Time for a change at CMO level?

The recent changes of the Chief Marketing Officer (CMO) role title for Chief Customer Officer, Chief Growth Officer and Chief Commercial Officer have led many people to ask whether marketing needs a rebrand.

Historically my view is that you only need to rebrand when the core product is deeply damaged – otherwise you just need to re-breathe the important essence, benefits and reasons to believe into the core branding. So is that also true for Marketing?

My sense is actually that marketing got over brand-extended. What do I mean by that?

Finance stayed being about the numbers, sales stayed being about the sales, manufacturing about manufacturing, but marketing expanded:

  • The relationship with employees became the employer brand and the art of good internal communications.
  • The operational delivery of service became critical touchpoints and proof points of the brand in action (they are one of the marketing ‘P’s).
  • The data systems and digital interfaces became critical parts of the customer experience of the brand (again, another ‘P’ of marketing).

What came under the responsibility of the CMO became less and less clear. With it, the definition of what marketing is and what specific benefits it brings to the organisation became less clear – leading many to cling to the areas of visual brand identity – or the ‘colouring in’, as it can be pejoratively referred to. This leads to a terrible set of outcomes – where the important work of marketers simply does not get done: who will bring the ‘outside in’ such that the customer is at the centre of demand-based decisions? Who will bring ‘the future forward’ in terms of ensuring that the business addresses key trends and innovates where needed?

At the top table, that the CEO needs to be able to look around and know whom to turn to in order to drive the topline growth for a sustainable future. I would argue with a passion that functionally speaking it is only the CMO who can legitimately lay a claim to lead this (obviously with collegiate support from other functional leaders around the table). Naturally there could be another individual who has flair and skills in this area, but functionally, marketing is the discipline that develops this skillset and roles which enable it to move from ideas to business reality.

So this leads me to conclude that marketing is not broken – far from it, I believe that we are in some of the most exciting times for marketing-led innovative growth. But it does appear that the clarity of the role of marketing in the business (especially at a leadership level) is broken. And given that different businesses are in different phases of their business model, maybe the clarity of the need is reflected in the titles of Chief Customer Officer, Chief Growth Officer and Chief Commercial Officer.

So as we look for where the growth and innovation for the future comes from, we need to be training as many marketers as ever and putting them into stretching roles that make them deliver the growth that organisations need. The marketing profession needs to take the challenge of being better and communicating simpler and clearer articulations of the benefits that marketing brings to the business – and then we will have earned the right once again for the growth role to be called Chief Marketing Officer.    

This Thought Leadership blog is one of a series written by Marketors to provoke debate and help make marketing more relevant to businesses and society. If you would like to share your wisdom, please click here for details and how to get in touch.

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