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The Role of CMOs Is Evolving with the Future of Work

As work continues to evolve, job titles and job functions evolve with it. One such role that used to be commonplace at prominent organizations was that of chief marketing officer (CMO).


That job title, however, is undergoing a transformation or being dropped entirely, such as the case at notable companies like Uber and Lyft. While the popularity of the CMO title is diminishing, the role of an organization’s top marketer is increasing in importance, said Mari-Anne Kehler, chief marketing and strategy officer and partner at Green Hasson Janks.

“Eliminating or changing the CMO title enables the top marketer to take on important, cross-functional growth initiatives that typically would not fall in the CMO’s wheelhouse,” Kehler said.

Kehler asserts that amid the transition there lies opportunity for CMOs to influence the organization’s overall strategy. A key roadblock at the moment, however, is a misunderstanding of what marketing can actually do for an organization that is measurable.

Kehler said it’s incumbent upon the existing CMO (or role similar to that title) to establish what the needs and potential outcomes of marketing are and how those outcomes will be measured. It’s then the organization’s responsibility to utilize the position properly.

“With relatively high turnover for CMOs, and a shift toward an expectation to drive company growth, many CMOs don’t feel they have a seat at the strategic table,” Kehler said. “Smart companies understand that it’s a vastly different position than it was years ago, and the need to bring that person in to other functions is crucial to success on both sides.”

Continued technological advancements provide marketing with plenty of data at its disposal, which can greatly assist how the job is performed. However, Kehler noted that not everything within the job can be measured, which is why it’s important for the role to evolve into a more strategic one.

“My recommendation to CMOs is, to the degree that you can, seek to have ownership of strategy or a significant input on strategy for the organization,” Kehler said. “Otherwise, it’s really easy to be marginalized as someone who is tactically providing sales enablement. Or, perhaps implementing marketing strategy, but to have enterprise-wide impact on the P&L (profit and loss) of an organization is where it allows the marketer to have greater influence within the organization.”

To wit, in an interview with Forbes, Katharyn White, senior vice president and CMO of T-Systems, said the required marketing skills to perform today and in the future are changing. It requires a more multidisciplinary approach involving expertise in design, analytics, content and behaviors to fully drive the value equation.

David Ducic, vice president of marketing at WorldatWork, said today’s CMO needs to be highly analytical, data-driven, forward-thinking and customer-obsessed to succeed.

“They need to understand how branding, lead generation, integrated communication and competitive/market analysis not only shape the direction of marketing programs, but the organization as a whole,” Ducic said. “Yesterday’s marketing-speak — open rates, NPS, brand equity, engagement — is being replaced by broader organizational goals like revenue, growth, retention, net income and customer experience. CMOs who embrace this change will thrive in the brave new world of marketing; those who don’t will be left behind.”



The Future of Marketing

In a world of rapidly advancing technology, changing customer attitudes and unpredictable trends, marketing is evolving at lightning speed, writes Michael Brenner in an article for Marketing Insider Group. Brenner explains that the role of the CMO must adapt to fit the changing needs of modern organizations, which means overseeing not only branding and marketing, but also business growth and customer experience.

Chief Change Agent

CMOs are fueling the evolution into a data-driven mindset that is now the norm for many enterprises and forward-thinking organizations worldwide, writes Claire Darling for Martech Advisor. Darling’s article delves into what the modern CMO or “chief change agent” should look like.

Redefining the CMO Role

Thomas Barta of Forbes does a Q&A with Katharyn White, senior vice president and CMO of T-Systems, discussing the changing role of CMOs. White notes that a role such as the chief financial officer in an organization is clearly defined, but the CMO still requires fine-tuning and is currently being redefined.

CMOs Intrigued by Using Less Tech

Marty Swant of Forbes reports from the 2020 Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas where he interviews CMOs about the prospect of a more subtle use of technology in marketing. Swant writes that marketers in attendance said new innovations on display seemed more focused on the present than on a future utopia.

About the Author

Brett Christie Bio Image

Brett Christie is a staff writer at WorldatWork.

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