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So You Want to Be a CMO?

So You Want to Be a CMO?

Russ Klein

Being a CMO and what we can learn from the CMO survey

Exploring the results of the CMO Survey and what it means for businesses and leadership

Five years ago, I became convinced that we’re in the opening act of a third epic industrial revolution, powered by the internet of things. Unstoppable forces will create an economic plurality of capitalism and commercial-grade sharing: creative destruction; disruptive innovation; Metcalfe’s Law of connectivity and networking; lateral economies of scale; Moore’s Law of faster, smaller, cheaper, open-source sharing and collaborative knowledge; disintermediation; horizontal commerce; and Rifkin’s theory of zero marginal costs. Ultimately, blockchain will distribute trust as currency to every person on the planet, changing the role of money in commerce. And it will all be managed by a single handheld device owned by nearly 40% of the global population.

But what does this mean for marketers, specifically CMOs?

According to Christine Moorman’s CMO Survey from February, CMOs say acquisition, purchase volume and cross-selling are the most important consumer outcomes. Perhaps that’s why CRM spending is expected to grow at a faster rate than new product or new service introductions. But are we running out of ideas? Superior innovation ranked last as a CMO priority behind price, product quality, service excellence and trust-building.

If that’s true—watch out. Should marketers only focus on the new advantages of higher marketing spend, analytics spend and expanded go-to-market channels and penetration—along with their exacting understanding of location, context and immediacy to sell—then the brittle bottom of anti-consumption, declining brand loyalty, income inequality and tribal brands will fall out from beneath them. They should remember to also innovate better solutions, such as improving customer experience and personalization.


Are price and trust more important than product quality? Maybe. But product usefulness has never been more important. My assertion is that experience design is the next frontier for marketers. As important as price is, time is more important. Every sustained disruptor has found a way to give back or sell time.

Despite the premise that technology is making things easier for consumers, it’s also complicating the job of marketing

Think about this: Only 40% of a typical American corporation’s marketing activity reports to the CMO, according to a study by University of Texas professor Leigh McAlister. In that environment, The CMO Survey shows one in three marketers find their job roles to be unclear. What we do know to be true from evidence-based research is that design-led firms outperform the S&P 500, according to the Design Management Institute.

Firms with higher marketing power, those with CEOs who have marketing bona fides (one in three) or firms with stronger marketing capabilities outperform their peers in growth and profitability, according to research from the Journal of Marketing. We also know that the marketing capabilities of an enterprise are dependent on both team-level and individual marketing competencies. Moorman asserts in her report that companies with the highest sales revenue and levels of internet sales make larger investments in marketing capability. Companies with the lowest revenues and levels of internet sales prioritize investments in marketing consulting services.

As a marketer looking to build up your professional muscles, you can’t do everything, but you can do anything

As a starting point, you need a marketing competency assessment to identify both your strengths and gaps in know-what, know-how and know-yourself. Then you can plot a personal development plan for yourself to address skill gaps in the context of the job you have or the one you want.

The AMA is planning to introduce the definitive world-class marketing competency assessment tool as the gateway to the best professional development solutions available, whether they are offered by the AMA or not. Only the independence of the AMA, along with this solution-agnostic approach focused on what’s best for you, can be relied on for something as important as your career.

It’s in this same spirit and set of values that my hope for the future of marketing is a world in which everything is bought and nothing is sold. Only then can the discipline rebuild its esteem and professional standing in an increasingly cynical and impatient world.

Photo by from Pexels.

Russ Klein is a five-time award-winning CMO who has quarterbacked teams for many of the world’s foremost brand names, serving as president of Burger King from 2003-2010 and holding top marketing and advertising posts at Dr. Pepper/7UP Companies, Gatorade, 7-Eleven Corporation and Arby’s Restaurant Group. He is also the former CEO of the American Marketing Association.