Why Are There So Many CMO Shifts Right Now?

November 5, 2020

CMOs have the highest turnover rate in the C-suite. In any economy, chief marketing officers must fight through ambiguity and financial limitations, but those stressors have only increased in 2020. In a 2019 report, Forrester said that, while “not foretelling an end to the CMO role, we do see a stage set for a desperate fight for survival.” Why though?

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According to industry experts:

  • 80% of CEOs don’t trust or are unimpressed with their CMOs. In comparison, just 10% of the same CEOs feel that way about their CFOs and CIOs. (Fournaise Marketing Group)
  • 74% of CMOs believe their jobs don’t allow them to maximize their impact on the business. (Harvard Business Review)
  • CMOs stay in office for 4.1 year on average, while CEOs average 8 years; CFOs, 5.1 years; CROs, 5 years; and CIOs, 4.3 years. (Korn Ferry)

These disillusionments may stem from unrealistic expectations coming to a head with an over-burdened CMO. As roles become more specialized, relying on one person to oversee all media, branding, revenue, and marketing efforts could actually set them up for failure. In today’s digital-first world, CMOs have had to not only educate themselves on constantly evolving communications channels, but train their marketing team, and lead the entire company to financial success.

So, why have there been even more shifts lately?

1)  CMOs have spent the year honing their crisis management skills.

2020 began as a rough year for the role even before the pandemic hit. The first half of 2020 saw a record number of marketing moves. In total, there were 243 publicly announced executive moves, up from 214 in the second half of 2019 and marking a continued climb since 2018. But since March, COVID-19 and civil unrest have put CMOs under a microscope.

It’s marketing’s responsibility to strike the right tone when engaging with consumers. This year, that has meant responding to the pandemic, adjusting communication channels accordingly, and taking a stance on social issues in support of Black Lives Matter and the protests that swept the country throughout the summer. Traditionally, CMOs are quick to take the fall during a communications crisis, as well.

2)  There’s too much focus on commercialization and not enough on strategy.

CMOs are one of the few C-suite roles that must balance both internal and consumer-facing responsibilities. Most are primarily responsible for creating marketing communications to sell products or services, working to grow both revenue and positive consumer-relationships. By focusing on strategy-first, they can take the lead on branding and positioning, then translate those needs into new products, services, experiences, and personalization opportunities.

3)  Some hiring companies don’t actually know what they’re looking for.

Even when the CMO role is well defined, assessing candidates can be a challenge, because their training and experience vary so much. According to Harvard Business Review, only 6% of CMOs have degrees in marketing. While 44% on average have MBAs, their educational backgrounds vary a lot.

When looking at CMO job descriptions, they can ask for everything from analysis, customer insight, brand strategy, and marketing strategy management, then expect the role to implement everything across the board. On top of that, they’re expected to have industry experience, leadership skills, and a strong sales background. A better ask would be to search for hires with research skills, media experience, and data to back up the success of their past marketing initiatives.

CMO shifts can indicate the initiation of an agency review and is a prime opportunity to pitch a brand’s incoming CMO. In fact, a Winmo study shows that on average, a new AOR is typically named 6-18 months after the CMO is hired. With such short turnaround, it’s crucial to time your new business outreach accordingly.

For media sellers, simply knowing which CMO shifts are on the horizon will allow you to identify decision makers worth staying in contact with for future revenue opportunities. Download our CMO Lifecycle Report to identify: 

  • The average and median CMO tenures at national brands from over 1400 tracked CMO tenures (the largest tracked dataset ever).
  • Techniques to improve your business development strategy with this exclusive data.
  • Industry-specific tenures for CMOs in the CPG, financial, retail, and restaurant industries.

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If you liked this blog post, check out:

  1. Personnel Shifts are Happening: How Sales Intelligence Can Help Keep You Informed
  2. How to Activate CMO Tenure Data to Help Agencies Win New Clients
  3. Opportunity Ahead: 15 New CMO Hires

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