Who could forget when IHOP changed its name to IHOb last summer, a move that had people talking and creating memes for weeks afterward? What about when SpaceX took the Tesla Roadster into space? You might even remember when Coca-Cola named K-pop group BTS as its new spokespeople, generating more than 1 million conversations about the announcement. Each of these events had two things in common: they got people posting to Twitter and making Facebook posts about big companies and there was a marketing team, complete with a chief marketing officer, at the helm. These days, marketing is practically a buzzword: everybody knows what it is. Despite that, most consumers — and even big business owners — don’t have a real idea of the importance of a CMO and how the role evolved.
The Early History of Marketing
When most people think of marketing, they imagine the online, print and digital advertising campaigns of recent decades, but the reality is that marketing has been around practically since the dawn of time. Even when bartering was the most common form of payment, only the best cobbler got meats from the best butcher, for example. Honing your skills and ensuring everybody knows you have them has always been an important part of success in any community.
Marketing in the 1900s
Although “chief marketing officer” was yet to become a job position, marketing truly started to take off after World War II. D. Steven White, a professor at University of Massachusetts Dartmouth, wrote a blog post indicating that companies in this era had one umbrella that covered sales, promotions and public relationship, and only that department cared about the marketing initiatives. Businesses slowly began to shift to a company-wide marketing model in the 1960s, and by the 1990s, it was the most common method. Customer service was of the utmost importance for every corporation, and every employee was expected to do his or her best to provide a high-quality experience.
Enter Marketing Technology
During the 1990s, companies began to expand their marketing technologies, creating data mining programs and customer relationship management software to help them track their customers and create a better experience. Around the time when more information became available and required analysis in order to be effective, the chief marketing officer really started to come into its own as a vital role.
Then vs. Now
When the role was born in the 1990s, the chief marketing officer was simply responsible for analyzing market research and focusing on advertising. While a tough job in and of itself, it was not nearly as expansive as it is in today’s digital world. Today, CMOs focus less on selling the product and more on building mutually satisfying relationships with current and potential customers.
It Wasn’t a Straight Shot to the Spotlight
Despite the appreciation for the role of chief marketing officer today, the same couldn’t be said just a few years ago. Forbes even went as far as to proclaim the role dead in an article in 2012. The article claimed that the CEO is the person who sets the overall marketing strategy and then requires the CMO to do all the grunt work, leaving most people in the role of CMO with little job satisfaction. They weren’t wrong. Just six years ago, many marketing officers found themselves considering career changes because they felt undervalued.
The Change Began
Simply put, social media began the change. In 2012, only 56 percent of Americans had social media profiles, but that number jumped to 67 percent by 2014. As of 2018, 78 percent have a social media profile, and most have multiple profiles. In the last few years, marketing has become even less about advertising the product and more about creating a communicative, personable brand as a whole. Social media users want to see interaction from the companies they support, and the chief marketing officer is the one who can make that happen. Why? He or she is the one who spends time “in the trenches,” taking the information from CRM software, analyzing it and turning it into facts the company can use to further its marketing campaigns.
By 2017, the role of the chief marketing officer was once again at the forefront of corporate branding, with an increasing number of people in the role saying they have a major responsibility not only in marketing but in customer service. Many of them also now have seats at the executive table as companies realize the importance of inclusivity in their ad campaigns and online correspondence. The CMO has a deeper understanding of the company’s audience and exactly what type of advertising will work best. For example, a business catering to those 60 and older may not have much success with meme-based marketing, but those catering to millennials are likely to have more success when using memes. Simply put, without a chief marketing officer, most big businesses would simply be left floundering and using a hit-or-miss approach to advertising and maintaining a customer base.
How CMOs Are Benefitting Businesses
A chief marketing officer benefits the business or businesses he or she works with by helping to create an excellent customer experience. In turn, that customer experience makes it more likely that the business brings in more sales and bigger profits. A CMO doesn’t just bring in more profits in the form of more customers, though. He or she is also responsible for analyzing marketing campaigns to determine what works and what doesn’t. Are fewer people clicking on email campaigns now? The CMO can decide where to tweak them so that they perform better. Perhaps a certain social media campaign didn’t go quite as planned. The CMO can use this information as a learning experience when creating the next campaign. The role of chief marketing officer is a pivotal one that no big business can do without and many small businesses don’t want to do without, either. In fact, the scope of what it means to be a CMO is larger now than ever before.
