Home > Marketing > Top Marketer: The Art and Science of a CMO [UML]

Top Marketer: The Art and Science of a CMO [UML]

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IBM recently named Michelle Peluso as VP and CMO for the company.  According to Adweek the title is brand new to IBM and signifies the growing importance of marketing in the company.

The same article also reported, “Peluso will report to Jon Iwata, svp of marketing and communications at IBM, and will begin in the new role on Oct. 3 [sic].”

I had to read it again.

Indeed, the chief marketing officer is reporting to an SVP who is in charge of marketing and communications.  Where’s the chief in that?

If this is a case of putting PR in charge of marketing, I’m all for it.   We’ve long nested PR under marketing when the simple reality is communications is the far broader concern.  Moreover, in the last 5-10 years — as I wrote in 2010 — marketing has started to look a lot more like PR.

It is however, rare it works that way and the number of corporate communications types that wind up in the top marketing job are infrequent. Even so, it got me to thinking, what does it really mean to be a chief marketing officer?  Evangelist? Voice of the customer? Lead generator in chief?

I culled through all the articles I’ve read and shared so far in 2016 that mention CMOs to take another look.  There are  quite a few and so I’ve narrowed it down to three for this weekly series. The CMO  is the theme for this week’s vetted roundup of Unscripted Marketing links [UML] – the CMO and the challenges, the creativity and a key to success.

1) The Creative CMO goes Back to the Future

Traditionally, science has been a weak spot for marketing, while creativity has been the strength. As such the push for data-driven decisions in marketing has been something of a movement.  But perhaps the pendulum has swung too far, if the article – Why 30% of CEOs Might Fire Their CMO in 2017 – by AdAge is any indication:

“In 2017, at least 30% of CEOs will fire their CMO’s for ‘not mustering the blended skill set they need personally to pull off digital business transformation,’ according to a recent report from Forrester Research. The report cautions CMOs to ‘develop their art and science acumen to survive.’ Because, the report states, companies ‘with analytic-focused CMOs underperform, while marketers with both analytic and creative skills helm the strongest companies.’”

We know creative marketing is part art and part science.  To paraphrase Malcolm Gladwell, a puzzle is when we have all of the pieces we need to make a complete picture, we just need to arrange them in the proper order so that they make sense. With a mystery, information is scarce and we instead rely on intuition, interference or a gut feeling.

A more comprehensive look at Forrester’s viewpoint is available in a free report (PDF) titled: 2017 Predictions: Dynamics That Will Shape The Future In The Age Of The Customer.


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2) Why is the CMO job so Hard?

top-cmo-challengesThe median tenure of a CMO is 26.5 months in 2015 – down 9 percentage points from the previous year.  That’s a little more than two years and coupled with fact nearly one-third of CEOs are planning to fire their top marketers, and you begin to wonder:  why is this job so hard?

A piece by Ayaz Nanji in Marketing Profs titled, CMOs’ Top Goals and Challenges, sums it up in his lead:

“Chief marketing officers (CMOs) say they are expected to simultaneously retain customers, increase brand awareness, improve customer satisfaction, and increase customer profitability, according to a recent report from Oracle Marketing Cloud and the Aberdeen Group.”

I downloaded the report for a closer look.  There was no mention of other responsibilities such as customer experience, leads, lead routing, marketing attribution, digital and strategy talent acquisition, or the martech stack.

And try to be more creative.

3) Secret of Success? Build a Team

Delegation is a function of leadership which makes an appearance in a piece by Stephanie Overby for CMO.com called: A Digital Dozen: 12 Traits Of The Truly Creative CMO.  In her report, one of the traits that makes the difference between success and failure is the ability to build a team:

“As marketing becomes an ever-broadened discipline, no single CMO can possess all the skills required to run the organization. ‘The secret,’ McQuivey said, ‘is to have an amazing team.’”

McQuivey is James McQuivey a vice president and principal analyst with Forrester.

I’d add, that building a team isn’t so easy.  A CMO can easily destroy a team in the very effort of building one.  We’ve all seen the new CMO playbook:  Step 1:  Fire an agency. Step 2:  Launch a rebranding. Step 3:  Bring in people from your last gig under restructuring.


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Photo credit: Flickr, Thiago Jacomasso, Puzzle (CC BY-ND 2.0)

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