The Decline of Chief Marketing Officer Jobs

In recent years, there’s been a noticeable change in how we think of chief marketing officer jobs across various industries.

The traditional role of a CMO, once solely focused on marketing strategies and campaigns, is undergoing a significant transformation. Now, businesses are tightening their grip around CMOs, jettisoning under-performers about as quickly as it takes to execute a single marketing campaign.

It throws into question a few things. Are our expectations in line with reality, or are the duties tied to a CMO role getting tougher to deliver well?

We’ll discuss it all in this post.

Jacqueline Foster
Demand Generation Marketing,

We can count on them to bring new ideas to the table consistently

Navigate Marketing Shifts

Challenges Facing the CMO Role

The average tenure of Fortune 500 CMOs was:

  • 4.2 years in 2022
  • 4.5 years in 2021

The average tenure for the top 100 advertisers in 2022 was 3.3 years.

This marks the lowest level we’ve seen in over a decade. The decline underscores the challenges that CMOs are currently grappling with. But that’s just the start.

One of the primary reasons for the high turnover rate is the failure to meet Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) set for the role.

Metrics such as acquisition costs, conversion rates and return on investment (ROI) of marketing efforts play a pivotal role in determining a CMO’s success. Falling short of these metrics often leads to the downfall of many CMOs.

You’d think that the more that marketing technology advances, the easier it should be to pinpoint which avenues and channels are going to help a brand’s marketing campaigns thrive, but the reality we’re seeing is actually quite the opposite.

Marketing technology and trends are changing so rapidly that it makes it difficult to nail down which types of strategies will actually work.

And with the time it can take enterprise marketing teams to actualize a campaign based on a researched theory of what might work, their audience is already moving on to something else.

This phenomenon forces us to reconsider the whole philosophy of simply “repeating what works for others.” By the time a CMO has had the time to read the marketing climate of their industry, it will be far too late for any of them to mimic the success of other campaign strategies born of their competitors.

So why is that? Because it’s old news.

Consumers are, in fact, getting less patient with the same old content. They’re looking for something new and fresh (and, by the way, so is Google, which prioritizes “fresh content“), and that’s just one obstacle that the CMOs of today are facing. We haven’t even talked about ineptness with marketing analytics, which is proving to be more and more of an issue.

The original conception of ideas mixed with planning and execution is a step behind at every juncture.

The Evolution of CMO Roles: A Focus on Growth

The expectations tied to the role of the CMO has evolved from traditional marketing tasks to a broader perspective centered on growth and profitability. They’ve slowly evolved from being branding officers to super-salespeople.

  • Traditional CMO: The Branding Officer:
    • Designing and launching advertising campaigns.
    • Collaborating with creative teams to develop brand visuals and messages.
    • Conducting market research to understand customer preferences and adjust branding strategies accordingly.

For instance, consider the 1990s when companies like Coca-Cola and Nike focused heavily on creating memorable brand images. Their CMOs were instrumental in crafting iconic advertisements that resonated with audiences worldwide.

  • Modern CMO: The Growth Driver:
    • Analyzing data to identify growth opportunities and areas for optimization.
    • Collaborating with sales and product teams to align marketing strategies with business objectives.
    • Demonstrating clear ROI from marketing campaigns, proving that every dollar spent results in tangible returns.

For example, consider a tech startup that invests heavily in digital marketing. The CMO would not only be responsible for driving online traffic, but also for ensuring that this traffic converts into paying customers.

They would use tools like Google Analytics and CRM systems to track user behavior, conversion rates and customer lifetime value, showcasing how marketing efforts directly contribute to increased revenue:

CLV calculation

Whether in startups or Fortune 1000 companies, the formula remains simple: Input X dollars into marketing, yield Y dollars in returns. The modern CMO must be capable of demonstrating clear and tangible growth metrics, showing that investments in marketing efforts directly translate to increased revenue and profitability.

The Holistic Approach: A Paradigm Shift

The pivotal aspect of the modern CMO role lies in adopting a holistic approach to marketing. It’s not enough to focus solely on marketing campaigns; the CMO must engage with the entire customer journey and business strategy.

For instance, driving leads to sales requires a comprehensive strategy. Are those leads being followed up on promptly? Are they being converted into actual customers?

This shift in perspective highlights the importance of collaboration across departments. Aligning marketing efforts with sales, for example, requires seamless communication to ensure that every qualified lead is engaged. Implementing follow-up sequences and using tools like schedule links and text reminders can enhance conversion rates and facilitate smoother transitions through the sales funnel.

Moreover, the CMO’s role extends to scrutinizing every aspect of the customer experience. From optimizing landing page design to conducting A/B tests, the focus is on continuous improvement and refining the customer journey for better results.

Navigating the Challenges: A Call for Clarity and Accountability

The decline in CMO tenure can also be attributed to a lack of understanding of the role’s potential. CEOs’ confidence in CMOs is notably low, as a CMO Insights report shows:

  • More than 70% of CEOs believe their CMO would save their own ass before taking a bullet for them.
  • 56% believe the CMO is more committed to themselves and personal gains versus the CEO/board.
  • Only 34% of CEOs have great confidence in their CMOs, and only 32% trust them overall.

To combat this, CMOs will have to lay down a clear understanding of their responsibilities and align their skills and experiences with the company’s needs.

In a world where transparency and accountability are paramount, CEOs and business leaders must actively engage with marketing efforts.

Even if they’re not marketing experts themselves, having a basic understanding of marketing trends and technology can help them hold CMOs accountable and set clear expectations.

We Need to Relearn What It Takes to Be a CMO

Across the board, chief marketing officer jobs need to be reevaluated.

The role of the CMO is undergoing a significant transformation, transitioning from a traditional marketing focus to a growth-centric approach. We already see businesses are getting more impatient with their CMOs.

In one sense, we can argue that decision-makers in these businesses are failing to comprehend the myriad landscape of modern digital marketing. But in the other sense, we can posit that CMOs are failing to accurately present the challenges that exist with marketing technology and, even more importantly, establish the right expectations of their duties.

When CMOs are working with a combination of data-led and creative-led decisions, the data will always overtake the creative. But both are essential in order to be successful in the role.

A successful CMO role demands a fusion of creativity and analytics. Mastery of marketing technology and data analytics is emerging as the most critical skill for CMOs in the coming years. As the industry continues to grapple with the impending demise of third-party cookies, the ability to analyze and derive insights from diverse data sources will become even more crucial.

Those who can effectively navigate these challenges and embrace this new paradigm will play a pivotal role in driving business success in the years to come.

The Future of the CMO

As the expectations placed on CMOs continue to evolve, the future of this role lies in a harmonious blend of creative ingenuity and analytical prowess.

CMOs must strike a balance between creative strategy and execution. The ability to craft compelling marketing campaigns and track their impact with data-driven precision is what will set successful CMOs apart in the modern businesses of today.


Navigate Marketing Shifts

Repurposed from our Marketing School podcast.

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