Home Depot needs CMO fix

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It's a shame it's come to this: Home Depot, one of the nation's most influential marketers and once a pillar of customer service and consumer-led branding, can't find a chief marketing officer. No one, it seems, wants to take down the "help wanted" sign. It's ironic, as former CMO John Costello was such a force behind Home Depot's brand image and customer-friendly vibe. He left 11 months ago, and his replacement, Tom Taylor, will be gone by the end of the year.

Why has the CMO post at Home Depot become anathema?

Some argue that the challenge of joining a company whose brand is on the verge of saturation is the primary turnoff. We find it hard to believe that any seasoned marketing executive wouldn't jump at the chance to take on that challenge and find new growth opportunities. Will it be tough and require loads of creativity and risk? Sure. Would there be a big payoff for the person who gets it right? Absolutely.

No, in this case, the problem appears to lie with CEO Bob Nardelli. A former GE executive, his industrial-management approach and apparent lack of marketing understanding, or at least prioritization, leads one to believe that he's created an inhospitable environment for a CMO.

Recent Spencer Stuart survey results show that while CMOs have gained support among upper management, CEOs aren't filtering that support down the ranks, leaving the CMO role ill-defined and out of alignment within the overall organization. The real problem at Home Depot could be poor-wait, make that nonexistent-CEO-CMO alignment. And that's a critical building block to a healthier bottom line no company should neglect.

Unless Mr. Nardelli shifts his priorities to make finding-and keeping-a stellar CMO job No. 1, then probably no one will sign up for that post any time soon. In his admirable and rigorous quest to make the company even more successful, Mr. Nardelli needs to open his eyes to a CMO's real value-especially one given leeway, flexibility and support to implement change.

Mr. Nardelli can do it. A CMO would help.
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