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Spotlight on The
Trouble with CMOs
Why CMOs Never Last
by Kimberly A. Whitler and Neil Morgan
The Power Partnership: CMO & CIO
by Kimberly A. Whitler, D. Eric Boyd, and Neil Morgan
Reflections of a Six-Time CMO
An Interview with Joe Tripodi by Daniel McGinn
Reducing CMO Turnover: A Recruiter’s Prescription
by Greg Welch
The Evolution of the CMO
by Caren Fleit
This article is made available to you with compliments of Neil Morgan for your personal use. Further posting, copying or distribution is not permitted.
This article is made available to you with compliments of Neil Morgan for your personal use. Further posting, copying or distribution is not permitted.
This article is made available to you with compliments of Neil Morgan for your personal use. Further posting, copying or distribution is not permitted.
Sure enough, the company landed a
sea soned, talented executive from the
consumer- packaged-goods industry, who
came on board determined to make his mark.
But a year later the new CMO was feeling
deeply frustrated. Given the job descrip-
tion, his experience, and his conversations
with the recruiter and the chain’s CEO, he’d
assumed he’d have the authority to create a
strategy for driving growth. To his surprise,
his role was limited mostly to marketing
communications, including advertising
and social media. He had no responsibility
for (and limited inuence over) product
launches, pricing, and store openings. The
problem, he told us, wasn’t that his skills
prevented him from meeting the compa-
ny’s goals; it was that the job was so poorly
designed—and there was such a mismatch
between the CMO’s authority and the CEO’s
expectations—that it would be dicult for
anyone to succeed in it. Soon after he spoke
with us, the CMO left the company.
In our research into what makes CMOs
eective, we’ve heard stories like this more
often than we should. To us, they’re evi-
dence that something is going very wrong in
the relationship between CEOs and CMOs.
A 2012 global survey by the Fournaise
Marketing Group highlights the tensions
between them: The results reveal that 80%
of CEOs don’t trust or are unimpressed
with their CMOs. (In comparison, just 10%
of the same CEOs feel that way about their
CFOs and CIOs.) CMOs also sense a serious
problem. In our own surveys, 74% of them
say they believe their jobs don’t allow them
to maximize their impact on the business.
This troubled relationship helps explain
why CMOs have the highest turnover in the
C-suite. According to an analysis by Korn
Ferry, they stay in oce 4.1 years on average,
while CEOs average 8 years; CFOs, 5.1 years;
CHROs, 5 years; and CIOs, 4.3 years. Our
own research indicates that churn rates may
be even worse: We found that 57% of CMOs
have been in their position three years or
less. (See the exhibit “Years on the Job.”)
But unlike CFOs, CHROs, and CIOs,
whose roles are primarily inward facing,
CMOs have a direct eect on the way
customers engage with the rm. When new
CMOs enter companies, they often change
the strategic direction—which means cre-
ating new positioning, product packaging,
and ad campaigns, usually at considerable
expense. If job dissatisfaction or underper-
formance leads to a revolving door in the
CMO’s oce, companies can experience
internal disruptions, not to mention major
recruiting and severance costs.
We believe that a great deal of CMO
turnover stems from poor job design.
Any company can make a bad hire, but
when responsibilities, expectations, and
performance measures are not aligned and
realistic, it sets a CMO up to fail. In this
article we’ll outline the four steps CEOs
should take to end this dysfunctional pat-
tern. We’ll also describe how to match the
right person to the CMO job and how CEOs,
executive recruiters, and CMO candidates
Four-fifths of CEOs are
dissatisfied with their
firms’ chief marketing
officers. Not surprisingly,
CMOs have the highest
turnover in the C-suite.
Most CMO jobs are poorly
designed. The expectations
set for the role don’t align
with the responsibilities
given or the metrics
for success.
CEOs must decide which
type of CMO they need:
a strategist, who makes
decisions about the firm’s
positioning and products; a
commercializer, who drives
sales through marketing
communications; or an
enterprise-wide leader with
P&L responsibility, who does
both. Recruiters should
guide them through this
choice and help design the
job appropriately, and CMO
candidates must ensure
they understand the role
before signing on.
In 2012 a leading retailer began
looking for a new chief marketing
ocer. The job description made the
opening sound exciting: The new
CMO would play a big, important
role, leading the company’s eorts
to boost revenues and prots. It
seemed like the kind of opportunity
any would-be CMO might desire.
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10% 10%
Most chief marketing officers have not been in their positions
long. More than 40% have been in their roles two years
or less, and 57% have been in them three years or less.
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10+
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can all work together to maximize the odds
of CMO success.
Let’s start with a simple question: What
does a CMO actually do? Surprisingly, there
is no clear, widely accepted answer.
In our research we’ve interviewed more
than 300 executive recruiters, CEOs, and
CMOs; conducted multiple CMO surveys;
performed an analysis of 170 CMO job de-
scriptions at large rms; and reviewed over
500 LinkedIn proles of CMOs. We’ve dis-
covered extreme variations in the respon-
sibilities CMOs are given and in the skills,
training, and experience of the people who
occupy the role. (Note that we use the term
“CMO” generically to refer to a company’s
top marketing executive; at some rms
the job may have a dierent title, such as
executive vice president of marketing.)
Most CMOs, we’ve observed, have a few
areas of core responsibility. More than 90%
are responsible for marketing strategy and
implementation, and more than 80% con-
trol brand strategy and customer metrics.
But beyond that, the range of duties—from
pricing to sales management, public rela-
tions to e-commerce, product development
to distribution—is mind-boggling.
Of course, not all CMO positions should
be the same. Companies have dierent
needs, challenges, and goals, and the CMO’s
role has to reect those realities. Before even
considering candidates for the job, a CEO
must decide which kind of CMO would be
best for the company. In our research we’ve
identied three distinct types. (See the
exhibit “Three Types of CMO Roles.”)
Some CMOs focus on strategy. They take
the lead on up-front decisions about the
rm’s positioning and then translate those
decisions into the design of new products,
services, and experiences. Often they
manage the customer insight and analytics
functions. In essence, strategy-focused
CMOs spearhead a company’s innovation
eorts. Accounting for 31% of CMOs in our
research, they’re common in multibrand
rms and in some B2B service rms where
a centralized marketing group helps set
rm-level strategy.
