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.
No longer is this the case. In the social era, linearity gives way to seriality. With the social explosion afoot and copious social data ready to be interpreted and acted on, marketers for the first time have a real-time laboratory producing a constant data stream. With the proper technology and the right team, they can interpret real-time data and make mid-stream changes to campaigns so as to ensure success.
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!