CMOs with strong ties to the CEO ‘far more successful’

online this one2The industry must ditch its obsession with the tenure of its top marketing professionals and wake up to the bigger picture that only CMOs who have the ear of their chief executives can put the discipline at the heart of the business.

According to one recent study by leadership advisory firm Spencer Stuart, the average tenure for a CMO continues to fall. On average, CMOs working at the top 100 advertisers in the US had been in role for just 39 months, or 3.3 years, in 2022. This is the lowest level in more than a decade and a drop from an average length of service of 40 months in 2021.

But a new Forrester Report “Untuck the CMO” insists this is irrelevant as more marketers are moving into bigger and better roles. It claims a far bigger issue is the relationship between the CMO and the CEO.

Just over half (54%) of chief marketing officers report directly to the CEO, according to Forrester’s 2023 data, with rest being what it calls “tucked”; they report a chief customer officer, chief growth officer, chief digital officer or chief operations officer.

In some cases, the CEO is not comfortable managing marketing so they delegate it to someone who will deal with it. In other cases, a CEO looks to force collaboration among related teams, meaning chief growth officers share marketing, innovation, and sales.

The report maintains that the CEO does not want to have to pull those three things together, so having an intermediary streamlines it for them.

In addition, CEOs often struggle to articulate what they need in a head of marketing, while economic uncertainty exacerbates already hesitant CEO and CMO relationships. CEOs ranked their CMOs lowest in ability to drive growth according to Boathouse’s 2022 CMO Performance Study.

The low tenure of CMOs is frequently cited as a failure of the role. But data from Spencer Stuart shows the opposite is true: Seventy-seven percent of CMOs who leave their roles are either promoted or take on similar or bigger roles at other companies.

Richard Sanderson of Spencer Stuart said: “We need to change the narrative around low CMO tenure. The CMO role is very much a platform for bigger and better things.”

Forrester found that 18 of the top 20 Forbes World’s Most Influential CMOs in 2022 reported directly to their company’s CEO. However, reporting lines are not by themselves indicative of a CMO’s clout — their proximity to the CEO is more important.

Roth Ryan Hayes co-founder Matt Ryan said: “As distance increases between the CMO and CEO, there is less risk taking, less self-confidence, and less professional decision-making. A given reporting structure is neither good nor bad as long as the company’s leadership recognises the value of marketing.”

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