4 Priorities For CMO Survival And Prosperity

Paul FriederichsenMarch 30, 20171623 min

Recently the Wall Street Journal delivered news that many marketers instinctively knew all along; the average tenure of the CMO continues to decline. In her piece Suzanne Vranica cites a study of the top 100 ad spenders and reveals that the average Chief Marketing Officer will remain in his or her position two months less this year than last – from 44 months down to 42 months. Compared to others in the C-Suite (CEO’s at 7.2 years or CFO’s at 5.7 years) the WSJ makes a compelling case for the dicey and perilous job of being a CMO.

In sharp contrast to the statistics the value of CMO’s is rapidly increasing in the age of disruption. Who else in the C-Suite is capable of navigating at a time when innovation and marketing determines the winners and the losers? The shifts are too big and too fast…it will be the marketer that finds the way.

However big, future victories won’t help CMO’s today. Focus in these four areas will.

1. Keep Your Brand Priorities In Order: Jack Trout observed that when senior marketing executives were asked where they paid most of their attention day-to-day, creating brand differentiation wasn’t listed in their top 10. Things like customer satisfaction ranked highest, followed by customer retention, segmentation, competitive intelligence, and so on. These are all important, however the very thing that can make a CMO heroic beyond measure – preventing their brand from becoming just another “me too” commodity – is the very thing so many CMO’s aren’t focused on. Let’s face it, without brand differentiation, everything else, from SEO to data mining (numbers 6 and 9 on the top 10 list) is either irrelevant or purely academic by comparison.

2. Fight For Your Brand Ideas: Even if marketing execs are working to maintain or improve their brand’s differentiation in the marketplace, they may come up short in making a case for their brand. Marketers must very often fight to ensure big ideas don’t become dead ones. Sometimes CMO’s are tested by their own management team just to see if there’s enough commitment to justify the risk they are being asked to take. Knowing when or when not to take a stand in the boardroom often comes with experience. The CMO who is confrontational- averse with her CEO, CFO or ad agency will probably struggle to make progress. Why? Because the caliber of work the CMO is there to protect and promote will never get the hearing it deserves and the marketing team’s enthusiasm will start to fade.

3. Fight Smarter, Not Harder: In his thought piece on nine ways to get others to embrace your brand ideas, Mark Di Somma outlines various strategies and techniques CMO’s can use to champion their brand ideas. In fact, Mark’s advice is actually applicable to the marketing discipline itself. Are you “providing a compelling motive?” Or “connecting the answer (your idea) with the problem?” Are you “working with people’s inclinations or against them?” These, and other questions should be considered by the CMO. If not, you’re not fighting smart. You’re just fighting hard – and likely losing more than you should.

Of course, not all challenges CMO’s face are rooted in a brand or marketing-centric perspective. Many can be simply people related. Or mergers and acquisitions related. Or there could be market forces beyond anyone’s ability to predict or control. That’s life.

4. Caring For Yourself = Caring For Your Brand: According to the American Psychological Association more than a third of workers in the U.S. experience chronic work stress. CMO’s are no exception. Among the stress factors listed “Not having enough control over job related decisions” can certainly take its toll, especially when dealing with a controlling C-Suite. Stress has been linked to a number of health-related problems and can lead to career burnout. Make sure to get away and recharge.

By keeping your brand priorities in line, by fighting for your ideas, by fighting smarter, and by taking care of your own stress levels, you can go a long way with your brand, and stay with it a lot longer.

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