How Companies Can Improve CMO Tenure
One of the biggest problems with hiring a chief marketing officer is that many don’t stick with the job, and with seemingly good reason. Even now, most CMOs feel they are overworked and underpaid, and as much as 80 percent of CEOs feel their chief marketing officers are doing a dissatisfactory job. The communication breakdown likely enters the picture because many people don’t have a well-defined idea of what a CMO is supposed to do.
Some CEOs seem to expect everything from their CMOs, but nearly half of CMOs feel that they spend so much time approving campaigns and reviewing finances that they never have the time to spend assessing the long-term growth plans the company expects to see. If a company truly wants to get the most out of its chief marketing officer, the CEO must be willing to set clear, defined goals and provide time, space and proper compensation for the CMO to do the job well. Above all, remembering that the market is an adaptive one is extremely important.
The Three Types of Chief Marketing Officers
As with most job positions, the role of chief marketing officer is not a standard one and does not work the same for each officer or within each company or organization. While the different types of CMOs can vary greatly, most roles fall into one of three categories:
- Commercialization CMO – More than 46 percent of CMOs fall into this category. They are primarily responsible for sales and marketing, such as hosting events, creating digital content and running promotions on social media.
- Enterprise-Wide CMO – Enterprise-wide chief marketing officer roles cover about 23 percent of CMO roles. These CMOs are strategic players in terms of creating more profitable businesses. They are often vital components of the product design teams and sales innovation teams.
- Strategy Focus CMO – More than 30 percent of CMOs focus on company strategy. They analyze company growth strategies and plans to determine how well they work and where changes can be made. These CMOs focus on product design, customer insight, and innovation.
While some chief marketing officers specialize in one area above the others, a strong CMO will have working knowledge in all areas. A business owner may choose to hire someone who has one specific purpose or who works across all areas, depending on the company’s needs and budget.
How CMOs Fit Into the World of Independent Contractors
The way we work is changing. An increasing number of people want to work from home exclusively. Others want to take their services where they’re needed, as they’re needed. People who work as a chief marketing officer are no exception. For this reason, many CMOs are now working as independent contractors, focusing their skills on several companies at once, working part-time or on an as-needed basis. This business model is beneficial for both the contractor and the corporation alike.
For the CMO, working as an independent contractor offers freedom. Shorter contracts mean he or she is never locked into one position or company for too long, which is especially helpful if the job isn’t what was expected. The freedom also means being able to work in different locations or take time off between jobs to travel or otherwise experience life. Finally, a CMO who works as an independent contractor often gets to hone more skills since he or she works for multiple companies, often that have very different needs.
Hiring a part-time chief marketing officer is beneficial to the business owner as well. Sometimes an organization doesn’t require a full-time, long-term employee to help with its marketing campaigns. Even so, that doesn’t mean it wouldn’t benefit from an expert when the time does come for a new ad campaign. This is the perfect situation in which it would be advisable to hire a CMO who works as an independent contractor. It allows the business owner to spend money only when needed to instead of keeping a full-time employee who may not always have work to do. Additionally, because the business owner won’t need to provide benefits or other compensation often related to long-term employment, the company can focus the budget on finding someone who is truly the best for the job.
What the Best CMO Looks Like
So, how do you become the kind of chief marketing officer that companies want to hire? If you’re a CEO, how do you find the best CMO? The answer is to look for several specific skills:
- People Skills – A good CMO must have the people skills necessary not only to work with his or her superiors but with a team of other marketing specialists. In some cases, the CMO will also be required to speak directly to current or potential customers.
- Analytical Skills – CMOs must have strong analytical skills. They must be able to look at large amounts of intricate information and find patterns that show what works for a company and what needs to be reimagined.
- Creative Skills – A CMO must be creative. In many cases, he or she will need to use that creativity to design new products, create their packaging and imagine entire ad campaigns that are both cost-effective and engaging enough to bring in new customers.
The Future of the Chief Marketing Officer
Experts believe the need for professional, qualified chief marketing officers will continue to grow. As marketing continues to shift from “sell, sell, sell” to “engage the customer and create a relationship,” CMOs will become even more vital if corporations want to succeed. Technology will continue to advance, too, and as new AI programs cover even more data, the chief marketing officer will be there to bridge the gap between computer data and creating products that truly keep the customer coming back. Whether you’re a business owner who hopes to employ a CMO in the near future, or you’re a CMO who wants to understand more about your role in the marketing world, one thing is certain: the CMO isn’t going anywhere anytime soon.