Most CMOs focus on commercialization.
They have a downstream role and work
primarily on using marketing communi-
cations to sell the products, services, and
experiences that others design. Typically,
their responsibilities include overseeing
traditional and digital eorts to create
revenue-growing relationships with con-
sumers. Nearly half of CMOs (46%) have
this kind of role. Common in rms where a
function other than marketing is central to
success, commercializers play a supporting
role to the function that drives innovation
(such as engineers in tech rms).
The third kind of CMO handles both
strategy and commercialization responsi-
bilities in an enterprise-wide role focused on
the design and implementation of strategy.
Signicantly, such CMOs have P&L respon-
sibility and the broadest range of duties,
including innovation, sales, distribution,
and pricing. In our research 23% of CMOs
have an enterprise-wide role. They tend to
be common in single-brand rms and some
consumer-packaged-goods companies.
Because of the scope of their responsibil-
ities and the organization-wide nature of
their impact, marketers with this kind
of experience have historically been seen
as strong general managers and are often
tapped for CEO roles at other rms.
How can CEOs determine which type
of CMO is appropriate for their rms? They
should take into account the following
three external factors:
1. The degree to which consumer
insight needs to drive firm strategy.
When generating consumer insight is a
critical competency of the rm and deter-
mines the design of products, services, and
experiences, the CMO role should skew
toward a strategic or enterprise-wide focus.
There’s so much variation within industries
that it’s dicult to say denitively which
kinds of companies fall into this category.
But marketing’s role should lean toward
commercialization if nance, technology,
manufacturing, or another inward-facing
function leads a rm’s strategy. This is often
the situation in heavy manufacturing,
industrials, technology, higher education,
health care, and B2B rms. In general, when
rms believe that their innovations create
the need, they are less likely to look to CMOs
to set strategy or boost prots.
2. How difficult it is to achieve firm-
level growth. Companies in slow-growing
or highly competitive industries are more
likely to require a strategy-focused or en-
terprise-wide type of CMO, who can devise
plans for building demand. However, if
growth is easier to come by and less of a
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CMO jobs are not all alike. Some focus on strategy, some
on commercialization, and some on both. CEOs need to
understand which kind of executive their firm needs and
make hires accordingly.
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challenge for the rm, then the commer-
cialization role may be a better t.
. The level of dynamic change in the
marketplace. When a company’s business
model is shifting or industry boundaries
are being redrawn, CMOs with strategic or
enterprise-wide responsibilities are likely
to be more eective. With their broader
knowledge of the environment (consumers,
competitors, channel partners, the market-
place) and of their rms’ internal workings
(core competencies, strategic direction),
they can better help their management
teams steer through uncertainty and rethink
ways to generate demand.
It’s also imperative for the CEO to
consider this set of internal factors:
. The historical role of the CMO within
the firm. If the company’s top marketing
executive has traditionally focused on com-
mercialization, shifting to a strategic or en-
terprise-wide role will require taking respon-
sibilities away from another function. This
becomes problematic if the other function
has been managing those areas for a long
time and doing it well. While it’s often easier
to narrow the CMO’s scope, there are many
times when broadening it makes sense. For
instance, one CMO in higher education had a
commercialization role but was elevated to a
strategy role after he identied a solution to
his school’s admissions (and thus its growth)
challenges. Expanding the CMO’s responsi-
bilities requires signicant CEO involvement
to communicate expectations and prevent
internal backlash, however.
. The structure of the firm. If a rm
has multiple business units or brands,
functional leadership responsibility tends
to be dispersed throughout the organiza-
tion. (Each unit or brand may have its own
nance, marketing, and IT leaders.) When
this happens, the CMO often helps provide
strategic leadership across the corporation.
We frequently see this in global, multibrand
rms where category or business unit man-
agers have P&L responsibility. However, as
the company gets larger and more complex,
C-level roles often have to be disaggregated.
This is no dierent for the CMO’s role,
which may get divided into several parts,
such as chief commercialization ocer,
chief innovation ocer, chief analytics
ocer, and so on. In contrast, when a rm
has a single brand or all of marketing is
centralized, it’s easier for the CMO to play
an enterprise-wide role.
typically far exceed the actual authority
given the CMO.
That problem is often compounded when
CEOs are wooing candidates who already
have good jobs. While overpromising and
“up-selling” are common in recruitment
across many functions, our research sug-
gests that they can be a bigger issue in mar-
keting—because of the general confusion
and lack of uniform expectations about what
a CMO does and the knowledge and skill
dierences among marketing executives.
Once the job’s role and responsibilities have
been nailed down, the CEO needs to dene
how the CMO’s success will be measured.
A CMO in a well-designed commercial-
ization role will be held accountable for
meeting budgetary goals; for the outcomes
of proj ects (such as a website redesign); for
the results produced by marketing programs
(for example, increased trac to stores); and
for management outcomes (like improved
sta satisfaction and performance). In
contrast, CMOs in strategy roles should be
held accountable for related elements of rm
performance, such as increases in revenue
or same-store sales, in addition to meet-
ing budgets and producing management
outcomes. And of course, CMOs overseeing
P&Ls should be measured on the top- and
CONSUMER 8.0 5.1 4.5 3.6 4.9 5. 2
ENERGY 6.1 5.0 4.5 4.6 5.3 5.1
FINANCIAL SERVICES 9.7 5.5 4.1 5.1 5.1 5.9
INDUSTRIALS 6.7 4.9 4.0 4.1 4.6 4.9
LIFE SCIENCES 9.4 6.0 4.1 3.1 5.1 5.5
PROFESSIONAL SERVICES 9.2 5.0 4.5 4.1 5.1 5.6
TECHNOLOGY 7.9 4.9 4.4 4.3 5.2 5.3
OVERALL AVERAGE 8.0 5.1 4.3 4.1 5.0 5.3
Once the CEO decides where a CMO ought
to have an impact, the role’s responsibili-
ties should be aligned accordingly. Almost
all CMOs are in charge of brand strategy
and insight generation. CMOs with a
strategic focus also need to oversee the
rm’s “think tank” eorts (which originate
innovations and product designs) but have
little to no responsibility for converting
strategy into tactics such as ads or market-
ing communications. CMOs in a commer-
cialization role should have extensive
responsibility for developing and convert-
ing the brand strategy into marketing plans
that drive sales (through social, digital,
advertising, and content initiatives; events;
partnerships; and so on) but little respon-
sibility for up-front, rm-level strategic
decisions. And CMOs in an enterprise-wide
P&L role should have responsibility for the
whole process.
