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 / Winter 2004 / Issue 37(originally published by Booz & Company)


The Fall and Rise of the CMO

The CEO must moderate the organization’s notion that a CMO appointment will yield instant results. When the CMO job description and the organization’s expectations are misaligned, the CMO will inevitably experience difficulties. Greg Welch, a partner at Spencer Stuart who leads the firm’s global CMO practice, states, “The most common cause of short CMO tenures is excessive expectations — by both the CEO and the peer group of the CMO. If all three do not share a common understanding of what marketing can do for an organization, the chances of CMO failure are magnified.”

• Too Little Expertise. Some unsuccessful CMOs appear to be marketers who failed to make the move to general management earlier in their careers. They are good at right-brain creativity but are not as strong at, for example, proving the ROI on marketing investments, or at working with IT professionals on implementing successful customer relationship management systems. To be a good chief, a leader must have expertise in and feel comfortable with coordinating input from multiple functions. Intel’s Mr. Kim developed his skills at such places as the Lotus Development Corporation, Dun & Bradstreet, and Spencer Trask Software and Information Technology Group, a technology-focused venture-capital firm in New York City. Spencer Trask CEO Kevin Kimberlin recently described him in the Wall Street Journal as “the rare executive who knows software and electronics and is also skilled in finance and marketing — and in closing tough deals.”

The CMO must demonstrate both creativity and strong analytical skills in an ever-changing environment. Gone are the days when marketing consisted solely of clever promotions and attention-getting advertising copy. Talented CMOs must excel in these areas, but also be experts in market research, target market segmentation, and distribution channel management, and be comfortable with finance, technology, and other functions.

• Too Uncertain a Need. The legitimacy of the CMO is quickly undermined if the need for the role isn’t clear. For example, when there is company-wide agreement that the company’s brand assets need a watchdog, a CMO has better odds of succeeding. Indeed, in a company in which it is apparent that the brand, logo, and marketing messages are confusing and diffuse, the perception and credibility of the headquarters leadership may depend on its ability to bring consistency to the presentation of the brand worldwide.

This was true for the Hartford Financial Services Group. Historically, several business units controlled marketing, including the use of the brand and corporate logo. It became clear — as a result of inconsistencies in presentation — that there was a strong need for brand guidelines covering everything from the logo to marketing collateral and brochures. To manage brand consistency, Ann Glover’s team developed a central brand information Web site where employees can download the logo, guidelines for its use, and the complete brand rules. “At the Hartford, imposing rules and regulations around the use of the logo and asking all the business units to follow consistent collateral standards was a big deal,” says Ms. Glover. Her team’s initiative wouldn’t have been so successful if the need for consistency had not been recognized by the CEO and by the business unit heads.

In 2000, Unilever set up divisions for Home and Personal Care, and for Food and Beverages, and appointed for each division a president of marketing (a role equivalent to a CMO). Each executive had responsibility for globalizing the major brands within his or her division. The president of marketing of the Home and Personal Care division quickly achieved success in pushing the country organizations to adopt a standardized approach to Unilever’s global brands, such as Dove, Lux, and Sunsilk.

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  1. Andrew Ehrenberg, “Marketing: Are You Really a Realist?” s+b, Second Quarter 2002; Click here.
  2. Leslie H. Moeller, Sharat K. Mathur, and Randall Rothenberg, “The Better Half: The Artful Science of ROI Marketing,” s+b, Spring 2003; Click here.
  3. Randall Rothenberg, “John Quelch: The Thought Leader Interview,” s+b, Third Quarter 2000; Click here.
  4. Steve Silver, “Bring on the Super-CMO,” s+b, Summer 2003; Click here.
  5. “When Art Meets Science: The Challenge of ROI Marketing,” s+b/Knowledge@Wharton white paper, Dec. 17, 2003; Click here.
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