For CMOs directing the world’s most visible brands, 2018 has been something like an earthquake. Industry leaders in finance, tech, retail and more have experienced a remarkably high rate of CMO turnover this year, according to research by Spencer Stuart. The ground seems to be shifting out from under old-school CMOs, and those that aren’t quick to adapt end up on the wrong side of the fault lines. Roll-up mergers and other forms of consolidation contribute to this trend, but the widespread CMO upheaval also stems from misunderstandings between CEOs and CMOs regarding marketing missions and timelines, as well as overblown expectations, muddied priorities, and too-general criteria for evaluating performance.
To thrive within a realigning landscape, the contemporary CMO must master a targeted form of versatility. They must extend their creative reach beyond areas of comfort and expertise, and pinpoint how best to engender growth, be it through brand transformation, lead generation, data analysis or supporting the sales organization. The following are a few points of advice to help today’s CMOs secure their place in a changing dynamic.
Know Your Role
Charged with cultivating growth, CMOs may feel stretched thin across a range of critical competencies. Unfortunately, those who give in to their discomfort and neglect their weaker areas are also likely to produce the terminally lopsided results common to deposed CMOs. Expanding your reach as a CMO shouldn’t mean single-handedly supplying every solution, however. Consulting the expertise of other leaders isn’t surrender or an admission of fault; it’s a strategic necessity. Utilizing the full extent of available talent enables CMOs to keep producing relevant and timely strategies, even when time and resources are limited.
Build a Superstar Team
The team that really matters to the contemporary CMO isn’t made up of subordinates—it’s an alliance of high-powered creatives and visionaries. It’s data analysts, sales heads, chief innovation officers and those with extreme creativity and a spot-on sense of brand identity. Along with the CEO, these individuals should form the backbone of your collaborative efforts. Your tact in directing them—without asserting direct authority—will also dictate the viability of your solutions. When strategies fail, it’s simple to saddle fault upon flawed dynamics between executives, but doing so is as irresponsible as it is inaccurate. It’s your role, as CMO, to produce growth and solidify a brand’s vision, by any reasonable means. If doing so takes making certain concessions or solving conflict, it’s on you to realize that, and apply the fix.
Surpass All Boundaries
Some executives fall victim to the illusion that their failure to produce stems from a lack of control. They notice roadblocks in the way and lose conviction. But any obstacle can be overcome, with the right proportion of ingenuity, skill, and assistance. A useful perspective, then, is to view obstacles to organizational growth as the possibility of recruiting new talent, establishing effective networks and developing the strongest solutions.