Alignment of responsibilities is the
critical area where mistakes are made. It’s
common for companies to describe a role
in which the CMO is expected to change the
overall performance of the rm, but when
you examine the job duties closely, it’s
clear the CMO has only commercialization
functions. In other words, expectations
The tenure of CMOs and other top executives
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To understand how confusing this
mismatch can be, consider the description
for the CMO job at a top manufacturer.
This rm wanted its head of marketing to
lead the analysis of what drove customer
preferences, develop a superior brand
strategy, set the marketing strategy, and
oversee implementation of those strate-
gies. However, the actual position included
responsibility only for a marketing insights
group, a marketing proj ect-management
group, and a media group. The description
led the reader to believe the CMO’s role
was far bigger than it actually was.
The problem didn’t stop there. The
description stated that candidates
should have “best-in-class consumer-
packaged- goods industry experience”
(translation: P&L experience), demon-
strated corporate/marketing strategy
leadership, sales experience, and more.
But the job involved neither P&L nor sales
responsibilities, so these requirements
made little sense. A better match for
the job would have been someone with
research and analysis skills, media and
digital experience, and a proven ability to
develop marketing programs that deliver
in-market results. While the lack of inter-
nal consistency may seem obvious, few
of the CEOs and CMOs we’ve interviewed
recognize that a disconnect exists.
Although CEOs express disappointment in
their CMOs, they typically don’t realize that
they may have played a role in creating the
problem. By making sure that the CMO job
is designed and staed correctly, they can
increase their own satisfaction with their
top marketing executive.
Before looking for a new CMO, a CEO
should be sure to answer the following
What outcomes do we want the CMO
to produce, particularly in light of the
company’s priorities? Which of the three
CMO types do we need? How should this
person balance out the management
team’s strengths (and weaknesses)?
What functional responsibility is neces-
sary to realize our vision for the role? Will
that level of responsibility really work,
given other top management team roles?
bottom-line business results (and on budget-
ary, proj ect, and management outcomes).
This approach may sound like common
sense, but it’s surprising how infrequently
it’s followed. Only 22% of the job descrip-
tions we studied mentioned how the CMO
would be measured or held accountable,
and only 2% had a specic section that
clearly articulated job expectations. While
90% made some mention of expectations,
they typically were vague. The head of
marketing for one technology company, for
example, was supposed to “help dene and
execute an aggressive growth strategy for
the company.” What exactly is the measure
of success for that? Is it producing a strate-
gic plan? Or some sort of growth target (and
if so, how is it measured)? If metrics and
goals aren’t predetermined, how do CMOs
know if they have hit their targets?
Even when the CMO role is well dened,
assessing candidates can be a challenge,
because their training and experience
vary so much. Marketers lack the profes-
sional certications required of lawyers
and accountants. Only 6% of CMOs we
looked at in our research had degrees in
marketing. Although 44% had MBAs, their
educational backgrounds varied a lot. They
included degrees in engineering, econom-
ics, mathematics, philosophy, political
science, psychology, and other subjects.
Consequently, the type of experience and
training marketing executives gain during
the formative part of their careers—and
specically, whether they have served
primarily under CMOs in strategy, commer-
cialization, or enterprise-wide P&L roles—
will largely determine which roles they are
best suited to later in their careers.
Another stumbling point, in our anal-
ysis, is that in almost all CMO job descrip-
tions there are signicant gaps between
the responsibility given and the experi-
ence required. For instance, 39 of the job
descriptions we studied indicated that the
CMO would oversee product strategy but
then neglected to require experience in that
area. Sometimes the gaps ran in the other
direction. Thirty-four of the descriptions re-
quired candidates to have direct- marketing
experience even though the jobs didn’t
include any direct-marketing duties.
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company, Kim realized to her surprise that
she didn’t have P&L authority. Instead of
sitting in strategy-setting meetings, she was
trying to gure out if advertising conformed
to brand guidelines. This was not what she
thought she’d signed up for.
Looking back, Kim made some mistakes
that might now seem obvious. She focused
on the job description and relied on the
recruiter’s assurances instead of asking
the right questions during interviews. Had
she asked to see org charts and budgets
before accepting the company’s oer, she
would have quickly realized that the CMO’s
responsibility was much narrower than she
thought. That would have enabled her to
have a pointed discussion with both the
executive recruiter and the CEO regarding
the importance of role design.
To x the situation, she worked to
change the scope of and expectations for
her job. After a couple of in-market wins,
she partnered with the COO (who had
P&L authority) to design a dierent role
for marketing. She had a terric CEO who
believed that marketing should expand its
duties and supported the change. Because
the economy was in turmoil, the COO was
more than happy to share accountability for
nancial performance. Over time the key
players began expecting marketing to as-
sume more P&L responsibilities, essentially
changing the nature of the CMO role.
As Kim’s story shows, it is possible to
proactively change the scope of a CMO job
after being hired. However, hiring mis-
matches aren’t good for rms or their exec-
utives, and xing them takes a lot of time
and eort. Companies would be better o
if CMOs spent their energy doing the jobs
they were qualied for from the outset.
Our hope is that our research will help
CEOs and CMOs avoid this problem in the
future. Everyone—C-suite executives, sub-
ordinates, and shareholders—will benet if
a company creates the right CMO role from
the beginning and then nds the right kind
of person to ll it. HBR Reprint RB
KIMBERLY A. WHITLER is an assistant professor
of marketing at the University of Virginia’s
Darden School of Business. She was formerly an
officer at PetSmart and a chief marketing officer
at David’s Bridal and Beazer Homes. NEIL MORGAN
is the PetSmart Distinguished Chair in Marketing
at Indiana University.
