Home & Office

Chief Marketing Officer - the hottest seat in the C-suite

It's a hot seat but not in a good way...
Written by Tom Foremski, Contributor

Chief Marketing Officer or VP of Marketing/Communications has to be one of the toughest jobs around these days. Why? Because of the massive fragmentation going on in media and communications.


The good news about the new media and communications channels is that it is all measurable. You can measure things in incredible detail. You can slice and dice the measurement data in ways that were never possible before.

The bad news about the new media and communications channels is that it is all measurable. There is a mountain of data that can sliced and diced in so many ways. What is worth measuring? How much should you measure? What do the measurements mean? How can you relate the measurement data to revenues?

We are still figuring out these and many other questions. And that's why marketing and communications today is so challenging and it isn't going to get any easier.


That's from my post Chief Marketing Officer - Toughest Job Around . . .  written about four years ago.


Here's a good article on the same theme but with some hard data from various industries, written by McKinsey staff: David Court, Jonathan Gordon, and Jesko Perrey.

As the external marketing environment becomes more complex, so must the internal environment. Marketers historically had only a handful of communication vehicles; now they have dozens of them, and the number is growing rapidly.

This proliferation has led to the emergence of both external and internal specialists, with accumulated experience not only in media channels (such as social media) but even in individual vehicles (such as Facebook).

The exponential growth in marketing complexity seems unending and needs to be managed.

There's some excellent advice:

First, you'll require a number of specialists. You just will. You can't get the skills and knowledge you need in just one person, and you're not likely to get everything you need internally.

Second, you'll need somebody who both integrates marketing efforts across channels and communications vehicles and focuses on the bottom line. In packaged-goods companies, this was--and may still be--the role of brand managers, but the basic requirement is that it must be done by someone.

Finally, you'll need absolute clarity in processes, roles, and responsibilities not only within the marketing organization but also throughout your company (across functions and business units) and externally (with agencies and external vendors).

- - -

Metrics are rarely perfect. Yet the volume of data available today should make it possible to find metrics and analytic opportunities that take advantage of your unique insights, are understood and trusted by your top team, provide proof of progress, and lay a foundation for more sophisticated approaches to tracking marketing ROI in the future.

The marketing environment continues to change rapidly and often feels like a moving target that's impossible to hit.

Read the rest here (registration required):

 Measuring marketing's worth - McKinsey Quarterly

Foremski's Take: The advice is good but legacy corporate culture often prevent marketing organizations from making the most of the fragmented marketing opportunities. Which means there's an arbitrage opportunity for the taking, if competitors, or specialized agencies get their act together.

Chief Marketing Officer will continue to be a challenging job for many years to come, maybe more. Because media is the conduit for marketing and our media is not only fragmented but it's enabling our culture to constantly change, too.

This interaction of culture and media and its speed of distribution, and sometimes very short life-cycles, are huge challenges for CMOs at large organizations. 

Knowing what's acceptable marketing within each market sector is crucial. For example, Intel is very careful to shrink its brand logo in its "Creators Project" festivals because market research has shown that the twenty-something demographic "doesn't like to be marketed to."

Yet focus groups, following up after the events, reported excellent brand recognition. Despite the small Intel logos, the marketing was successful and target group felt respected. It's a win-win marketing strategy but that's because of Intel's cultural research.

Staying in tune with cultural trends and sentiments will be vital skills for CMOs to cultivate, and maybe even be recruited on.

Can "big data" analysis uncover cultural shifts early enough to let marketers take advantage of them and hope for a free "pop" as an early trend becomes popular? What if you could have known that interest in Pintrest would suddenly mushroom, three months before anyone else? 

Some place great confidence in algorithmic analysis of media and the surrounding social sharing and sentiment prediction. Plexus Engine from Marshall Kirkpatrick's team is one such algorithmic approach to spotting trends early. And there are many others.

If any of them worked well, we'd know about it because we'd see its effectiveness very quickly.

Algorithms might help filter out some noise but there is a "gut" analysis of cultural data that humans are very good at doing, because we are already designed to think like social creatures, while computers have to be taught through algorithms.

This is the value a good CMO brings to their job -- using their understanding of other people, other groups, to craft effective marketing strategies. The CMO job is part art, part science, and part media publisher. 

CMO is the by far hottest seat in the C-suite, and not in a good way. There's a real fire being lit under every CMO's seat to produce reliable and repeatable results. Yet we are still trying to calibrate the metrics around online marketing programs, and relate them to business performance. Asbestos underwear is recommended.

Editorial standards