What is a chief growth officer? Beats me

Many companies are now embracing the notion of a chief growth officer. But what is it? And why on Earth is it there?
Written by Chris Matyszczyk, Contributing Writer
Business growth concept year 2019

A finger on the pulse of growth?

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We're living in an era of gurus, influencers, and fancy, ethereal job titles.

Few titles, though, baffle me more than chief growth officer.

It sounds like a matron who monitors the babies in the office and tries to ensure they're all putting on weight.

In the modern context, I suppose, it's someone whose job is to force every part of a business to get bigger.

Or is it?

I've been moved to semi-rapture, you see, by a new report from marketing intelligence company Singular.

It seems that some of the world's biggest companies now have a chief growth officer -- everyone from Coca-Cola to Lyft. Indeed, LinkedIn claims there are 900,000 of them.

The question is: Why do these people exist?

Well, the report offers: "With massive technological change, huge digital transformation efforts, and short tenures, it's becoming clear that the CMO needs help."

During my 20 years as an ad agency creative director, I always thought CMOs needed help. Mostly because they were so torn between doing something they thought might be good and doing something that their bosses -- or, in some cases, their spouses -- might not think was good.

You might, though, reach for your forehead when I tell you Singular's definition of this teasing title: "A chief growth officer is a growth catalyst."

That's helpful.

It is, though, only the beginning: "A CGO leads growth with an emphasis on performance marketing, and a heavy reliance on marketing technology. And a CGO is tasked with a cross-functional role: building growth into product, service, and support as well as marketing."

Hi, I'm your new CGO. I'm going to build some growth into you. Lean back. This won't hurt a bit.

Apparently, what characterizes a CGO is their commitment to, oh, "disrupting the status quo."

How do they do that? Please hold your head firmly with both hands to prevent it from spinning:

"That means working with the CMO -- and often reporting to the CMO -- but also with the CRO. The CGO doesn't typically run sales, but does work closely with sales to ensure they have the tools and processes necessary to succeed. In some cases, CGOs may report directly to the CEO with a combination of sales, marketing, product and operations as reports."

Got that? It all makes sense, doesn't it?

Stunningly, companies that are tech-heavy are especially prone to hiring CGOs. Are you ready for more enlightenment? Here we go: "Overall, they're more focused on digital, they're more mobile, they have larger teams, and they have larger budgets. The data suggests that companies with a CGO are more likely to be using tools to unify their data and generate intelligent insights from it for growth."

Because CMOs generate stupid insights? Because they don't understand growth? Because they can't be trusted with a lot of money?

Oh, but CGOs are vital -- apparently -- if your business depends on an app.

Can you cope with one more startling piece of data? Here it is: "CGO-led organizations are 30% more likely to have an app critical for delivering customer value or generating revenue than organizations without a CGO. Mobile apps are revenue generators and customer value creators for 77.2% of organizations that have a CGO. For organizations that don't have a CGO, that number drops to 59.3%."

Now I get it, CMOs just don't understand apps.

I fear that, beyond all this joyous explanation of a new and vital role for today's dynamic businesses, the chief growth officer is doing all the CEOs dirty work, so that the CEO can spend more time just looking good.

CGOs seems to enjoy a greater respect than CMOs. One problem CMOs have always had is that they rarely have a place in the boardroom. Marketing is just so ephemeral and slightly silly.

But once you put growth in the job title, well, that can be taken seriously, can't it?

CGOs, therefore, merrily go around breaking down silos and generally poking their noses into all parts of a business, while never annoying anyone.

Which leads me to conclude that they're there to keep everyone focused on the real goal: Increasing the CEOs bonus package.

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