Does the CEO understand the range of
CMO roles? Does he or she understand
that the position should be designed
before a job description is written? Has he
or she anticipated how altering the CMO
role might aect other C-suite leaders?
Are expectations, responsibilities, and
measures of success consistent with the
chosen CMO role? Is that consistency
clear in the written job description? Are
the skills it outlines in keeping with those
expectations and responsibilities, too?
What type of CMO expertise is the best
match for the role the rm has in mind?
Have prospective CMOs been educated
on the dierent types of roles and the de-
gree to which their own background and
skills t the role in question? (Being open
and honest about gaps in preparation for
specic positions can help prospective
CMOs anticipate challenges and identify
experience they should gain.)
As experts in designing CMO roles, exec-
utive recruiters must lead, rather than fol-
low, the CEO in talks about the role. But in
our interviews with recruiters who focus on
CMO placements, we came across only one
who had a model for guiding CEOs through
a discussion of how to design the right role
for the rm. While everyone has a vested
interest in helping new CMOs succeed,
recruiters have an additional incentive to
get it right, since their compensation is
traditionally at risk if a candidate they
place fails within the rst year on the job.
Together, the authors of this article have
spent eight years exploring why CMO
hiring so often goes o track. But one of
us—Kim—has personal experience with
the challenges that result when the design
of a CMO role hasn’t been completely
thought through.
Kim began her marketing career at
Procter & Gamble, where marketers typi-
cally have P&L responsibility. As a result,
she assumed that all C-level marketing jobs
had it. Some years after leaving P&G, she in-
terviewed for an exciting CMO position that
the recruiter insisted would be “transfor-
mational.” But in the rst week at the new
What will success look like? What specic
key milestones will the CMO be expected
to reach?
What types of skills and experience are
When considering this last question, too
many CEOs describe someone who is the
“best athlete” rather than the best player
for the specic position. It’s important to
avoid that temptation. For their part, CMO
candidates shouldn’t view the job descrip-
tion as a fait accompli. In our surveys CMOs
who say their roles are correctly designed
often had a hand in crafting them before ac-
cepting their jobs. That indicates how crit-
ical it is for CMOs to negotiate the specics
of their responsibilities and expectations.
Before signing on to any CMO position,
a candidate should make sure he or she
understands the following:
What is really the CMO’s role in the rm?
Is there agreement about this across the
C-suite? Do the CEO, CFO, CHRO, and
the board all describe the position in the
same terms?
What is really the CMO’s responsibility?
Which functions report to the CMO on
the org chart, and which don’t? What
departmental budget items are the CMO’s
responsibility? Are any budgetary areas
missing? (Though some rms may balk at
sharing budgets with candidates during
the hiring process, asking to see them is
valid and can serve as a test of whether
the rm wants to be transparent about
the position’s responsibilities.)
Are the expectations and performance
metrics for the role consistent with
the responsibilities and the candidate’s
experience? Is the CMO being set up
to succeed?
After answering these questions, the
candidate should summarize in writing his
or her understanding of the role and the
expectations and responsibilities involved
with it, and share it with both the executive
recruiter and the CEO, asking for conrma-
tion that they are all on the same page.
Executive recruiters can use the follow-
ing questions to guide the process:
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istorically, chief mar-
keting ocers and chief
information ocers
have tended to see the
world quite dierently.
Focused on generating
demand, marketers
place a high priority on speed and creativity
and take risks to achieve aggressive goals. IT
executives are often risk-averse, prizing sta-
bility, security, and accuracy. As marketing
moves increasingly onto websites and mo-
bile devices and into social media and e-mail,
the two functions have come into conict,
in part because of shifts in power and
resources. Here’s one stark demonstration:
This year, for the rst time, CMOs will control
more technology spending than IT depart-
ments do, according to a forecast by Gartner.
“There’s been a bleeding of responsibilities
as CIOs get more involved in customer-
facing activities and CMOs get more involved
in technology,” says Anne Park Hopkins,
a former recruiter at Korn Ferry who has
placed executives in both roles. “The ques-
tion is how to create better co-ownership to
deal with growing ambiguity.
In our research, which includes in-
depth interviews with successful CMOCIO
pairs, we’ve identied a useful technique
for encouraging co-ownership: creating
alignment through shared performance
goals. This is not a common practice. In
our surveys two-thirds of CMOs say their
performance is measured against company-
wide nancial results such as operating
earnings or sales growth. We call those
vertical alignment measures, since they
match C-level executives’ performance
targets with the CEO’s. In contrast, only
34% of CMOs (including most of those who
are adept at collaborating with CIOs) are
judged on metrics closely tied to the re-
sponsibilities they share with other C-suite
colleagues, or using what we call horizontal
alignment measures.
Regal Entertainment Group provides a
good example of how horizontal alignment
measures can spark collaboration. Digital
marketing has become a strategic priority
in the theater industry, so when CEO Amy
Miles decided to replace Regal’s CMO in
2012, she knew the next marketing chief
would need to work closely with CIO David
Doyle. She tied both executives’ bonuses to
shared goals they could hit only by collabo-
rating. The metrics included the percentage
of tickets sold on Regal’s app or website, the
percentage of customers visiting Regal’s
self-serve kiosks, the speed of ticket lines in
theaters, and metrics related to customers’
website experience (such as load times)
and the relaunch of the Regal Crown Club
loyalty program.
To ll the CMO role, Miles hired Ken
Thewes, who’d studied engineering as an
undergrad (and so had technical uency).
Miles had made it clear during the job
interview process that eectively partnering
with the CIO was a top priority. “Earlier in
my career as a CMO, there wasn’t much of a
relationship at all” with the IT department,
Thewes says. But when he arrived at Regal,
the IT and marketing teams began holding
twice-weekly joint department “scrums,” co-
ordinating their eorts to achieve their com-
mon goals. Says Thewes: “These relation-
ships don’t work just because you say you
want them to—you have to really get folks
engaged and make sure they collaborate.
