To make the position even more challenging, the role of the CMO is probably one of the least understood by both the outside world and internal audiences. Marketing is often seen as a "black box" confused with sales, and which is sometimes viewed as a financial drain on an organization, funding expensive advertising campaigns, sponsorships and other untold extravagant items.
While marketing accountability is increasing and marketers are working more closely than ever before with their CEOs, CFOs and HR heads, the marketing discipline is still often shrouded in mystery. It is probably the least understood management function at the boardroom level – if it is at the boardroom level, often getting short shrift in terms of attention except when there is an issue. And yet it can be such a powerful driver of growth, innovation and reputation. In fact, according to Wikipedia, the CMO is ultimately responsible for facilitating growth, sales and marketing strategy. He or she must work towards objectives such as revenue generation, cost reduction or risk mitigation.
The good news is that according to Spencer Stuart, the average tenure for a CMO was up from just under 35 months in 2009 to 42 months in 2010, but how much of that was driven by the economic conditions versus improved performance? And the average masks significant differences in tenure across industry sectors. For example, the life expectancy of CMOs in the highly competitive communications and media sector is just 22 months, and in the restaurant business just 25 months.
I’ve seen a few job specs for CMOs over the last several months as research for my book, and I never cease to be surprised by the diversity of responsibilities. You do not see that with CEO or CFO job specs! On a basic level, CMOs are supposed to have significant influence over all “4 Ps of marketing” – promotion, product, place and price. However in reality, a study conducted across over 1,700 CMOs by IBM last year indicated that while CMOs exert a strong influence over promotional activities such as advertising, external communications and social media initiatives, in general they play a smaller role in shaping the other 3 Ps. And that’s a problem given that they don’t have power over the combined effect.
So what we have here is a sort of “50 shades” effect, but what we need are some industry standards in terms of CMO role and responsibilities which can be used to inform and educate the business community at large.