As if You Didn't Know by Now, It's About the Bottom Line for CMOs

Survey Says Marketers Are More Accountable Than Ever for Business Results

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NEW YORK ( -- Forget fluffy measures like brand awareness. Today's successful chief marketing officer has to have an impact that can be measured in dollars and cents.
Bill McDonald, exec VP-brand management at Capital One
Bill McDonald, exec VP-brand management at Capital One

That was the message behind the latest survey of more than 200 senior-level marketing executives by Spencer Stuart to be revealed at tomorrow's CMO Summit, "Isolating the Marketing DNA: the Essential Skills and Qualities of the New CMO."

It might seem obvious by now that CMOs have to affect sales and profit margins, but it wasn't so long ago that many were touting ad recall or brand awareness as their major goals. When asked to identify the five most important attributes of a successful CMO today, 65% of respondents cited an ability to influence the bottom line. Strategic orientation (44%) and customer orientation (33%) were the next most frequently quoted attributes of a winning marketing chief.

"It reflects the pressure that marketers are under today to be more accountable for business results and more closely linked with the full business," said Rick Routhier, consultant and member of the Marketing Officer Practice at Spencer Stuart.

"We are clearly in a situation now where being aligned with the business strategy and contributing to the overall success of the business is something against which CMOs are measured," added Dana Wade, a consultant and member of the Marketing Officer Practice at Spencer Stuart.

Distractions, risks
Bill McDonald, exec VP-brand management at Capital One, agreed. "Our goals as a function must subordinate into our customer-facing operations. Secondly, everything we do subordinates to corporate strategy," he said. "It's when marketing takes on a life of its own and [CMOs] are worshiping at the altar of great creative or cool internet [strategies] that they run the risk of being misaligned with what their colleagues are looking for out of the function."

Mark-Hans Richer, CMO, Harley-Davidson, said the issue is actually less about whether CMOs should have such an impact, but more about when their impact starts to show. "The question is, is the CMO incentivized to show long-term results or short-term? If it literally is short-term results, a CMO is going to be leaving long-term-impacting business off the table because they might be doing something to survive, and that's not the best value that a business can get from the CMO role."

Strategic orientation and customer orientation "are all enablers to impacting bottom-line results," Mr. Richer said. "All these functions add up to that, and if the CMO is spending most of their time presenting ads, that's probably a sign that their job or the expectation of their job has been a little bit limited."

The survey also explored both the innate and learned qualities that distinguish effective CMOs: acceptance of risk, willingness to make decisions and problem-solving ability ranked high on the innate-attribute scale, while global experience, multichannel expertise, cross-industry expertise and digital focus were the high scorers on the learned-attribute side.

Brand ranks highest
Brand still ranks as the most important area a CMO must "own" to be successful, according to 92% of respondents. New-product development (58%) and customer satisfaction/relationships (41%) round out the top three. Agency relationships (35%) and corporate image (25%) rank lower in importance as areas successful CMOs must own within their organization. And only 20% of respondents cited sales as the most-important area a CMO must own.
Mark-Hans Richer, CMO, Harley-Davidson
Mark-Hans Richer, CMO, Harley-Davidson

"Once again, we have what seems like a dichotomy of brand vs. sales, and I just fundamentally don't believe brand and sales are enemies," Mr. Richer said.

"Owning sales doesn't necessarily solve the dialogue that you need on making short-, medium- and longer-term investment trade-offs," Mr. Routhier said. "And often the CMO really needs to lead that discussion, and sales isn't the only party at the table. There is a whole series of constituents that really need to be part of that discussion today."

As for CMO-effectiveness measures, marketing's alignment with a company's overall business strategy tops the list, according to 35% of respondents. Next are profitability (29%) and revenue (25%). Only 7% of respondents ranked perceived value of marketing as a measure of CMO effectiveness, while 5% of respondents ranked brand awareness as such a measure.
Source: Spencer Stuart survey of more than 200 senior-level marketers
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