The partnership has paid o: In the past
ve years, membership in Regal’s loyalty
program has more than doubled, hitting
14 million people. Digital commerce is up
by 359% since 2013, and customer engage-
ment has hit rec ord levels. Improvements
in all those areas have helped lift corporate
results: Since 2011 Regal’s revenue has
increased by 20% and its shareholder value
by 170%. HBR Reprint R1704B
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This article is made available to you with compliments of Neil Morgan for your personal use. Further posting, copying or distribution is not permitted.
Joe Tripodi was appointed
to the top marketing job
at Mastercard in 1989 and
since then has served as
the CMO of Seagram’s, the
Bank of New York, Allstate,
Coca-Cola, and Subway. He
spoke with HBR about the evolution and
particular challenges of the job.
HBR: How has the chief marketing officer’s
role changed since you first held it?
TRIPODI: Originally, CMOs focused mostly
on advertising and communications. Today
the role requires a view of how to grow
a brand and an enterprise—and how to
partner with other parts of the business to
drive that growth. There’s a huge focus on
data and analytics and how to use them to
segment and target consumers. Smart data
is the future. Analytics allows for precision
marketing, as opposed to a “spray and
pray” approach. And now more than ever,
the focus is on customers and the customer
journey. More CMOs are becoming re-
sponsible for the customer experience. It’s
great to create marketing plans in an ivory
tower, but unless you can have an impact
in the actual place where customers are—in
restaurants or stores—you won’t succeed.
As CMO responsibilities have shifted,
how has the way you spend your time
each day changed?
I spend much more time on digital issues
and analyzing and understanding data, and
much less time dealing with ad agencies.
Since my role is global, I also spend time
thinking about how to scale ideas and
get people out of silos—about providing
broader strategic leadership and encour-
aging the exchange of best practices and
information across regions, rather than
focusing on the marketing issues within a
particular country. And I talk a lot about a
large global enterprise’s need to proactively
manage networks. Those include internal
networks of constituents who have a direct
stake in your enterprise, and outside net-
works of inuencers who can signicantly
impact your business, such as analysts,
bloggers, opinion elites, NGOs, suppliers,
and governmental entities. Most critically,
you need to engage consumer networks
through digital interactions. The required
skills are much dierent from when I began
my career.
How much variation is there in how
CEOs view the role?
It’s surprising that even in large, sophisti-
cated organizations, many CEOs still view
the CMO’s primary job as advertising. If I’m
going into a company, I try to shift that view
to be more holistic. Advertising is only a
small part of what needs to be done to build
the brand and the business. A CMO should
be responsible for R&D, innovation, pricing,
packaging, the customer experience, and
other growth levers. It does no good to cre-
ate compelling ads that run in prime time
and then underdeliver in the retail envi-
ronment. But a lot of CMOs exacerbate the
narrow views that people have of the role.
The rst thing many do after they’re hired
is conduct an advertising review, hire a
new agency, and launch a new campaign.
That sets up an expectation that new ads
will fundamentally change the trajectory
of the business. When a CMO stakes his or
her claim on a new campaign and you don’t
see a demonstrable change, it suggests the
CMO has failed, so the company gets rid of
the person. The challenge might have been
distribution, pricing, or product quality.
Don’t think that communications can solve
broader business challenges. At Coca-Cola,
I was the seventh CMO in 10 years. I told the
person doing the hiring: “Whether you hire
me or not, this kind of turnover is not good
for your company, and you have to nd a
way to x this problem.” I’m proud to say
I survived for seven and a half years there.
Hasn’t the marketing function always
tended to come under fire, because of
the challenge of delivering revenue?
Yes, there’s an inherent riskiness to it.
Marketing lives in a murky world, where
you’re always having to explain what the
company is getting in return for its large ad
expenditures. That causes a lot of to-ing
and fro-ing with CFOs. It’s incumbent
upon CMOs to demonstrate clear value and
convince everyone that marketing is not
an expense but an investment. Also, when
it comes to advertising, everyone is an
expert—employees, the public, franchisees,
even retirees. You hear a lot of opinions and
second-guessing. That can also set the CMO
up for challenges.
As CMOs have gained responsibilities,
has it been at the expense of other
C-suite officers?
I don’t see it that way. Many of the new
responsibilities stem from entirely new ways
of communicating or connecting with cus-
tomers, such as social media or e-commerce,
so it’s not as if they’ve been taken away from
someone else. And many of them are shared
with the CIO. Today, unless a CMO’s closest
business partner is the CIO, you won’t have a
very eective organization.
Because the role is so varied, must CMO
candidates do more due diligence on
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CEOs—Ed Liddy and Tom Wilson—who
gave me the authority and exibility to do
things that hadn’t been done in the category
previously. We also looked at the entire cus-
tomer experience, from receiving a quote to
getting a claim settled, and deconstructed it
to understand the pain points for customers.
Then we systematically addressed those ar-
eas and improved their experience. I’m also
proud of the global services infrastructure
we created at Mastercard and the “Priceless”
campaign we did there. Coke has always
been a marketing machine, so I’m very
proud of the talent we brought in to sustain
its greatness and pivot to a digital world.
What’s your biggest challenge as CMO
at Subway?
We need to transform the business, brand,
and culture. It’s a private company, held by
two families, with nearly 45,000 restaurants
in 112 countries, but it lacks the infrastruc-
ture for a business of that size and complex-
ity. In many ways it’s still run like a small
family business, which has its pluses and
minuses. I’m in awe of what Subway has
accomplished in the past 50 years—it’s the
world’s greatest franchising machine! I’m
helping its leadership think about how to
structure the enterprise for growth and what
the strategy should be in dierent markets.
It’s very dierent from the challenges at
Coke or Allstate, and in many ways it’s the
biggest business challenge of my career—
exhilarating and daunting at the same time.
What advice do you give to young
marketers who aspire to become CMOs?
