The Page Group see’s how the CMO’s role is evolving and leading more towards the boardroom thru the diversity of experiences that the CMO brings to the organization. Job #1 is always identifying, understanding, tracking, analyzing, and gauging the connection between the consumer and the brand. Due to the diversity of today’s brand and marketing strategies being so diverse and broad the CMO becomes the gate keeper of all data re: performance and customer relationship for the brand. They are becoming the key resource for identifying and tracking product performance. These skills give them unique insights into the business environment and where the brand is heading.
How The Changing CMO’s Role Is Creating A New Breed Of CEO
by Nicola Smith
“The CMO’s role is about understanding the customer, the econometrics and the performance measures within an organisation. Today, CMOs are as much a commercial officer as a marketing officer.”
- “CMO roles are developing to set marketers up for success in general management roles, including increased focus on data, delivering business results, and operational understanding.”
- “Developing awareness outside your specialist area will better equip you to make game-changing decisions that feel new and brave.”
- “Being supported and inspired by leaders from different fields will open your mind to new ways of thinking that will help mark you as a future business spearhead.”
That’s the view of Jeff Dodds, CEO of pan-European telecoms operator Tele2, and formerly CMO at Virgin Media. He sees the CMO’s role changing in line with marketing itself, demanding a broader set of skills that put customer insight at the very heart of the business. In turn, this evolution is opening up new opportunities, a view echoed by Ian Cranna, vice president marketing and category EMEA, Starbucks: “Increasingly the CMO role is developing in a way that sets marketers up for success in general management roles, including increased focus on data, delivering business results, and operational understanding.”
This shift means it is perhaps easier than ever before for great CMOs to set their sights on the CEO’s job. Because while marketers increasingly need to be more commercially minded, CEOs have to be able to look beyond figures. Jeremy Ellis, director of marketing and customer experience at travel company TUI UK and Ireland says, “I always feel very encouraged when I hear a CEO talk about consumers. It’s not all about profit and bottom line; it is about consumers and what they want.”
Taking Marketing More Seriously
More opportunities are opening up for CMOs to take the step from functional expertise into general management, but Dodds believes a change of mindset is needed–and possibly a healthy dose of belief.
“Businesses are desperately looking out for creative, innovative, customer-focused numerate people to go on and lead organisations, but as a marketing community we like to talk more about TV ads than the role we play with the former. We don’t tend to talk about innovating and driving commercial strategy. We like to stand up and introduce the next TV ad. The more we start to take ourselves seriously, the more the industry will take us seriously.”
Part of being able to talk confidently about innovation and commercial strategy lies in gaining a broader knowledge of the business. As Shadi Halliwell, group marketing and creative director at UK department store chain Harvey Nichols says, “Developing awareness outside your specialist area will better equip you to make game-changing decisions that feel new and brave.”
Dodds began to explore the idea of making the transition from CMO to CEO three years ago, when he successfully applied to join the inaugural Marketing Academy Fellowship Programme, a joint partnership with McKinsey & Company designed to give leading marketers the insight and skills to develop to board level. Dodds was CMO at Virgin Media when he began the course, and had already announced his decision to pursue another opportunity.
“I went into the course thinking, ‘am I ready to take the step from CMO to CEO?’, and I really didn’t know the answer. I didn’t know whether I wanted to and, if I did, whether I was capable of doing it,” he says.
He emerged from the programme not only believing that he was capable, but knowing it was a path he felt compelled to pursue. “I needed to explore running a business in a broader sense.”
Talking The Board’s Language
Peter Corijn, group marketing director, Imperial Tobacco Group, will complete the Fellowship Programme in December 2015. He says the experience has taught him that he has the skill set to be a CEO.
“The advice I give to every CMO is to make sure they also get experience running a major profit and loss division. Only profit and loss gets one the credibility required.” He adds that learning to speak the language of the board is also key. “Most often boards are made up of CFOs, accountants and lawyers. They don’t speak a marketing language.”
Indeed, Dodds says that since becoming CEO of Tele2 in March 2014, he has talked very little about marketing.
“The aspects I have used most readily [from the Fellowship programme] are the sessions we did on interacting with the board, governance and how to deep dive into commercial metrics. It is the generalist sessions I have used most aggressively.”
It is encouraging news for the Marketing Academy’s new Fellowship cohort, which was announced in late November 2015. Sally Abbott, group marketing director at breakfast cereal company Weetabix cites gaining a better insight into the minds of the board as a key aim.
“I hope this experience will make me a more relevant leader in the eyes of my company’s investors, as I’ll have a clearer understanding of what they might be looking for from their executive team.”
Another of the new cohort, Harvey Nicholls’ Halliwell, is focused on broadening her business knowledge, an area she feels CMOs need to address in order to step up.
“Being supported and inspired by leaders from different fields will open your mind to new ways of thinking that will help mark you as a future business spearhead,” she says.
The Right Support
TUI’s Ellis, also one of the new recruits, feels marketers are in a strong position to take that step up.
“As CEO you need to understand all aspects of business, but brand, ultimately, is one of the biggest assets a business has. It is the promise of what a business offers, and it is what consumers most readily identify with. The CEO has to understand the power of that brand, and marketing is a critical part.” But he also recognises the need to hone his commercial nous in order to succeed: “Hopefully this course will help us to understand [the commercial side] and break that barrier down.”
Companies, in turn, need to support this realisation of ambition. While some marketers believe opportunities to progress to board level are perhaps unfairly limited, plenty of others are dismissive of this view. As Hugh Pile, CMO, L’Oreal UK and Ireland–and another member of the new intake–says, “Opportunities are only lacking in companies that don’t have strong brands and strong consumer and customer-centricity at their heart.”
Keith Moor, CMO, Santander, completed the Fellowship programme in November 2015. He believes such opportunities are becoming more plentiful. “If we as a marketing industry continue to be more commercial whilst keeping our customer focus, then it will [continue to] happen.”
Moor adds that one of the most powerful lessons he took away from the course is to “ask questions a lot more and tell people what to do a lot less.” It is a valuable tip for any ambitious CMO.