How CMOs and CEOs can get along better
The biggest task for many chief marketing officers boils down to one word—survival. The position has long been known to be plagued by having among the shortest average tentures in the C-suite. Plenty of factors are to blame, including that the marketing department is often an easy scapegoat when sales don’t match projections. One thing CMOs can do to ensure their survival sounds simple enough but is often hard to do: get along better with your boss, the CEO.
One CEO-CMO duo that has successfully navigated ups and downs is Pernod Ricard North America CEO Ann Mukherjee and her chief marketing officer, Pam Forbus. On the latest edition of the Marketer’s Brief podcast, the pair share practical advice on managing the CEO-CMO relationship. (The interview originally occurred during the Ad Age Next: CMO conference.) Below, a snapshot of their advice:
Pick the right boss
Matchmaking goes both ways. CMOs should vet their future boss as much as CEOs research CMO candidates. “At the core of it is common values,” Forbus said. She is driven by insights and analytics and wanted a boss that appreciates that. “I love the thought of being where the consumer is now and where they are going to be in the future, not where they were,” she said. “Adapting as you go is what drives me and I knew Ann was going to be that way.”
Use a coach
One of the first things Mukherjee did when she got the CEO job was to bring in a corporate relationship coach to work with leaders and their direct reports. Even though Forbus and Mukherjee had previously worked together during previous career stops, the two learned new things about each other through the process.
“It really helped us with that speed of trust as we moved into some really major change initiatives that required us to work fast and independently,” Forbus said. “And even if there was a misstep or a decision that wasn't right, there was a common belief that this wasn’t someone’s agenda— this was actually in service of our common vision, so it was something we just needed to course correct and learn.”
As a former CMO, Mukherjee is an expert at marketing. But she avoids micromanaging Forbus. “Once you have an understanding with your CMO of what does excellence look like, how is performance measured, you’ve got to trust your CMO,” Mukherjee said. “And then you become a sounding board for the CMO. You have to be aligned on values and what matters and when you do that, the rest works itself out.”
Speak the language
If a marketer wants to earn respect in the C-suite, they must talk the talk. CMOs “don’t really speak the language of business very well, and it’s been an issue. It drives a lot of lack of credibility in the C-suite,” Forbus said. She has learned to use language like return-on-investment, or playing “moneyball” with analytics. “I hear things from my CFO saying, I’ve never heard a marketer talk like that”