First, get as much experience as you can in
dierent functional areas. Within market-
ing, that includes communications, social
media, design, operational or commercial
marketing, and brand building. But don’t
live just in the marketing function; try to
spend time in IT, business development, or
sales. Second, gain some global experience,
whether it’s by living, working, or study-
ing abroad. Third, try to get experience in
dierent industries. I was really fortunate:
My rst job out of business school was in
strategic planning at Mobil Oil, and it gave
me a very broad view of how a large global
enterprise operates, which was a solid foun-
dation. In general, aim to have rich experi-
ences, because that creates a tapestry that
will serve you well. HBR Reprint R1704B
DANIEL MCGINN is a senior editor at HBR.
potential employers than other C-suite
executives do?
You really have to network and do forensic-
level analysis to nd the unvarnished truth.
You’re being sold by the recruiter and the
people inside the company, and jobs often
aren’t what they appear to be. There is no
such thing as “truth in advertising” when
you’re being recruited. When I became the
CMO at the Bank of New York, the company
said it wanted to become more customer-
driven and customer-focused. When I
arrived, I found they actually had little ap-
petite to invest in those areas, so I didn’t last
long. You learn from your mistakes. I should
have done more due diligence. Now I do.
How do you convince a CEO that the CMO
role needs to be designed differently?
You need to have an up-front conversation
before you take the job. How are you going
to measure success? If the CMO should be
the champion for growth, will he or she have
the right levers or the inuence over those
levers? You also must be sure you under-
stand what’s really driving the business,
both today and in the future. Is the company
prepared to invest in the capabilities and
infrastructure to win in the future? Can you
agree on what is needed to be successful? If
not, you are being set up to fail.
What kind of personality traits should
a CMO have?
You need to be comfortable living amid
inherent contradictions. You have to drive
growth but do it in a sustainable way.
You have to focus on global strategies but
recognize that the best marketing is often
done locally. You have to be able to position
your brand as timeless but still relevant.
You must be focused on product quality but
keep an eye on cost-eectiveness. You want
to oer customers choice but without over-
whelming your supply chain. It comes down
to having dexterity, mental agility, and the
ability to balance these competing priorities
and contradictions.
Is it difficult for a CMO to jump between
industries, as you’ve done?
It hasn’t been for me. A widget is a widget.
Whether I was working with credit cards,
liquor, insurance, beverages, or sandwiches,
I’ve found that the fundamental princi-
ples of great marketing are the same. Each
business has its own nuances and unique
language, but your colleagues can help you
become acclimated to them. More often
I see the opposite problem: Companies
write job descriptions so narrowly that they
exclude people from other industries they
really should take a chance on.
At which company did you have the
biggest success as CMO?
It’s hard to name one, because each rep-
resented dierent business, brand, and
cultural challenges. You do very little by
yourself, but I feel my team had a really
positive impact at Allstate. The company
evolved to be much more consumer-focused
and aggressive in its marketing. It had great
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Every few months I get a call
from a CEO asking for a pri-
vate meeting to talk about
the company’s current
CMO. Typically, the CEO
has grown unhappy with
the CMO and is thinking
about making a change. But rst, he or she
wants to talk through the various options
and get a quick overview of the landscape
for the very best senior talent.
It worries me that these calls come so
regularly. That might seem counterintui-
tive, given that the livelihood of executive
recruiters depends on a certain amount
of turnover. But my colleagues and I are
unhappy about how frequently CMOs fail.
When they do, it’s largely because of
poorly managed expectations. CEOs today
want CMOs to be growth ocers, but not all
marketing executives have the capabilities,
experience, and leadership style needed
to lift revenues and prots and simulta-
neously learn to navigate a new culture.
Keeping everyone focused on the job spec-
ications is part of the challenge. Too often
the hiring process turns into a popularity
contest that favors charismatic candidates.
Charisma is important, but if it prompts
a company to hire someone whose skills
don’t line up with what’s needed in the role,
it increases the odds of failure.
When my colleagues and I take these
meetings, we talk about issues specic
to the company. But much of the discus-
sion focuses on the broader CMO land-
scape, including whom we view to be the
greatest CMOs and where the best market-
ing talent resides.
One of the rst things I ask is what kind of
marketer the CEO really wants. Someone to
simply curate ads? Someone who is skilled
at engaging consumers using modern digital
marketing methods? Someone with prior
P&L experience who can launch innovative
new products and protably grow revenue?
My objective is to help the CEO understand
that the roles CMOs play vary widely by
company and industry. I often bring a chart
that reects this range of skills and compe-
tencies and ask CEOs to identify the ones
most critical for their companies.
As an executive recruiter, I’ve placed
nearly 500 CMOs in their jobs during the
past two decades. As you might expect,
I’ve grown close to a number of them, wit-
nessing not only their successes but also
their failures. On the basis of what I’ve seen,
I believe that the CMO role has changed
more profoundly than any other C-suite
position has.
The size of many marketing teams has
grown exponentially. Some CMOs now have
thousands of people reporting up to them,
which rarely was the case in the 1990s.
Because marketing has expanded to include
data and analytics, the composition of the
teams now varies tremendously, too. Often
they include PhDs in math, sociologists,
and designers, along with more-traditional
marketing staers. In many industries the
sheer scope of a CMO’s responsibilities has
swollen as well. In airlines, for instance,
many CMOs have broad commercial
responsibility, touching virtually every-
thing outside the cockpit doors—from
sophisticated dynamic fare pricing, to
credit card partnerships and loyalty and
mileage-awards programs, to the extras
like Wi-Fi and additional legroom.
The other signicant change is the
ongoing blurring of channels caused by
the growth of e-commerce and the reach
of social media. New marketing tools give
CMOs more ways to win customers, but
these same tools give vocal (and sometimes
angry) customers a platform. That can
create a new threat to brands and the CMOs
who manage them.
Many of the people who ounder
in CMO jobs are really smart, talented
executives, which is why their failures are
especially frustrating. To increase the odds
that new CMOs will succeed, we help them
construct strategic onboarding plans that
ensure faster, more-productive starts. We
also advise them to develop deep rela-
tionships with their C-suite peers. And we
counsel CEOs to establish ambitious but
achievable expectations with the CMO.
Getting the right CMO into the right role
at a company can be catalytic. The results—
for the CEO, the shareholders, and the cus-
tomers—can be dramatic. And of course, for
me, helping clients think through the future
of marketing for their organizations and nd
the right person to lead them into it is one
of the most satisfying parts of my job.
