What's going on and should we be worried? The last decade has indeed been tough for and on marketers. Here are some reasons:
Technology complexity. With the myriad of new technologies and channels, the marketer has to double as a marketing technologist; further, the ground is always shifting underneath him or her, given the birth and demise of new platforms to reach new audiences. If he fails to keep up with this ever-changing state, he is seen as "antiquated."
Budgets. Marketers have been asked to do more with less for years now. Despite best attempts, they cannot produce earth-shattering results with small staffs and few dollars; they are often released for underperforming.
The role of marketing is under attack. A large group of voices suggests that marketing is an imprecise discipline. Build a good product, spend a little bit of money on "virality" and then you can avoid keeping a big marketing team, they say. This overhang affects the ability of marketers to develop the gravity they need within the organization.
As a result of these factors, CMOs tend to have to look over their shoulders too often, a distraction that can affect morale and performance.
There is another reason, though, that could justify short tenures: marketing-campaign failure. CMOs are often let go when large and important campaigns get lackluster results: a new product launch being flubbed, a rebranding project failing to deliver results, and so on. Traditional marketing growth targets must be achieved or the CEO will ask the CMO to move-on.
Why is failure so easy and success so hard to come by ? Because until recently, there was no way to get real-time feedback and deep data-driven insights before launching a marketing campaign. Traditional marketing tends to follow a linear, serial process. The marketer has an idea, they hire an agency, the agency builds a creative treatment and hands the media component to another division, the media agency purchases the media, the advertising runs and everyone waits hopefully for the results. Unfortunately, hope is not a strategy and when relying on it, we are often disappointed. CMOs are let go because their crystal balls don't seem to be functioning.
Real-time data-driven decisions, enabled by technology, have made the marketer's job much more measureable and accountable. Here's to longer tenures, more success and armies of satisfied consumers!