The year 2010 will be known for many things, but in the marketing world, it might be the tipping point of the global CMO.
Last September, L'Oreal tapped Marc Menesguen as its first global chief marketing officer, a month after Ford Motor Co. appointed Jim Farley group VP-global marketing. In December, General Motors Corp. broadened U.S. marketing chief Joel Ewanick's responsibilities to global CMO. Last April, Estee Lauder anointed its first executives with global scope across all brands.
While global marketing has been a growing force for decades, chief marketers with truly global scope have only become the norm in the past few years among global players like Unilever, Nestle, Levi's and Wal-Mart Stores.
It's not just about making the most efficient use of resources or presenting a single brand image worldwide. Part of the rationale is speeding up the process of finding what works in one place, then making it work everywhere else.
"If you went back four years ago there was a huge disparity between markets where we had really good marketing and the markets in which we didn't," said Tony Palmer, who became chief marketing officer of Kimberly-Clark Corp. in 2007. "If you looked at the markets where we were renowned as a great marketing company, our margins were better and we had much better market positions. Basically we had the same brands, but the marketing and innovation was better in those countries."
Those weren't necessarily the big high-profile ones you might expect, but rather Australia, Israel, Brazil and South Korea. Mr. Palmer said K-C determined that if it raised marketing performance everywhere to the level of those four, it would produce a sales bump "in the billions of dollars."
Another big reason Unilever and others are turning to global CMOs is , as Chief Marketing and Communications Officer Keith Weed puts it, "The twin-headed trends of digitization and globalization feed off each other and accelerate the combination."
Facebook and YouTube either didn't exist or had very limited impact in 2005, he noted, and their growth alone has made marketing more global. They're among the stops that make his annual trip to Silicon Valley a necessity.
The globalization and digitization of media have made it both more possible and necessary to focus on the global Unilever brand, Mr. Weed said. "People are much more aware of the companies behind the product brands now."
As Amway was about to turn 50 years old, it took a strategic look at what it needed to do to keep growing in the next 50, said Candace Matthews, who came on as the company's first global CMO more than three years ago. "Part of that was really realizing we needed to become a global enterprise instead of independent affiliates rolled up in a holding company," Ms. Matthews said.
What Amway found was that the company everywhere stood for "a business opportunity [for distributors] with great products." Simply put, Ms. Matthews has been charged with tweaking that to be "a great business opportunity that also has great brands."
The rise of the global CMO also reflects a rise of more globally oriented consumers and a much broader cadre of lower-ranking global marketers.
Georgia Garinois-Melenikiotou, senior VP-corporate marketing of Estee Lauder Cos., points out that she is not a CMO, but she does occupy the company's new global marketing role in part because of growth in the number of cosmopolitan consumers who are the core of the company's consumer base. By 2020, she said, "1.6 billion people will be global travelers living in megacities, and they will be my prime target ."
Beyond the C-suite, the population of global marketers is exploding, too. Marc de Swaan Arons, chairman of EffectiveBrands, noted in his book "The Global Brand CEO" last year that he estimates only about 25,000 marketers had the descriptor "global" in their titles in 1999. As of last year, per LinkedIn, more than 540,000 marketers had "global" in their titles.