Every so often, a recruiter will contact me, asking for my suggestions for a chief marketing officer or marketing leadership role. I always respond by asking, "What's the core job to be done? And what are the major skill sets you're looking for?"
At this point, the discussion tends to become like shopping for a Swiss Army knife. The recruiter might say things like, "The candidate should be an experienced brand-builder and have DTC commerce and performance capability; they should understand CRM and ideally have garnered creative awards; they will know how to partner with agencies and build in-house capability."
These dynamic, do-it-all leaders are in huge demand—and for a good reason. The truth is that the marketing environment has changed almost beyond recognition in the last 20 years as the internet has permeated our lives. As Benedict Evans says, "Today, anyone does anything online." Sure, brands are moving quickly to be as effective selling online as they already are offline. But, beyond managing the shift online, brands are also embracing purpose-driven marketing; building out in-house capabilities; evaluating their supply chains, agency, and media partners for industry standards of responsible practice; championing the cause of inclusion and diversity at their own companies and so much more.
The necessary scope and requirements of a CMO have mushroomed. If, in the year 2000, a CMO listed five core capabilities on a resume, now you would see at least three times that. Influential, visionary, and hugely valuable leaders, the most capable and evolved of marketers are courted assiduously as recruiters, private equity-backed start-ups, and established organizations seek their leadership.
Here are five reasons why today's CMO has become so coveted and why they are worth their weight in gold:
The fluid nature of today's marketing funnel
Where direct mail and more accountable marketing vehicles were once siloed, now performance is part of everyone's agenda. The distinction between brand and direct marketing is evaporating even as the language "above and below the line" persists five decades since inception. The silos between marketing and sales are breaking down as our mobile habits have changed the purchase funnel. The store window and the checkout aisle now exist in our palm; on a mobile phone, anyone can discover and buy anything, anywhere at any time.
Today's marketing leader pulls all this together to work in concert, understanding the synergistic effects of channels in the orchestra, and ensuring that the sum assembled is greater than its constituent parts.
The endless creative possibilities
As audience attention continues to move online, the standard brief calling for print, radio, and TV has been supplemented and often supplanted by the opportunity to design and build for discovery on mobile devices and digital platforms. Managing this can be complex. It often requires partnership with ad tech organizations, influencer networks, gaming platforms, creative tech solutions in addition to media and creative agency partners. And it's not just creating engaging ideas right for a screen of 6 inches and one of 36 inches; marketing leaders consider the full connected experience using service-design methodologies across payments, mixed reality, voice and much more.
The ever-growing opportunity to optimize and improve
The lag and relative scarcity of evidence for marketing effectiveness between the advertiser and their audience were once barriers to optimization. If you don’t know what’s working and what isn’t, it’s hard to iterate. This couldn't be less true today—digital marketing has made it possible to improve and optimize based on far faster insights and data.
The greater accountability, reporting, and transparency from digital channels have ushered in a new language of measurement and optimization that is fraught with both risks and opportunities. Mistaking correlation for causation or optimizing for the wrong KPI can lead to poor results. Understanding a customer's lifetime value, cost per acquisition and brand perception can create huge advantages as the drivers of success are understood and scaled. Great marketers are curious and hold themselves accountable to continuous improvement.
The massive scale of conversation and communities
Word of mouth has always been important, but now more than ever, the scale of impact of peer-to-peer conversations and recommendations has accelerated. Today, the conversations being had about a brand are often consumer-led or at least consumer-amplified. Where once we called an 800 number, now we message or Tweet at a company and expect an instant reply. And where once we told a friend about a poor experience with a brand, now we leave a review for hundreds to see. It is more crucial than ever to be authentic and consumer-centric so the interactions can be two-way, transparent and generate ambassadors for the cause. Today's marketing leaders plan outbound marketing for the flywheel of commensurate inbound customer queries, critique and suggestions, which can translate to conversions, referrals, and campaign improvement.
The importance of walking the walk
Today, people want a brand to buy and a brand to buy into. Companies must be fully bought in with clear signs of their brands living and breathing their purpose. Brands are expected to have a perspective on topics of importance—from environmental ambitions and credentials to sponsorships and influencer choices that reflect inclusivity and the right values. Who is establishing the framework and making the hard decisions here? Who is joining industry bodies, chairing sessions, and leading efforts that have the scale to drive change across the ecosystem? It is the work of the CMO.
Today's marketing leaders are fluent in the many languages and disciplines critical to their brands' long-term growth. They are empathetic practitioners—pursuing what the consumer and their organization needs now and planning and building for what the needs of tomorrow will be. And they are as comfortable and enthusiastic discussing pixel installs, performance and purpose activation as they are packaging and pricing. Those looking for great marketing leaders understand that this capability comes at a premium but with it, an impact that can transform the growth of their organization.