Study from executive search firm Spencer Stuart also shows women made up more than half of CMOs at 100 major ad spenders
The tenure for chief executives tracked by Spencer Stuart, by comparison, is continuing to climb. The firm says CEOs now stay in their roles more than twice as long as CMOs, at an average of 85 months.
CMOs are grappling with intense pressure to drive profitable growth, meet changing demands for business transformation and keep up with increasing complexity in the broader marketing landscape, some experts say.
“Over the last five or six years, we’ve been looking for what we would describe as a modern marketer—somebody that knows how to engage consumers on-screen, off-screen, digitally through e-commerce, social networks,” said Greg Welch, a leader in Spencer Stuart’s chief marketing officer practice who began the tenure study in 2004. “That’s kind of the ante to get in the game these days.”
On top of that, brands are asking for CMOs that can both create beautiful commercials and enlist the help of various technologies to better communicate with consumers with the use of data and artificial intelligence, among other skills, Mr. Welch said. “It takes a real orchestra leader.”
The expansive remit of the CMO role, on top of a growing number of marketing channels and a politically polarized consumer landscape, among numerous other factors, makes the position particularly tricky, said Chris Ross, a vice president analyst at research firm Gartner Inc.
“In some organizations, just the expectations for CMOs are just so out of whack with the reality of what a CMO can really deliver on the timelines, and with the resources and with the headwinds that they have,” Mr. Ross said. “I think that in some organizations, you’re just being set up to fail, right? That’s not everyone, but [there are] certainly those kinds of situations.”
CMOs have also needed to guide their brands through events such as the Covid-19 pandemic and the aftermath of the murder of George Floyd during an arrest by Minneapolis police in 2020.
“I think you as a brand need to have empathy, be very self aware, and a level of sensitivity to ensure that you’re cognizant of what’s going on in the world. And you also never come across as tone deaf,” said Jason Brown, CMO at live-streaming shopping app NTWRK. “Best-case scenario, your brand can not only provide an excellent product or service, but maybe you can also inspire people in some way, shape or form.”
Top marketers are leading their companies through a new way of interacting with consumers. Zipporah Allen, CMO at fitness startup Strava, said marketers five to seven years ago began to think more about how the experience of using their products tied in to how consumers felt about their brands. That is now evolving again, she said.
“I think now we’re seeing another turn,” she said, where the strength of the brand is “only going to be as good as the entirety of the experience that the customer has with your brand.”
The Spencer Stuart study also has examined the proportion of CMOs who are women and who are from racially or ethnically diverse backgrounds since 2016. For the first time, women in the latest study made up 51% of CMOs, up from 47% in 2020 and from 23% in 2016. But CMOs from diverse backgrounds have not grown as steadily, reaching 15% in 2021, up from 9% in 2016.
“When we look at who’s in the seats right now at the C-level in organizations, it really is incumbent on the people in the seats to make this a priority, and to really have the hard conversations and pull up those in the organization that do have the potential,” Ms. Allen said.
Write to Megan Graham at [email protected]
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