The “New” CMO

There’s an article posted in the current issue of CMO Magazine describing "The Future CMO".
You should read it, because it’s a perfect guide to how marketers can
continue to crash and burn. On the surface, the article is right on
target. It resonates perfectly with the marketer who has his back to
the wall, offering a clear antithesis
to all of the complaints about marketing coming from the boardroom, but
providing no real clue to the underlying dry rot of the marketing
"Here I come," it seems to say, "responding to the pressure for accountability with
snappy financial lingo, crisp analytics, and a  network of engineers
who respect me."
It sounds like the vision
of marketing by a clueless Marketing Executive staring lovingly in
the mirror.

The current obsession with financial issues simply reflects that
it’s through the window of performance metrics that we’re able to see
that marketing is broken. Learning financial concepts is important
because it makes your understanding of the indicators more acute–but
it doesn’t solve the problem. The CMO Magazine article articulates many
of the shortcomings of the marketing function–inability to link
programs to the bottom line, failure to integrate with other functions,
myopic focus on soft campaign measures–but seems to suggest that the
solution lies in restating attacks as declarative statements of what
marketing will be, some misty day in the future. What? You say we don’t
have metrics? Well, in the future we WILL have metrics.

really annoys me about this depiction of the future CMO, is that it
paints the picture of some slick executive deftly navigating the
c-level suite, as if simply rowing to the pounding drumbeat of the
current trend will open all the right doors. What the future CMO really needs to do is roll up his or her sleeves, get down in the trenches and serve sales, engage with
customers, listen to engineers, and start playing an active, service-oriented
role in the organization at the bottom first. If the future CMO can’t solve real
problems on the front lines, their lofty dream of "reaching across" the whole
organization to pull together all of the corporate elements and set strategic
direction is nothing more than a sales brochure for an expensive marketing MBA.

The most amazing section of this article is this statement:

To their surprise, the group’s findings suggest that the biggest
challenge may not be getting CEOs and CMOs to see eye to eye. One may
speak the language of revenue while the other may prefer talking about
customer satisfaction and brand awareness, but the research indicates
that these groups are on the same page when it comes to identifying a
company’s most pressing marketing concerns.

"We did not find any major difference between the CEOs and CMOs on any major topic," says McNally.

and CMOs with no difference on the most pressing marketing concerns?
This says everything about the actual survey, which I’d love to see.
Where are CMOs and CEOs perfectly aligned? Tactical management of the
marketing function. Where are CMOs and CEOs standing on opposite sides
of a tremendous gulf? On defining the strategic contribution of
marketing to the organization. Apparently the survey didn’t dig into the debate over the ultimate role of marketing in the organization, or it polled only those executives who accept the notion that marketing is little more than managing lead generation. If you want to talk about efficiency,
CEOs and CMOs are aligned, because it’s all about tactical improvements. If you want to talk about effectiveness,
CEOs and CMOs are in different worlds, because it requires a view of marketing that includes corporate strategy.

Most CEOs in America are weaned on the Porter,
TQM, Balanced Scorecard, Core Competency, Lean Production, Six Sigma,
Resource-based mindset of corporate strategy, which essentially
relegates marketing to a line function to be managed as efficiently as
possible. Strategy is a pre-packaged mandate and the title of "CMO" is given out to
soothe the egos of glorified marketing program managers. That’s not
true at all companies of course, but it’s the mass of the bell curve.
How do CMOs change the tide? Not by dipping their oars into the surface
currents while the deeper water sweeps them out to sea.

Personally, I’m looking for a Future CMO who
has an open invitation to the strategy discussion because they have
retooled their marketing organizations from the ground up by actively
serving their internal teams as well as they serve customers; they have
engineered processes as efficient as they are effective; and they have
relevant contributions to make to the strategy debate based on real
world experience in market development, customer intimacy, competitive
positioning, and brand management. Not because they’ve learned to keep
"ROI on the tip of their tongue".

3 thoughts on “The “New” CMO

  1. jens

    hi chris.
    thanks for doing a great job in unmistakeably pointing at the obvious dysfunctional aspects in corporate/marketing organization.

    how easy is it to say: “marketing and strategy have to be one” and then, how hard is it on the other hand to implement some thinking that would come only half way close in most of our modern organizations.
    thanks for continuously bringing that back to our minds.

    one question though: if we talk about “marketing performance measurement” we can only talk about measuring long-term impact – right? – just like in corporate strategy (!). if you think corporate strategy and if you think about – for example how many mergers strategically failed in the last couple of years, and not all of them were driven by pure greed – some had the finest strategic thinking behind them…
    both marketing and strategy – if they want impact – are in for risk. total security, total measurement is an illusion… you simply can’t measure into the future.

    both strategy and marketing takes entrepreneurial guts. both are a jump into the unknown. – everything else is an illusion…

    measurement is great. but i think it has its limitations in gathering data about the past. the corporate virtue that is called for now, is to have this ex post data as clear as possible, as transparent and as informative for everybody (also for the creative forces) involved. it takes guts to say: “this stuff is valid! let’s all go” … more than to say: “let’s try and if we are wrong the marketing guys have to sell the shit somehow…”

    i think, organizational action in a dynamic environment is very much encouraging risk-taking on the bases of facts and about coordination (both structures and PROCESSES).
    i think, the possibilities of marketing measurement are limited. marketing measurement could focus more on the emotional impact of design and other soft factors for example (some kind of highly sensitive, highly diversified performance tracking) … so that you have some more data and experience when you start to design something the next time…

    gathering precise data! decisiveness and entrepreneurial guts to jump into the unknown – wholeheartedly, courageous and convincingly. – and then gathering precise data again. review, performance check, fine tuning etc….

    i think, a lot of marketing’s future lies in a highly sensitive performance tracking and in the virtue of precise and courageous(!!!!) process management.

    what do you think?

  2. jens

    btw… the future IS uncertain… even europe’s future 🙂 as we learnt today…

    the ft points out, that a “referendum” in general would not have been necessary for decissions like this. this is something that the national parliaments could decide.

    and german federal president koehler said, the french NO showed a clear deficit in communicating the european idea to the individuals.

    where national identity is about to be replaced by an airy brainchild dressed in politicians’ burocratic speak, it is not much of a surprise that simple nationalistic phrases can capture more emotions here…

    and: just involving everybody in decission making processes is simply not enough, to also engage them. it obviously takes much more to ensure that everybody is on the same page…

    but this – of course – is a completely different discussion…

  3. jens

    what i mean is: there obviously is a vacancy for a NEW CMO in brussels.


    just managed to catch the turn here again.

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