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The 5 roles of the CMO

The multiple roles of the 21st-century chief marketing officer

At nearly every turn, marketing pursuits look vastly different in style, scope, and execution than they did just a few years ago.

CMO roles

Since 2016, the use of stories has surged nearly 1000 percent1 across Instagram, Snapchat, and Facebook, opening up new interactive channels for brands to engage users. The volume of consumer email has increased2 at an average rate of six percent annually, and is expected to approach 118 billion total messages by the end of 2019. Meanwhile, marketers continue to move from campaigns that turn on and off, to agile content that responds to today’s “always on” consumers.

There are no signs of slowing down for chief marketing officers, either. New research has revealed the challenges, opportunities, and evolving priorities surrounding the mission to deliver consistency across the customer experience.

If CMO roles as we’ve defined them have required proficiency not only in 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.

A separate report similarly reveals some of the discomfort CMOs express in assuming the role of growth driver. Respondents in Deloitte’s 2018 CMO survey nearly unanimously (95 percent) say revenue is the top measure of growth in the organization, while 70 percent feel most confident driving growth through revenue. But only 32 percent feel prepared to impact market share, and just 20 percent feel prepared to drive gross margin, even though both of these are considered critical areas of growth by the business.

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: A separate survey shows that 55 percent of CMOs report a lack of common understanding of their customers across the enterprise.

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: Three-quarters of new technology spending involved the CMO in 2017 and 2018, according to an analysis of marketing technology spending. Although more marketers possess greater customer insights and technical reach, they’re not necessarily broadening their applications in kind. For example, while 34 percent of CMOs say they are applying these capabilities toward campaign management platforms, only 10 percent say they are using them to improve life cycle management or customer experience management platforms, according to Deloitte research.

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. But only 18 percent believe a deep understanding of the product portfolio will help them proceed to the next stage of growth.

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. More than 40 percent of CMOs in Deloitte’s study on the changing role of the CMO say they’re working on brand-shaping and campaign execution activities. Meanwhile, only six percent of CMOs report actively working on growing revenue across all global business activities.

As marketing decisions increasingly take place in real time, 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 success.

The CMO role has expanded even further in complexity to include sustainable growth, highly personalized customer experiences, and advanced marketing innovation.

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