CEOs and it’s a dual-edged sword,” said Tim Mapes, Delta Airlines SVP, Marketing. “As marketers, we have evolved our mindset not just to brand health and brand strength but the ability to link that to the P and L.”


Linda Duncombe, CitiFinancial; Tim Mapes, Delta Air Lines; Mary Renner Beech, Kate Spade & Company; Cory Bayers, Patagonia, discuss marketing opportunities in the C-Suite, at the Mirren conference in NYC.

Linda Duncombe, CitiFinancial; Tim Mapes, Delta Air Lines; Mary Renner Beech, Kate Spade & Company; Cory Bayers, Patagonia, discuss marketing opportunities in the C-Suite, at the Mirren conference in NYC.


In the C-Suite, Collaboration is Key


The consumer experience has become such a key differentiator for brands who want to achieve greater conversion from an engagement that marketing chiefs have their hands in a lot more areas of the business than they traditionally have been.


One executive at the Mirren conference said his role as a marketing executive and his relationship with the CEO has evolved tremendously.


“It’s a lot more collaborative,” said Cory Bayers, Patagonia VP, Global Marketing. “My relationship with the CEO stretches far beyond marketing. It’s everything that touches the brand.”


Whether you are a CEO or a CMO, it’s in the company’s best interest to build a strong relationship with your counterpart. Some factors that strengthen this relationship include:


• CMOs feel empowered by the CEO
• CEO places marketing plans on the executive agenda
• CEO has a clear, transparent and shared vision aligned with the CMO and other members of the C-Suite
• Both CEO and CMO set fair and mutual expectations


As these two executives collaborate more closely, there may be a risk that both will expect too much too soon from their relationship, according to Forbes. Part of the pressure placed on the CMO’s shoulders from the CEO is the expectation to deliver strategic and measurable results immediately. As long as there is a mutual understanding and the two align business goals with a fair approach to results, CMOs will be in a better position to succeed and help grow the business.


The CMO’s Path to CEO

In recent years, as the CMO has had a bigger impact on top line sales and consumer engagement, some major brands have placed CMOs as their new CEOs. This shift reflects the new reality and impact of the CMOs role and function within an organization.


Dick’s Sporting Goods has recently promoted its CMO, Lauren Hobart to president, according to Ad Age. Promoting a veteran marketer who has driven online growth and sales is a sound approach but has not been a common move. Now that brands are holding their marketing executives more accountable to specific KPI’s, and marketers are gaining credibility, the trajectory from CMO to CEO is becoming a more realistic one.


Other examples of brands expanding marketing leadership roles include: KFC promoting its CMO to president and chief concept officer; McDonald’s, Mercedes USA, and Audi USA have all promoted their CMOs to CEOs.


As CMOs shoulder more responsibility for driving consumer engagement, they are gaining credibility and recognition as drivers of revenue growth. As revenue grows consistently (or dramatically) under the helm of the CMO, no one can argue that C-Suite marketers must be a valued partner to the CEO.


A few years ago, Taylor CEO and Managing Partner, Tony Signore discussed the importance of C-suite executives and their relationship with the CEO, particularly the critical role of CMO. Click the video below for more:


CEO & Managing Partner Tony Signore Responds to HBR’s “Who’s Better at Strategy: CFOs or CSOs?” Article



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