That’s not always true, he adds, pointing to Whiteside at Walmart, where her chief customer officer title – akin to a chief experience officer at a non-retailer – really does encompass a variety of roles beyond conventional marketing, including technology incubators and mobile interfaces and a group of employees that likely exceeds 15,000. (Walmart declined to comment on the size of her group.)
The CXOs are coming
Among all the rising chief titles, chief experience officers predominate. Possibly they also lead to the most confusion, because their duties range from roles largely outside conventional marketing duties to little more than marketing. Sometimes CXOs report to CMOs. Sometimes, it’s the other way around. Sometimes they have separate reporting lines to a chief operating officer or CEO. Welch acknowledges he’s worked on CXO searches, or recruited people with CXO titles, where he’s been told the job is essentially a CMO role.
While customer experience includes a lot more than traditional marketing, it’s an open question whether there needs to be a new title or simply a more expansive definition of marketing. Broadly, the marketplace seems to be embracing the latter, even if CXO roles are expanding. A recent Salesforce survey of more than 9,000 global marketers found 80% of them say their organization leads customer experience initiatives across their companies.
But count Volkswagen among the marketers with a distinct CXO function. Its recently appointed first CXO, Markus Kleimann, is responsible for managing and developing customer interfaces, leading a 40-person team that works across divisions on such things as customizing online car buying, electric vehicle charging and customer service hotlines.
And meaningful CXO roles are the norm, not the exception, says Amelia Dunlop, who, besides being chief experience officer at Deloitte Digital, leads a networking group of chief experience and customer officers and advises other incoming CXOs on their roles. Those include Manu Steijaert, recently appointed as McDonald’s first global chief customer officer to lead a new customer experience team.
The CXO role can vary, Dunlop says, in part based on the skills and scope of the individual. But the role at a minimum generally encompasses oversight of customer call or contact centers in addition to conventional marketing, she says. In her role, Dunlop says she also leads customer strategy and design functions in addition to conventional marketing.
“Traditionally the chief marketing officer was the person representing the customer voice at the management committee,” Dunlop says. “And now, increasingly, marketing is about how do you live up to the brand’s promise and purpose.” And that’s among factors that have led more companies to have CXOs.
“I think the reason you’re seeing chief experience officers is because you can no longer have your online experience different than your store experience and different than your employee experience,” she says. “You need someone thinking about the connectivity between all those things.”
Amazon, for example, redirected much of its consumer media budget last year to ads aimed at countering negative media coverage about the harshness of its work culture.
Of course, Dunlop also makes the argument in her upcoming book, and in a Wired column last year that the CEO of a company is the one who really needs to be in charge of the full scope of human experience around a company and across external and internal audiences. For major tech companies of the modern era – for better or sometimes worse – that has been the case with the likes of Steve Jobs at Apple, Mark Zuckerberg at Facebook, Jeff Bezos at Amazon, and Elon Musk at Tesla.
A major driver of more expansive chief experience, chief customer and chief growth officer roles is simply that there’s a proven correlation between broadly defined customer experience and business growth, as Accenture Interactive found in a study published late last year, says Olof Schybergson, the firm’s chief experience officer.
“The chief marketing officer traditionally would run a marketing budget, have a marketing team and have agency partners,” Schybergson says. “A chief experience officer – what we see emerging and what we’re implementing ourselves in Accenture – is not a function but actually the glue between several functions. In some organizations, the CMO reports to the CXO. In others, the CMO becomes the CXO over time, keeping their original domain but picking up other things around cross-functional collaboration.”
That, among the chief roles, truly is needed in most companies, Schybergson says. He’s not so certain about some of the other chief roles – particularly chief digital officer – given that we’re a quarter century into the digital transformation they’re supposed to be leading in their organizations.
Yet L’Oreal recently appointed a new chief digital officer, Asmita Dubey, to replace outgoing CDO Lubomira Rochet, and both Unilever and Kimberly-Clark have combo chief digital and marketing officer roles, so the role lives on at some of the world’s biggest marketers.
The case for chief mar-tech officers
Schybergson also isn’t so sure about chief mar-tech officers – a function that might have a need but might not warrant a “chief” title. But whatever it’s called, there’s a case to be made for chief martech officers, says Kristina Goldberg, VP-strategic services at Adswerve, an ad tech company. It’s a role that sits between a CMO and a chief technology officer, possibly with some links to a procurement department or chief financial officer, with duties that really aren’t mastered by any of those departments, she says. Marketers are too caught up in their normal duties to stay current on rapid developments in marketing technology, she says. Tech departments and procurement people probably don’t have the specialized expertise needed to evaluate current needs and offerings or anticipate what’s coming, she says.
“It should be about not only making technology available so that you can reach the right user at the right time,” Goldberg says, “but also thinking about 18 months ahead how do I leverage this data to elevate the experience, become more relevant and more personalized?”
Mayur Gupta several years ago essentially was a chief mar-tech officer for Kimberly-Clark Corp. before moving on to general CMO duties at other companies, including Healthgrades, Spotify and currently Gannett. But in his current role, he sees a clear need for a chief mar-tech officer – Vikas Sah -- whose title is head of marketing technology.
Sah says in previous engagements he’s been part of tech teams reporting to a chief information officer. “But as we became like the drivers of the business and the growth engine, our entire team was moved to report to the chief marketing officer,” Sah says. He believes that shift makes sense. “I think the alignment with marketing gives it more of a business-centric focus.”
Gupta says he used to joke eight or nine years ago with marketing technologist Scott Brinker, now VP-platform ecosystem at Hubspot, that within a decade all marketers would by necessity be marketing technologists. It hasn’t really turned out that way, though, hence the need for Sah.
Then again even though Brinker now edits the chiefmartec.com blog, he doesn’t see many people with the title: “chief martech officer.” The role is common, but usually goes by the name VP-marketing technology or VP-marketing operations.
And there may be a good reason for that, says Goldberg. In some companies, putting a “chief” into a title entails a much higher pay band than the role may warrant. In others, chiefs only report to the CEO, and that’s going to be rare for a head of mar-tech. Nevertheless, the job, perhaps unlike some other chief titles, is easily delineated from other marketing functions and really is in charge of a distinct set of duties.