HBR Reprint R1704B
GREG WELCH is a senior partner at Spencer Stuart.
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The Evolution of the CMO
Marketing focuses largely on
creating TV and print advertising
to sell products to consumers.
Top-level marketing executives
are found almost exclusively
in the consumer goods and
automotive industries.
A broader marketing function
emerges in industries such as health
care and technology, and B2B
marketers appear. The role of the
marketing leader becomes blurry,
as companies struggle to find a
balance between more-strategic
responsibilities (brand positioning,
segmentation, and business growth)
and more-tactical ones (sales
enablement, creating brochures, and
manning trade shows). Marketing
departments begin to set up matrix
structures combining corporate
functions with regional and business
unit functions. Customer relationship
management takes hold. The CMO
title is first used.
Advertising is still limited
mainly to paid TV and print
channels but moves away
from exaggerated claims
and aggressively pushing
products and toward
inventing creative and
memorable approaches.
The ad campaign is king.
Big data and artificial intelligence swamp
marketers with information. The focus
shifts from telling and selling to customer
engagement and dialogues and personalized
communications and products. CMOs are
expected to creatively apply insights to
business challenges, validate decisions with
data, create seamless customer experiences
across media and revenue channels, and
lead efforts to put the customer at the center
throughout the organization. Most CMOs
now sit on executive committees and report
directly to the CEO. But there is confusion
about the role, leading some to question
the title and explore alternatives like chief
customer officer, chief customer experience
officer, and chief growth officer. 
The digital revolution changes the way
companies and customers relate. As
social media platforms take off, people
rely more on one another for information
about products. Marketers must manage
omnichannel communications and both
negative and positive messages about
their brands. They begin focusing on
building meaningful relationships
with customers. The CMO title spreads
but is used indiscriminately both
for executives strictly focused on
brand and communications and for
true strategic business partners.
Cable TV, infomercials, and VCRs (which allow
viewers to skip ads) make marketing’s job
more complex and ratchet up the pressure for
advertising efficiency. Analytics become critical
to precisely tracking performance in each sales
channel. Consumer-goods marketers start to
assume P&L responsibility and enterprise-wide
roles. Other industries, like consumer finance,
begin hiring top-level marketing executives,
though those jobs focus more on branding and
corporate communications.
CAREN FLEIT leads Korn Ferry’s global marketing practice.
HBR Reprint RB
Marketing adopts analytics
and begins generating insights
about customer choices
and segmenting customers.
Particularly in consumer
goods, marketers become
increasingly responsible for
product management, pricing,
promotion, and distribution.
As marketing channels and tools grew over the decades, so did
the status and responsibilities of top marketing executives.
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... But prior evidence suggests that CMO jobs often are poorly designed (Whitler & Morgan, 2017), which can contribute to frustration, poor performance assessments, and a "revolving door" for CMOs (e.g., Ives, 2021). Our findings can aid in this aspect though because they show firms how to design and define their marketers' jobs. ...
Unlabelled: A basic step in scientific inquiry entails ordering, classifying, or grouping the phenomena under investigation-that is, developing a taxonomy. Yet no method-transparent taxonomy of marketing organization types has been established, creating significant confusion among both managers and theoreticians. Many marketers, inspired by educators, assume that marketing organizations control all marketing-related decisions, yet skeptics counter with assertions that instead, marketing organizations simply put a positive spin on the meaningful value created by others in the company. The method-transparent taxonomic study presented in this article addresses this debate and reveals three marketing organization types: Growth Champions, which reflect a textbook view, representing about 17% of the sample firms; Service Providers, consistent with the skeptics' view, equivalent to about 43% of the sample firms; and Marcom Leaders, a third marketing organization type in which marketers are primarily responsible for brands and communications, representing about 40% of the sample firms. Establishing these different marketing organization types can help address conflicting views about marketing organizations. The conceptual typology underlying the empirical taxonomy also clarifies why the different marketing organization types exist and suggests hypotheses, specific to each marketing organization type, that might address previously unresolved research questions. Supplementary information: The online version contains supplementary material available at 10.1007/s11747-022-00911-5.
... Baker & Holt, 2004;Maltz & Kohli, 2000;Sleep & Hulland, 2019) -issues seen often as outcomes of strategic or other-departmental intransigence. Whitler and Morgan (2017), however, reported recently on a global survey suggesting that 80% of CEOs either mistrusted or were less than impressed by their Chief Marketing Officers. Perhaps both denial and a lack of respect from within the organisation reflects not just operational concerns but also a wider unease, spilt over from society to within. ...
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This article argues that the marketing canon, as presently configured, has failed to confer social reality to the acts of its key protagonists – marketers. As an adjunct to both collective and contextually diverse perspectives on marketing, more emphasis on marketer agency is suggested, this in the context of nominally focused anthropological enquiry. It is further argued that the status afforded to consumer behaviour be similarly conferred for marketer behaviour, the latter under-represented within marketing research. Drawing on ontological nominalism, speech act theory and Searle’s social constructionism, this article addresses implications for intersubjective meaning within our community and offers provisional thoughts for how this might be structured and improved. It ends with a call to action for both the rehabilitation and expansion of purposeful marketer behaviour study.
... Marketing se resume em ver o negócio do ponto de vista do consumidor (Drucker & Maciariello, 2008, p. 99), ao observar esta afirmação ficam claras as dificuldades com as quais os profissionais de marketing devem lidar. Se marketing significa ver a organização de tal ponto Parte da recente produção acadêmica reflete a preocupação com essa dificuldade em definir e assumir responsabilidades (Brinker & McLellan, 2014;Farha, 2016;Germann, Ebbes, & Grewal, 2015;Homburg, Vomberg, Enke, & Grimm, 2015;Joshi & Giménez., 2014;Whitler & Morgan, 2017;Wilkinson & Young, 2013). Por exemplo, questões sobre o tempo de duração nos cargos dos Vice-Presidentes (VP) de marketing estão estritamente ligadas a expectativas dos presidentes quanto àquilo que os VPs serão capazes de entregar no curto prazo. ...
