CMOs must demand respect

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The good news is that chief marketing officers are no longer the Rodney Dangerfields of the C-suite. The bad news is that CEOs are failing to communicate that to their direct reports. And the worst news: It's the CMOs' fault.

A recurring theme in these pages has been the general lack of regard afforded CMOs in corporate America, particularly as evidenced by Spencer Stuart's survey in the past few years. In 2004 came the shocking revelation that CMOs are given under two years to do their job before being unceremoniously booted. At the time, we wrote in this space that it reflects "a deep-seated lack of respect for the marketing function" at major companies.

Last year's survey found that 44% of CMO respondents aspired to become CEO someday-but the likelihood seemed low considering that it was found CMOs were generally viewed as unsuitable for general management and seen as lacking financial acumen and broad business perspective.

Now it seems that CEOs may be coming around to recognizing marketers, but they haven't communicated that to their underlings. This year's survey found that only slightly more than half of CMOs rated their bosses as good or excellent at communicating with marketing, and even fewer, 43%, said CEOs are making direct reports accountable for partnering with marketing.

The inevitable conclusion is it's time-or well past time-for CMOs to step up and start selling themselves within their own organizations. "If you're expecting the CEO to be the effective champion, that's unrealistic," said Rich Routhier, a consultant at Spencer Stuart.

Instead, that respect has to be earned. "The CMO has not made it clear to the CEO or the rest of the organization [his or her] importance," said David Reibstein, professor marketing at the Wharton School. Or, as Rick Lenny, CEO of Hershey Co., said: "To get a seat at the table, ask for it."

After all, if you can't market yourself, you don't deserve respect.
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