Bob Liodice: CMOs Must Live Up to the Boss's Expectations

By Embracing the No. 1 Metric, Marketers Can Gain the CEO's Trust by Becoming 'Growth Champions'

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It's time for CMOs to rise to the stature of C-suite players. To date, the CMO has not lived up to the CEO's expectations and needs.
Bob Liodice
Bob Liodice
Too often, the marketing department's focus has been poorly aligned with the CEO's agenda. Weak information flow, functional ambiguity and leadership second-guessing have crippled the CMO's influence. The result? Failure to optimize the complex array of responsibilities needed to fulfill the CEO's agenda including:

  • Balancing traditional and new media investments
  • Brand positioning
  • Marketing accountability
  • Organization management and development
  • Business system streamlining
  • Agency relations
  • Cross-functional integration
Is there any wonder why the CMO's average tenure is only 26 months?

Times are changing. CEOs and CMOs are getting on the same page. CEOs understand that the pathway to higher shareholder value is through the marketing department's door. CMOs have become more aggressive and more innovative. They've begun acting with greater certainty to deliver the goods, to build brand equity and to drive near-term business performance. Strong, powerful, dynamic brands equal outstanding business performance. And that only happens through great marketing. Finally, CMOs are delivering really great marketing.

In today's environment, the outstanding marketers know how to grow a business. With unlimited opportunities –- but constrained resources -– the only marketing metric that really matters is growth. And to drive growth, marketers have learned to stretch their discipline's traditional boundaries to encompass activities many companies don't even think of as marketing. We call these people "growth champions" –- people with traits and experiences that generate superior results. And, in my opinion, many CMOs have learned through past failures and challenges –- and are now fast becoming growth champions.

Growth champions have the street cred necessary to drive a company's strategic priorities and lead its brands, products and new business development. Ultimately a growth champion becomes the CEO's trusted partner, strategic resource and confidant in meeting his or her prime objective: building the enterprise. Look at the work done by Jim Stengel at P&G, Becky Saeger at Charles Schwab, Jim McDowell at Mini, Laura Klauberg at Unilever and Russ Klein at Burger King. These phenomenal CMOs are truly growth champions.

In a recent study, Booz Allen Hamilton and the ANA surveyed 2,000 executives about the structure and practice of their companies' marketing organizations. We found that growth champions own their companies' key growth-support functions, whether or not those functions fit into conventional definitions of the marketing practice. For example, growth champions are not only responsible for traditional tasks such as introducing new products and expanding the market for mature ones, but they also drive the entire product development/innovation function and significantly contribute to decisions about entering new markets and acquiring new businesses.

According to the Booz Allen/ANA study, growth champions share these important characteristics:
  • They possess a broad range of analytic, financial and creative capabilities
  • They can clearly identify their contributions to revenue growth, giving them added organizational credibility and authority
  • They use sophisticated tools and processes to promote business efficiency
  • They are proactive -– not reactive –- in providing guidance and services that add value to the senior leadership team
  • They are perceived by other executives, especially in C-suite offices, as contributors to –- and leaders of –- the growth agenda
Marketers that possess these characteristics truly connect with their CEOs. Here's an example. Faced with the challenge of how to grow an immense organization, GE CEO Jeffrey Immelt said, "Sophisticated marketing is now one of the company's three imperatives, along with risk-taking and innovation. The new marketing team itself must embody all three of these qualities."

At a recent ANA senior marketers' roundtable, we learned how marketing is viewed at some other major companies. CMOs Tom Haas of Siemens, Cie Nicholson of Pepsi and Becky Johnson of Brinker International (Chili's) each superbly described the vital role of the marketing discipline:

> Pepsi: Marketing is a growth driver, and brand strategy runs deep in the organization. Marketing is all about driving consumer pull and innovation. It's about differentiating products through image and strong brand positioning. Marketing has also made itself a valuable partner with finance, sales and R&D, a critical step in the growth agenda and in nurturing innovation.

> Siemens: Marketing is a contributor of growth, a catalyst to get the right people to the table. Marketing at Siemens has to drive sales, educate people as to what the sales process is and help the sales team deliver the right message to the sales influencers.

> Brinker International: Marketing has undergone a transformation at Brinker. The role of marketing has evolved into an accountable function from a "glamour role." Traditionally, it was part of restaurant operations, but has now moved to being its own entity, responsible for communicating with the restaurant operators the values and the difference Chili's and its other brands bring to the marketplace.

These are expansive definitions of marketing. They suggest the powerful, influential ways that growth champions impact their respective companies. These marketers are in tune with their CEOs. They are delivering results that really matter -– business results. And in so doing, they are elevating the stature of the entire marketing profession.

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Bob Liodice is president-CEO of the Association of National Advertisers. He first joined the organization in 1995. He was previously exec-VP, responsible for member relations and business development, with a primary focus on strengthening relationships with ANA member companies and broadening the membership base. Prior to the ANA, Mr. Liodice was VP-global marketing and sales for Grupo Televisa. Previous experience includes more than 15 years in marketing and financial management at Kraft General Foods, where he served as category marketing manager for the Jell-O and Bakers brands. He is also a member of the boards of directors of the Advertising Council, Advertising Research Foundation, National Advertising Review Council, Partnership for a Drug-Free America and the Advertising Educational Foundation.
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