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RESUMO Para que serve o marketing? Acadêmicos e práticos precisam ter respostas, precisam conhecer as possibili-dades e complexidades inerentes à disciplina. O marketing foi transformado em algo operacional, focado no método, o que levou à quase eliminação de sua relevância prática. Parte significativa dos que com ele traba-lham, reduzem-no a ações empiricamente comprováveis no curto prazo. Práticos têm dificuldade para aplicar o conhecimento e retiram-no de seu horizonte de consciência e de suas decisões. O marketing perde o que o fez importante: a capacidade de ajudar na compreensão sobre mercados. O ensaio trata das origens e conse-quências deste problema. Busca-se fundamentar a ideia de que o tratamento positivista-empiricista só faz sen-tido num contexto de compreensão da matéria ligado ao marketing estratégico. Para readquirir relevância, a academia precisa apresentar soluções além daquelas ligadas à administração de marketing, deve dar atenção ao marketing estratégico. Sugere-se que tal movimento seja liderado globalmente pelos acadêmicos do Brasil. ABSTRACT What marketing is for? Practitioners and academics must recognize its possibilities and complexities. The transformation of this academic endeavor into something operational and method-related resulted in great reduction in its practical relevance. Most people see it as short-term, measurable and empirically testable. Practitioners are unable to use the developments in their practices, marketing loses its relevance because it disregards what made it important. The paper deals with the origins and consequences of empiricism in marketing and how this approach affects its ability of impacting organizations. It aims at supporting the idea that the positivistic-empi-ricist treatment must be subjected to a broader context, connected to strategic marketing. We conclude that, to regain its practical relevance, marketing must deal not only short-term, marketing management ideas, but must start from its long-term implications, expressed in the strategic marketing approach. The work suggests that Brazilian professors have what it takes to lead that global movement.
... The job of a Chief Marketing Officer (CMO) is a perilous one. Research by Whitler and Morgan (2017) indicated that the average job tenure of a CMO is a lot shorter than for their counterparts in the c-suite, and far briefer than that of the average CEO. This is mostly due to conflict between CEOs and CMOs. ...
This paper is composed of scholarly essays that explore the problematic nature of marketing’s influence within the academy and organizations, potential explanations and causes, and how conceptual and theoretical research can address and move our discipline forward. Each section represents material and research developed through interactive sessions from Academy of Marketing Science conferences. Topics include the history of the marketing discipline, its innovation and loss of domain expertise; important internal and external environmental concepts that have impeded relevance and theoretical impact; foundational elements of how the discipline frames problems, provides methodological-based solutions, and influences the very subjects of our research in such a way as to lesson our contribution to scholarship and practice; and finally the discipline’s inability to understand the intangible nature of marketing activities and outcomes, as well as marketers’ struggle to articulate relevance in a way that is easily understood in the language of finance. Through this critical self-examination of the field of marketing a central premise emerged—a discipline-wide drift and myopic approach to rigor and relevance.
... This development requires new skills and profiles that marketing departments are still lacking at present (De Swaan Arons et al., 2014;Singh & Hess, 2017) as well as a complete review of the ways in which companies operate (Joshi & Giménez, 2014;Kumar, 2018). These mutations generate tremendous tension, put growing pressure on marketing departments to perform (Whitler & Morgan, 2017), and entail organizational changes. So far, marketing organizations have managed to evolve and adapt, despite predictions that technological revolutions would cause marketing organizations to disappear (Aimé et al., 2018). ...
... The job of a CMO can often be a perilous one. As research by Whitler and Morgan (2017) has shown, the average job tenure of a CMO is shorter than for CFOs, CIOs and CHROs, and far briefer than that of a CEO. This is mostly due to the conflict between CEOs and CMOs. ...
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Despite efforts to address the lack of female representation in executive leadership roles, the number of women in leadership roles is still low in comparison to men. Data in the form of online interviews were collected for a sample of 69 CMOs from the World’s Most Influential CMO’s report by Forbes Magazine and analyzed using the automated text analysis software, LIWC, employing the dimensions of Analytic, Clout, Authentic, and Tone. A series of ANOVAs was conducted to determine the impact of gender on these dimensions. Clout and Authentic were significantly impacted by the gender of the CMO. The paper considers two gender communication theories that could potentially explain these differences. The paper concludes by discussing managerial implications, acknowledging the limitations, and identifying avenues for future research.
This research presents the use of machine learning analytics and metrics in the retailing context. We first discuss what is machine learning and explain the field’s origins. We then demonstrate the strengths of machine learning methods using an online retailing dataset, noting key areas of divergence from the traditional explanatory approach to data analysis. We then provide a review of the current state of machine learning in top-level retailing and marketing research, integrating ideas for future research and showcasing potential applications for practitioners. We propose that the explanatory and machine learning approaches need not be mutually exclusive. Particularly, we discuss four key areas in the general scientific research process that can benefit from machine learning: data exploration/theory building, variable creation, estimation, and predicting an outcome metric. Due to the customer-facing nature of retailing, we anticipate several challenges researchers and practitioners might face in the adoption and implementation of machine learning, such as ethical prediction and customer privacy issues. Overall, our belief is that machine learning can enhance customer experience and, accordingly, we advance opportunities for future research.
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Marketing strategy is a construct that lies at the conceptual heart of the field of strategic marketing and is central to the practice of marketing. It is also the area within which many of the most pressing current challenges identified by marketers and CMOs arise.We develop a new conceptualization of the domain and sub-domains of marketing strategy and use this lens to assess the current state of marketing strategy research by examining the papers in the six most influential marketing journals over the period 1999 through 2017. We uncover important challenges to marketing strategy research—not least the increasingly limited number and focus of studies, and the declining use of both theory and primary research designs. However, we also uncover numerous opportunities for developing important and highly relevant new marketing strategy knowledge—the number and importance of unanswered marketing strategy questions and opportunities to impact practice has arguably never been greater. To guide such research, we develop a new research agenda that provides opportunities for researchers to develop new theory, establish clear relevance, and contribute to improving practice.
ResearchGate has not been able to resolve any references for this publication.