There has been some discourse on whether there should be a chief marketing officer at the organization's top levels. The role became popular in the mid-'90s but has seen companies shy away from the role. The role still exists or has been rebranded to "Chief Growth Officer" or "Chief Brand Officer" or other hot button name. Coca-Cola recently brought back the role of CMO, citing that marketing aligns with its goals rather than growth.
Regardless of title, companies need a marketing expert in the c-suite, even more so as marketing opportunities have expanded away from print and television ads. Deciding on a title depends on the company's goal; growth and marketing overlap, but aren't always intertwined. Marketing is a rapidly changing industry and successful trends don't last for years as technologies come in and out of favor.
The role of CMO has been disappearing in established companies as well as newer startups. Lyft has abandoned the role while McDonald's has split the role in half, creating two SVPs, one for global marketing and the other for technology. It's no surprise the role differs from company to company as each entity has vastly different demographics and goals. Part of the reason for becoming a chief marketer, c-suite or not, is the number of responsibilities that come with the role of CMO.
Roles of a CEO
According to Deloitte, there are five major roles a chief marketer must fulfill to be successful in their role. They are growth driver, chief storyteller, innovation catalyst, capability builder, and customer champion. Each of those could be an entirely separate role at larger companies. Companies like Coca-Cola, who want all ages to consumer their beverages, need to market across multiple platforms, digital and non-digital. While there are a few grandmothers on TikTok, print ads might work better for those advanced in age.
Even with the diversity of platforms and marketing tactics, a CMO must make sure the company is telling the same story to its customers. As chief storytellers, they must continue to compel consumers of all ages to believe in the company's story, not just that their product is superior. CMOs don't need to be expert social media managers, but they need to understand their audience and deliver a consistent message.
There are a lot of hats a CMO could wear. One might argue too many, but if a CMO has one quality, it should be a marketing strategy.
Strategy Is the Key for Marketing
The best practices for marketing will change year over year as new technologies drive consumers to different apps and different websites. It might be impossible to predict the next TikTok, but an agile executive will be ready to pivot their strategy when new technologies emerge. Strategy is what sets a c-level marketer from a VP of marketing. C-level executives must be grounded in people management, financial leadership, and have a greater sense of strategy versus sound marketing tactics. A CMO should also possess analytical skills to make critical decisions with confidence.
Use Data to Determine the Role of Marketing Execs
CMOs, and similar roles, have a higher turnover than other members of the c-suite. Part of the reason is the dynamic nature of marketing in today's industry. Marketing has changed more in the past five years than in the previous one hundred. No one would have thought of advertising on TikTok five years ago because it didn't exist. Setting up proper goals, that align with the company's, will help marketing execs work towards a strategic agenda rather than aimless marketing.
When it comes to effective marketing, data is the catalyst. The customer experience company Tallwave's CEO Jeff Pruitt says, "Marketers have to advocate for clean, accurate and current data. It will be the only way to tie customer experience to innovation, drive the alignment you need to execute on your goals, and demonstrate the return on your efforts."
Data saying a marketing effort failed is just as valuable as data suggesting a campaign was successful. Successful CMOs’ strategic decisions are based on the insights collected by their data science teams.
Get A CMO for Your C-suite
The CMO role might look different than other companies in your industry. Still, a marketing exec is necessary for companies who want to successfully navigate the crazy world of marketing as technologies come and go. A CMO will help steer the company in the right direction, given the right support.
Artur Meyster is the CTO of Career Karma (YC W19), an online marketplace that matches career switchers with coding bootcamps. He is also the host of the Breaking Into Startups podcast, which features people with non-traditional backgrounds who broke into tech. You can find him on LinkedIn and Twitter.