The evolving role of a CMO

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The evolving role of a CMO

Adding complexity to an already dynamic and challenging role

For brands, customer expectations have soared in a world of uncertainty. Customers now look for solutions they can trust, a brand that aligns to their values, and experiences that enable them to co-create and contribute, rather than support someone else's vision.


While the world has drastically changed over the past 12 months, for Chief Marketing Officers this adds yet another complexity to an already dynamic and challenging role.

Interviews with CMOs and marketing executives from both The Netherlands and the US show no sign of this slowing down as new priorities continue to arise surrounding the mission to activate data from across the organisation to deliver consistency in customer experience.

The role of the CMO, as we have defined them requires proficiency in not only marketing but across multiple business functions. The job has expanded even further in complexity to include sustainable growth, highly personalized customer experiences, and advanced marketing innovation.

Growth driver

When we initially classified CMO roles, one of the crucial areas of focus involved the responsibility to create and manage profitable growth. Subsequent conversations around the standing of the CMO as a growth driver have revealed big gaps between the ideal state and reality. For instance, in interviews with a variety of C-suite executives, both within and outside the CMO role, half of the interviewees say having an enterprise-wide mindset was one of the most important factors in a CMO’s success. Yet only six percent of CMOs describe themselves as actively working on growing revenue across all global business activities. 68% of respondents in Deloitte’s 2020 CMO survey indicate that organic growth remains the top priority but a spike in partnership growth highlights a new avenue for some CMOs to further explore

Customer champion

The CMO’s role as a customer champion is another area of focus that has warranted additional examination. When we first categorized this area of responsibility, we identified the need to align the organization around customer centricity using data and analytics to deliver customer experiences, as well as measurable business results. Additional insights confirm that CMOs aspire to expand their role as the voice of the customer, with plenty of untapped opportunities for CMOs to connect those aspirations to the needs of those customers. As evidence, customers responsiveness to new digital offerings during the pandemic has significantly risen and 84% of CMOs acknowledge that there has been increased customer value placed on superior digital experiences further cementing CX as a key focus area.

Capability builder

The power to amass and deploy robust marketing capabilities are the hallmarks of another key CMO role. Marketers who operate as capability builders demonstrate the function’s reach across the business, while budgets have risen by 10% for customer experience during the pandemic, spending on talent development and training has dropped by 24% from the highest level in the Deloitte CMO survey from August 2019 which shows concerns in regards to leveraging the new capabilities.

Innovation catalyst

Marketers who can create breakthroughs with these platforms comprise another facet of the CMO. A majority of marketers who embody the innovation catalyst role say data and intelligence can help them advance the growth agenda. Sales over the internet have grown to the highest level in the Deloitte CMO survey’s history (19%) with smaller companies (fewer than 500 employees) are taking the most advantage of selling online, at 26%, highlighting the need for the CMO to drive the innovation agenda across the organisation.

Chief storyteller

In the midst of these changes, it’s still up to marketers to safeguard and disseminate the news about their companies’ brands, and invite consumers to participate in the narrative. Chief storytellers have been defined by their part in promoting brand relevance and consistency, and it appears they aren’t straying far away from this role. As a result of the pandemic revenues and budgets, in general, have dropped but as a percentage marketing budgets have risen, likely reflecting priorities given to marketing to retain customers and maintain brand awareness emphasizing the importance of the CMO as the brand guardian in times of stress.

As uncertainty stabilizes within the market, the distinctive roles of the CMO are likely to become even more complex. Business results will depend on chief marketing officers who are prepared to assume multiple roles to help drive their organizations to post-pandemic success and set the stage for future growth.

Source: Deloitte CMO survey 2020, special edition Covid-19

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