Are CMOs really heading for an early grave?

The death of the chief marketing officer? I don’t like the sound of that. But the CMO role is ready for burial, claims academic Dominique Turpin, Nestlé professor and president of the International Institute of Management Development in Lausanne, Switzerland.

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He argues that the CMO position is no longer tenable because instead of focusing on creating value for the customer, most are simply executing a communications strategy. They’re not seen as having genuine business influence. “The CMO’s power has been rapidly eroded,” he notes. “The CMO is dead. Nobody has a clear idea of what marketing is. It’s fuzzy. Ask 20 senior managers what marketing is and they will give 20 different answers.”

There is interesting research to back up Turpin’s view. Ninety per cent of chief executives trust the chief finance officer but 70 per cent have lost faith in marketers’ ability to deliver growth, according to a study by the Fournaise Marketing Group.

Turpin wants to see a new role to take on the CMO’s responsibilities - the chief customer officer (CCO). The CCO would be “the voice of the customer in the organisation, taking views and messages from the market and spreading them internally”.

Unsurprisingly, CMOs are not convinced. Last week, we ran a roundtable with CMOs from brands including Microsoft, RSA, Freshfields, Ricoh and Pernod Ricard in association with Quadrangle. I asked the attendees whether they would become CCOs over the next 12 months.

Freshfields’ CMO Elizabeth Chambers says talk about the semantics of job titles are “a distraction” to chief marketers. She points out that in many organisations, customer service is an operational issue and while marketers have some influence, they cannot control the whole experience end-to-end.

As a result, ‘marketer’ is still a better description of the role. She rightly says it’s more important to have a role where you can achieve goals and make a difference with actions, rather than claiming responsibility for every aspect of what’s done.

With all this talk about getting things done, we at Marketing Week are boosting our coverage with the addition of two new writers. Ronan Shields joins our news team, while Lucy Tesseras joins the features team. Both Ronan and Lucy have vast experience in digital areas from mobile technology to ad networks, so bring new knowledge to the brand. We look forward to serving you better in 2013.

Readers' comments (1)

  • While we can debate the methods used by the Fournaise Report, the rise of the CMO shift to becoming CCO has already begun. Having been a serial CMO and now advising CEOs on market strategy, CMOs can no longer hide in the traditional box. Their job is to lead the organization to growth and that means they must define the customer experience ecosystem for their companies. The focus is no longer on branding and messaging, 2013 is the year of customer experience.

    If CMOs are unable or unwilling to proactively make the shift, it will spell the demise of the profession and their companies. I see in our clients many other functions who are willing to take the lead on customer experience and, at the same time, relegate marketing to an admin role. That would have negative consequences for years to come.

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