Let's get CMOs off the endangered species list

Sep 11, 2007

by Alan J Whitaker CEO and Founder FWI
Chief Marketing Officers are getting slaughtered left, right and centre. 
According to research released by Spencer Stuart in June this year, the average tenure of a CMO in the USA is only 26 months. Our experience in other parts of the world has witnessed a similar pattern.
This is not good for CEOs, CMOs or the organisations which hired them.
Contemplating hiring a facilitator to assist you develop your next strategic plan? 
Contact our CEO Alan J Whitaker on 44 79 6022 7478 or
The CEO’s dilemma
CEOs need original, even audacious thinking to put their organisation sustainably ahead of competition.
So they go out and hire an executive who has made his/her mark by delivering winning creative strategies and energising, aligning and refocusing an entire organisation to create a unique customer experience.
With the new CMO in place, a strategic plan  is developed to reinvent the enterprise to become a future winner. These strategies together with the concomitant reinvention of the organisation and the development of reputation are not short-term by nature. It usually takes a year or more to gain momentum as customers and employees slowly gain confidence in the products, services and brands and delivering the experience seamlessly. These eventually gather momentum flying on the ‘word of mouth’ magic carpet.  

The strategic plan should ensure that marketing is no longer something only done by the marketing department. Reputation development relies on gaining the commitment of every team and employee throughout the organisation to deliver a carefully choreographed customer experience. This requires all directors to play their role in following the script prepared by the marketing team and championed by the CMO.

The consequent reassignment of responsibilities and of some reporting lines can cause unease at all levels throughout the organisation.

While every Board is determined to achieve the agreed long and medium term objectives, the intense focus on short-term issues at Board level are often resisted by the CMO. They argue that traditional cost reduction soft targets including advertising and training are no longer up for grabs and that strategic reinvention of the organisation to create a 'unique' and consistent customer experience should be regarded as a medium term investment. They also assert that in the short-term, poor ROI from marketing campaigns and from the reinvention of the organisation are not valid reasons for abandoning the agreed strategies in the name of cost reduction.

Unfortunately, the introduction of the new regimes to create the unique customer experience and championing of medium term focus can result in disputes which ultimately manifest in board room battles for resources required by the CMO and reduced levels of co-operation and support for initiatives initiated by him/her.

The CEO’s bold initiative bringing in a CMO to ensure future sustainable growth and profits can disintegrate and defy ‘normal’ levels of cohesion throughout the organisation. His/her determination to create a winning strategically focused organisation which enjoys high customer loyalty and commitment can be severely compromised.

Need to become a strategically focused organisation? 
Contact our CEO Alan J Whitaker on +44 79 6022 7478 or
The CMOs problem
Unfortunately few CMOs have the necessary boardroom stature and clout without the support of their CEO to resist decisions being made in the game of short-term focus and the culture of reacting to events rather than pursuing strategy which dominates most boardrooms today.
The CMO stands alone as he/she tries to dominate the strategic high ground while his /her fellow directors stand on a separate mound and berate the CMO for his/her poor judgement.
In many boardrooms those on the other mound believe they understand marketing and that CMOs glory in representing their profession as an art form in an era were quantitative metrics rule supreme.
Faced by the demand for more metrics, more measurement and greater accountability, many marketing departments become demotivated and resemble number crunching factories instead of being hot houses to inspire the entire organisation to back and deliver a unique customer experience.
Need a motivational keynote speaker for your next conference?
Contact our CEO Alan J Whitaker on 44 79 6022 7478 or
The fall-guy syndrome
When organisations fail to achieve short-term profits and the market appears (at least to the CEO and CFO) to be concerned, action must be taken. The CEO is not going to walk. Firing his CFO might spook the market place. Getting rid of the COO or CIO would disrupt operations. So in many companies the CMO is the obvious fall-guy.
Do companies need a CMO?
Only if the company needs creative leadership to become different. To stand for something in the minds of increasingly fickle customers. To be famous for something in their minds.
This cannot be created by metrics and spreadsheets. These record history and what worked in the past may not work in the future. While the CMO's fellow directors may occasionally mischievously suggest that ‘anyone’ with common sense and training could develop winning creative campaigns, it takes a very special training, background, skills, insight and creative focus to lead a company from boring to soaring and employee emotions from neutral to being committed, engaged and proud.
But without the support of a CEO determined to lead a strategically focused organisation optimising the talents of each director, even the best CMO will soon be hunted down and exterminated. 
Need assistance in identifying, scripting and choreographing your winning customer experience? 
Contact our CEO Alan J Whitaker on 44 79 6022 7478 or
How can the culling be halted?
The CEO lies at the heart of much of the problem and the solution. Greater care needs to be taken in defining the role of the CMO.  Clearly the CMO must be able to provide intellectual leadership and create enthusiasm and the muscle throughout the organisation to deliver the dream. He/she must have considerable breadth of experience and understanding of all functions throughout the organisation and be able to play the Board game of metrics and measurement. 
Once the reconstituted Board with the CMO in the saddle has completed its new Strategic GamePlan©  to deliver winning creative strategies and to energise, align and refocus the entire organisation to create a 'unique' customer experience, responsibilities and roles at Board level will change.
Great leaders ensure that each team player, including themselves, play roles conducive to the achievement of the overall GamePlan©. Once the Strategic GamePlan©. has been agreed, it is up to the CEO and CFO to continually brief financial markets on the strategy and the progress the organisation is making in rolling it out. 
Clearly the Board must become a cohesive entity balancing the long and short term games and utilising the combined skills of the team to ensure that investors, employees, managers, customers and suppliers enthusiastically support the mission they have selected.
This sounds easy. But most Board’s comprise a group of outstanding individuals holding strong opinions, often with equally strong egos and little team ethos. Gaining the alignment and commitment of all directors and the creation of a strategically focused organisation is no easy matter.  
The culling can be stopped and organisations reinvented to become future winners led by a CEO with a confident team leading the charge.  CMOs can become highly respected for the key role they play. This is an area in which Future Winners International Ltd can provide great assistance.
We specialise in assisting CEOs and their executives to:
  • Understand the future business environment in order to identify and select future niches/markets, products and service
  •  Determine the customer experience which will win the hearts, minds and loyalty of future customers
  • Choreograph this customer experience throughout the organisation
  • Create a winning Strategic GamePlan© providing direction, nimbleness and flexibility essential this decade
  • Become a strategically focused customer centric organisation gaining the full buy in of investors, employees and customers thus increasing future growth and profitability
  • Select and integrate CMOs into the organisation gaining acceptance for their role and the benefits they bring to the enterprise
  • Enable the CEO to gain the full commitment of his/her executive team and create a positive team ethos

One newly merged company comprising directors and employees of three organisations which had been bitter competitors for nearly thirty years had, during their first three months together, experienced a complete failure to unify aims or culture. Within two months of implementing FWI systems and programmes, senior managers and many employees were beginning to enthusiastically embrace the goals of the new entity and within six months had established a vibrant customer focused ‘can do’ culture.

FWI has a proud track record of assisting organisations around the world.   CEOs about to embark on their strategic planning process and/or seriously contemplating reinvention of their organisation are offered a free half hour telephonic consultation with our CEO Alan J Whitaker.  He may be contacted at and + 44 79 6022 7478.