Part 2 of 2 To recap from part one: Although their tenure is increasing, CMOs are still the most frequently fired members of the C-S...

31 Jul 2012 1708 Views

 Part 2 of 2

To recap from part one: Although their tenure is increasing, CMOs are still the most frequently fired members of the C-Suite. A survey conducted by the The Fournaise Marketing Group says that CEOs do not trust or take CMOs seriously because “they don’t think enough like business people: they focus too much on the creative, “arty” and “fluffy” side of marketing” and not ROI-focused like other executives.

The only measurement that matters? (Image: Scope Marketing Group)

There is certainly a case to be made that marketing has been too undisciplined for its own good and much room for improvement exists. In fact, marketing can be downright self-indulgent. Historically, ad agencies have served as the chief minions to the CMO. No one needs to enumerate ad agencies excesses. It suffices to say that agency folk have earned a reputation for making cool stuff with too little regard for whether that stuff will make money for their client. I can imagine how steamed a CEO could get as his CMO returns (with a tan) from Cannes clutching a Gold Lion as sales are dropping through the floor.

So, I’m not saying there isn’t a grain of truth in these CEO’s observations, but it is just a grain. (Speaking of grains, it’s worth noting that results from The Fournaise Marketing Group survey may be best served with salt. They are not an independent research firm as such. They are a marketing agency selling ROI-based marketing services. I have no reason to challenge the legitimacy of their study, but I do observe that the report’s conclusions sound a lot like their sales pitch targeted at business people who are basically fed up with air-headed marketers.)

I agree with Bryan Thomas’ opinion that successful CMOs need to be ““whole-brain” thinkers rather than focused on the right (creative) or left (analytical) parts of their brain.” Traditional ad agencies are used to working with this dichotomy. In many agencies, the contrast between left-brained account and right-brained creative services forms a positive tension that propels these companies to greatness. As such it is celebrated. Sure, suits and creatives like to polarize themselves and gripe about each other. But deep down inside both parties know they need the other’s skill set to succeed. Imagine an account director firing every creative who didn’t conform to his or her way of thinking. Better yet, imagine walking into the creative department and telling everyone that you expect them to be 100% ROI-focused like the chaps in accounting. Then you wouldn’t need to fire them because they’d quit since you have obviously lost your mind.

CEOs need to hire competent CMOs. These CMOs need to be able to explain their approach to marketing, be held accountable to marketing objectives and be able to show a result for their investments. I’d call these “ROA Marketers” (Results-Oriented and Accountable) but I won’t because these attributes are not unique to marketers, they are common sense criteria for any hire.

Step one in the CMO-hiring process for any CEO is understanding what the job is about. Beyond that, CEOs have to be aware that a marketing result is not the same as a sales result and may not always manifest itself in sales figures that quarter or even the next. Strategic marketing is a game of chess not checkers. Sometimes pieces are moved or even sacrificed with no immediately apparent benefit, particularly when observed by a checkers player. If CEOs want to help their CMOs win the marketing game, then they should learn the rules or, at least, step away from the chess board and let the CMOs do their thing.

Also, for the record, the role of “fluffy” emotions in decision making (including financial decisions) has been well studied and documented. It is fact that in many cases intangibles sway purchase decisions to a greater degree than rational factors. That’s why they need to be used and managed by people with the aptitude to do so. And its a financial fact that in today’s economy, companies with strong marketing cultures outperform those without. Further, the role of brand management in an over-crowded and over-served market has become essential to compete effectively and can add hundreds of millions to companies’ value. So there is a role for the CMO now more than ever.

The idea of the “ROI marketer” is dangerous, first, because turning the marketing function into industrialized value extraction will render a company a sitting target in the scopes of marketing-oriented competitors and, second, because, despite that, the notion is so very appealing to the CEO mindset described by Jonathan Knowles in my previous post. For most CEOs today, the “ROI marketer” is the perfect marketer: A CEO mini-me who can infuse the brand with arid rationality and sweep all the arty, fluffy rubbish out of marketing for good as s/he sharpens his/her value extraction techniques. In practice, this would not be sustainable but that won’t keep desperate CEOs from trying it.

“At last, a CMO who thinks just like me. Mwahahahaaahaha!”

The “ROI Marketer” is an absurd notion that can only exist in an environment where marketing is a blur of confused and conflicting interpretations of advertising, brand management and online networking competing with the sales process for validity in the C-suite. But if the Fournaise report is correct, then that environment may define 80% of the companies out there today. Hail the ROI Marketer (you may be working for one soon). 

For more on the future of the CMO, check out “Why is the C-Suite so Sour on CMOs?” in Marketing Moxie.

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Sean Duffy | @brandranter
Speaker, consultant & founder of Duffy Agency, the flipped digital agency that provides accelerated growth to aspiring international brands.