The evolving role of the CMO

The Chief Marketing Officers Conference in Rosebank, Johannesburg from the 11-12 September was a great success. Top speakers addressed a variety of topics and one particularly interesting presentation was Melanie Botha on the evolving role of the CMO.

Melanie recommended a recent article by David Court and published in McKinsey Quarterly on the same subject and we’d like to share an excerpt with you today…

Many chief marketers still have narrowly defined roles that emphasize advertising, brand management, and market research. They will have to spread their wings. Few senior-executive positions will be subject to as much change over the next few years as that of the chief marketing officer. Many CEOs and boards may think that their senior marketers’ hands are already full managing the rise of new media, the growing number of sales and service touch points, and the fragmentation of customer segments.

But as the forces of marketing proliferation gather strength, what’s actually required is a broadening of the CMO’s role. This expansion will encompass both a redefinition of the way the marketing function performs its critical tasks and the CMO’s assumption of a larger role as the “voice of the customer” across the company as it responds to significant changes in the marketplace.

Critical contributors to the broadening mission of marketers include the Internet and evolving distribution models, which are profoundly changing the way consumers research and buy products. In addition, third parties such as bloggers and the creators of user-generated media are having a greater influence on corporate reputations. Finally, marketers must help companies find and meet the unique needs of an ever more diverse and global customer base. Taken together, these forces are making companies transform not just the marketing function but also everything from corporate affairs and product development to distribution and manufacturing models.

Because changing customer needs and behavior underlie many of these shifts, CMOs are a natural choice to spearhead the response. Yet many of them find themselves limited by narrowly defined roles. Meanwhile, CEOs and board members, who have been pushing CMOs hard for growth and for more effective marketing efforts, are frustrated by the difficulty of finding chief marketers with the full range of necessary skills. Turnover rates for CMOs are therefore high relative to those of their C-level peers, and CMOs are in short supply. (Just ask any executive recruiter about the number of difficult CMO searches he or she has under way.)

To succeed in this new environment, companies must do two things. First, they need to clarify the broadened role of marketing in general and the CMO in particular. The accelerating pace of change is creating a wide range of potential new priorities for chief marketers—leading change efforts across the whole corporation, playing a more active role in shaping the company’s public profile, helping to manage complexity, and building new capabilities within (and even outside of) the marketing department. Second, as the roles of marketing and the chief marketer expand, it will become critical for CEOs to ensure that they have the right person as CMO, to understand fully how customers are changing, and to become more involved in developing new marketing capabilities across the company.

To read the full article – click here.

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