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Chief Marketing Officer

The Chief Marketing Officer Struggle Is Real – Top 3 Struggles for Today’s CMO

As shiny new marketing objects persistently present themselves within an ever and more expediently evolving digital advertising space, the Chief Marketing Officer role is now more combustible than ever.

In a recently held online seminar, The Evolving Role of the CMO, hosted by Insider Intelligence’s Dave Frankland, insight was gained into the volatile role of the Chief Marketing Officer, where CMOs are feeling most pressured, how this role is expanding, and critical initiatives for marketers to extend their position longevity.


Chief Marketing Officer Struggles with Average Tenure

According to a study conducted by Spencer Stuart, the average CMO tenure in 2020 was just over three years (40 months), which is the lowest it has been since 2009 when market volatility was a primary driver in turnover.

Average CMO Tenure

Conversely, CEO tenure has remained steady on an annual basis compared to recent years.


Why CMO Tenures are More Volatile Than CEO

According to a Winmo study’s author, “CEOs expect a new CMO to be the magic bullet that will turn around disappointing sales, grow a lagging market, or inspire a new generation of customers…decision-makers have to move the needle faster and earlier than their C-suite counterparts do.”

According to eMarketer and Insider Intelligence, as the evolved digital landscape has disrupted marketing in general, it has also brought with it newly common struggles for Chief Marketing Officers.

Struggle #1: Consumer Expectations and Behavior

  • 4 hours on desktop, laptop, or tablet
  • 3+ hours on a smartphone
  • 3 hours on broadcast TV

Plus, most consumers (65%) are simultaneously on their smartphones while watching videos on a TV.

While consumers are asynchronously consuming media on multiple devices, the majority (57%) are concerned or very concerned about personal identity theft. There is more concern surrounding consumer data protection, usage, and consumer benefit for exchanging this information.

Consumers are also more empowered to reward or punish brands based on their experiences and perceptions. These are often developed from social media and personal networks extending to brand stances on social issues, such as pay equity and environmental protection.

Based on this, it is becoming essential for marketers to know more about their customers than just their opinion on brands to understand views they hold on everything and intentionally choose how to align their brand with these sentiments.

Struggle #2: Navigating External Marketing Disruptors

CMOs are increasingly draining resources to address privacy legislation and compliance as they are at the forefront of consumer data capture, analysis, and application.

They also spend more time addressing technology shifts, such as the sunsetting of third-party cookies and Apple’s ATT update.

These external disruptors are commonly felt among all CMOs. Therefore, it is the CMOs who are proactively and effectively navigating these disruptors who succeed. Knowing that disruption is inevitable and getting ahead of these issues is crucial.

Furthermore, embracing disruption, something more akin to Judo, CMOs can discover what makes their brand unique and begin fostering their own favorable disruption. Differentiation itself is a means to productive disruption for CMOs.

Struggle #3: Internal Stakeholder Collaboration

CMOs need a symbiotic relationship with other C-level executives, such as the CIO, to succeed. A McKinsey study found that companies with a “Unifier CMO — someone who fosters robust, collaborative partnerships across the C-suite” have the highest level of success.

For several reasons, there are often imaginary walls built up between CMO’s and other C-Suite executives. Knowing this, CMOs need to find ways to create common ground with their peers to fully engage their efforts with technology, financial, experience, and operational peers.

By breaking down cross-functional silos, connecting technology, and empowering internal and external teams to productively collaborate, leading marketers can align their organizations towards success.


Additional Tips for CMOs to Extend Role Tenure

Tip #1: Tie marketing to the strategy of the business

According to Peter Mahoney, CEO of Plannuh, more than 80% of marketers believe they need to align their marketing efforts to corporate goals. By aligning with the business direction of the CEO, marketers can better position marketing investments towards shared KPIs.

Tip #2: Focus on leadership style and listening

CMOs should work on developing their EQ (emotional quotient)  to match their leadership style to their organizational culture.

Dean Thompson, chief growth/customer officer at HungerRush believes that leaders can get ahead of employee satisfaction by listening to employees’ feedback. “The most important way to keep employees engaged is to simply listen to what they want,” he said. “Their answers may not be what you expected to hear, and that feedback will entirely affect how you approach benefits and employee management.” Employees mostly want to be heard and valued.

Tip #3: Understand CMO Archetypes

There are several distinct types of CMO archetypes in terms of their focus. When CMO’s know their archetype, they can more easily discover the right role and company for their set of skills. Assess your strengths, passions and align with a CMO archetype that matches.

5 cmo archetypes


There is no denying the struggle CMOs face in proving their worth and getting alignment within their respective organizations. CMOs need to look beyond the external factors impacting their business and find disruptive ways to differentiate themselves from the competition while unifying their efforts with their C-suite peers and CEOs to turn the tide on this trend.

Lever Interactive has proven itself to be a conduit for our clients, helping them break down internal silos to unify and align their approach for success.

If you’re interested in partnering with a proactive digital agency that values trust, confidence, and creativity, you can reach out to us at Sales@LeverInteractive.com. We’re looking forward to helping you with your digital marketing needs, in 2022 and beyond.


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