The CMO Is Evolving Into New Species With Vastly Broader Range

Big Data and Digital Demand Expertise in Both New and Traditional Areas of Marketing

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Scientists of evolution use the term cladogenesis to describe the division of an existing species into multiple lines -- thus creating new species -- often in response to radical change in the environment. Marketing appears to be going through a process much like this, right before our eyes. The 21st-century CMO faces an explosively expanding range of options from which to branch out in new directions.

Seeking insight into how marketing is changing, we had conversations with dozens of CMOs and other C-suite executives, mined our firm's ongoing study of marketing leadership trends, and tapped the direct observations of consultants across our global CMO practice. We found that the demands on marketing are growing far more eclectic, stretching marketing organizations and their leaders between divergent poles. The stretch is occurring across five critical axes:

Sophisticated Strategist vs. Entrepreneurial Trailblazer. Stable, mature markets offer large, reliable revenue streams, but competition tends to be fierce and growth potential is limited. Marketers must rely on intricate consumer insights and sophisticated strategies to eke out marginal gains. Emerging markets, in contrast, offer far less data to guide marketers, but far greater growth potential. The Entrepreneurial Trailblazer works creatively with what is available. In Africa, for example, more people have mobile phones than have access to electricity, and so mobile devices must be basic in design, to provide long battery life. As millions of Africans access the internet on a 2-inch cellphone screen, in black and white and text-only, marketers are skipping traditional TV advertising to move into the uncharted territory of advertising according to those parameters.

Business Leader vs. Marketing Guru. Companies increasingly require a CMO to be much more than a marketing star. Today's CMOs are expected to help the CEO shape overall business strategy and guide how resources are allocated across the business. Metrics are a key driver of this shift. Historically, measures of marketing effectiveness could demonstrate only that marketing investments had created potential for the business to succeed. Today's metrics can quantify marketing's contributions to the top and bottom line. This is accelerating the trend toward assigning chief marketers broad business responsibilities.

Joseph Tripodi, executive VP and chief marketing and commercial officer of Coca-Cola, is a prime example. Just look at his official company bio: "Mr. Tripodi leads the global Marketing, Customer Management and Commercial Leadership efforts of the Company to develop and leverage its capabilities, brands and properties to meet the needs of consumers and customers worldwide to drive profitable growth."

When Avon announced the appointment of Patricia Perez-Ayala as senior VP, CMO and global brand and category president, it noted: "Ms. Perez-Ayala will be responsible for global management of Avon's brand and marketing, including consumer insights, commercial marketing, digital marketing, and also have oversight of Avon research & development, new product development and packaging, and the Liz Earle business." Avon chose a proven general manager, with marketing at her core, to be its CMO.

We foresee more companies seeking top marketing officers with general management experience, as well as impeccable marketing credentials. The bar is being set ever higher.

Sector Specialist vs. Versatile Partner. Companies have often presumed that a CMO must rise within their own industry or one closely related. But many CEOs now want CMOs to be a versatile partner who can help make sense of all that is unfolding in the wider world, not just within one sector. For example, Citi's chief brand officer, Dermot Boden, had never marketed in the financial sector, having formerly served as global chief marketing officer at LG Electronics and in marketing roles with Pfizer and Johnson & Johnson. Greg Revelle, senior VP and CMO at AutoNation, is a similar story. Prior to joining America's largest automotive retailer, Revelle was VP of global online marketing for the travel platform Expedia.com. Earlier in his career, he was an investment banking analyst at Credit Suisse. Boden and Revelle each bring functional knowledge and abilities that are valued as more strategically essential, in a rapidly transforming marketplace, than deep industry knowledge.

Innovation Champion vs. Shopper Expert. Some organizations divide the role of the CMO into two areas of responsibility: an innovation champion focused on developing the pipeline for the future, three to five years out, and a shopper expert focused on delivering a P&L today. The logic is sound, given that each role demands different strengths. The innovation champion makes the organization a wellspring of ideas and ensures that new ideas are protected. The shopper expert builds deep, nuanced understanding of shopper behavior to deliver trial and repeat purchasing. Most CMOs are far more skilled at one or the other. But current and aspiring CMOs will need to acquire enough knowledge and experience outside their expertise to effectively lead both dimensions.

Digital Expert vs. Marketing Traditionalist. The power of big data and digital marketing has created a rush to infuse traditional marketing teams with digital talent. The danger is that freshly recruited experts in social media, SEO, analytics and other digital disciplines will fail to mesh with the traditional operation, with its expertise in areas like branding, promotion and product management. In effect, this creates two marketing functions that work in proximity, but not fully together. CMOs will be increasingly challenged to ensure that marketing is integrated and cohesive as its resident expertise grows markedly more diverse.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Dick Patton co-leads the global chief marketing officers practice at Egon Zehnder and Rory Finlay leads the global consumer products practice.
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