MediaBeacon Blog

The Modern CMO: What it Takes to Run an Effective Marketing Team in Today’s World


Marketers are disrespected. 

Okay, that might not be totally true. There are plenty of folks out there who understand the importance a marketer—whether they are a junior marketer or a CMO—has on a brand. 

That being said, there is certainly a disconnect between the perceived value of CMOs and other markets and their actual value—particularly among other C-level executives.

According to Deloitte's 2019 Board Practices Report, only 26% of regular board members include Chief Marketing Officers. It's no surprise that, according to a Harvard Business Review study, 74% of CMOs surveyed said they aren't able to maximize the impact they have on their company. 

What gives? Why aren't CMOs being given their fair dues? 

For marketers, their first instinct may be to blame other C-level executives for not understanding the value that they and their team provide. However, this isn't the case. Marketing is complex, especially in a world where data dominates. Therefore, it's up to marketers to properly relay their role and its importance to their CEO. Because of the complicated and sometimes unclear relationship between marketing initiatives and revenue, this can be quite challenging. 

Let's discuss how CMOs can better relay marketing's importance in a brand's success. But first, here is how the role of a CMO has changed over time. 

The Evolution of a CMO

The Modern CMO episode of Google’s Think with Google Podcast discusses how the CMO role has drastically changed over time. While CMOs once simply took orders from other top execs ("go make this ad for this product"), they are now doing much more. So much more, in fact, some companies are dropping the CMO title and replacing it with Chief Digital Officer or Chief Growth Officer. 

Once upon a time, CMOs would simply run a TV ad or other marketing campaign, and that was it. No follow up. No stats to see how it was performing. No A/B testing to improve the quality of the campaign. 

Today, however, is much different. Any marketer at any level would have a difficult time getting a campaign—no matter the size—approved without first proving the data to back up the strategy. 

Fortunately, with the rise of digital tools and resources that allow for real-time feedback from consumers, it's easier to pitch ideas backed by data. 

But all these new tools and solutions also allow for more data and insights into consumers, causing the evolution of the role of CMOs as well. With more data, CMOs and their teams can recognize trends early on and take advantage of them by adjusting their approach. They’ll also be able to see what’s been working and what hasn’t, allowing them to allocate more resources to winning strategies. 

As the Google podcast episode mentions, if you asked a room full of CMOs what the definition of a CMO is, you'd get different answers from just about everyone. But here's the thing: most of those answers will be correct. 

Planning, execution, media investment, demand creation, store layout, brand image, customer satisfaction, and even internal culture are just a few of the many words marketers associate with marketing today. As we said, it's complicated. 

This can make it all the more confusing for CEOs and other C-level executives to understand how the marketing initiatives are bringing value to the brand. 

So, how can CMOs prove their worth in this post-modern world? Foot Locker, North America CMO Jed Berger believes that marketers need to be more involved in the ideation of products. 

"More than ever, the product is the marketing," Berger says in the Google podcast. And he's right. Consumers today are buying into a brand as much as they are an actual product. Consumers today are drawn to stories and emotions. They want to buy from brands that have the same values as their own. Conveying these values in product marketing is what can be tricky. However, when marketers are involved early on in the creation of a product, it can be much easier. 

Marketers are already acutely aware of what their consumers are looking for. Think of it this way: The consumer wants something specific. The marketer, through research and past products, knows what that something is. Therefore, they act as a mediary between the consumer and the product development team.  

What Else CMOs Can Do to Improve Their Standing

For CMOs that want to get ahead, here are some key ways they can improve their standing amongst their C-level peers: 

Be an idea generator. It's important that CMOs are coming up with solutions to problems, as opposed to just bringing up issues. Few employees understand the relationship between the brand and the consumer, so the CMO should be putting that insight to good use. 

Use data on how marketing impacts revenue and profit. At the end of the day, CEOs want to know how a marketing initiative is going to make the business more money. CMOs need to be able to clearly articulate that information. 

Look further down the organization for solutions. Newer and younger employees will have a fresh perspective. CMOs should be working with junior employees to find creative solutions to tricky problems. 

As more and more CMOs figure out how to properly relay their value to their fellow peers, we have no doubt that the day of the CMO will be here soon enough.