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


The Fall and Rise of the CMO

The CEO may, over time, look to the classic CMO to assess and develop the strength of the marketing bench throughout the organization. In some cases, the CMO may be asked for input on the performance of line marketing managers as part of their annual reviews. When Eric Kim was at Samsung, he gradually assumed responsibility for upgrading the professionalism and credibility of marketing talent throughout the company and increased the influence of marketing in the organization, which had previously been technology- and product-driven. Some of the central marketing staff specialists at Samsung are now “on loan” to the operating divisions. This enhances a CMO’s chances of aligning the marketing plans of divisional management with those of the corporate center.

In a marketing-led organization that has high marketing expenditures and in which marketing is the typical career path to general management (such as Procter & Gamble), the classic CMO role is defined more narrowly. It includes getting the most value out of marketing services suppliers (advertising agencies, media buyers, market research companies, etc.), arranging global sponsorship deals, and being a catalyst for leading-edge marketing, both inside and outside the corporation. For example, Jim Stengel, Procter & Gamble’s CMO, is the public face of the company to the marketing services industry.

The classic CMO must:

  • Be a patient, tenacious persuader
  • Be able to hold his or her own with line managers and the CFO
  • Avoid no-win battles with sales
  • Shun publicity unless it is to represent the company to marketing services suppliers

3. Super-CMO. The classic CMO who can prove himself or herself by gradually winning internal support and earning the trust of the CEO can become a “super-CMO,” with greatly expanded authority. The super-CMO is a senior and seasoned marketing executive, widely respected both inside and outside the company. This executive has typically been a general manager or even a CEO, can certainly talk the language of business strategy and finance, and has the stature to direct global brand strategy. He or she usually has authority over the company’s marketing budget.

Super-CMOs are typically found at companies that have a single global master brand that ranks high on Interbrand’s annual list of the world’s most valuable brands, and that sell multiple products and services under this brand umbrella. Marketing and brand building are highly valued throughout the senior ranks as critical to commercial success and shareholder value. The super-CMO usually carries a senior or executive vice president title along with the CMO title, especially if his or her responsibilities extend beyond marketing.

The super-CMO frequently uses a single global advertising agency (for example, IBM’s worldwide relationship with Ogilvy & Mather or HSBC’s new global alignment with J. Walter Thompson). Indeed, the “super” chief, at the behest of a CEO seeking more central control over a far-flung, decentralized multinational, may orchestrate consolidation of the firm’s marketing expenditures into a single advertising agency.

The super-CMO model works extremely well at UPS, where Senior Vice President Kurt Kuehn has responsibility for worldwide sales and marketing. Mr. Kuehn’s role covers sales, brand management, communications, customer relationship management, and product development. Profit-and-loss accountability rests with operations, in particular the heads of 80 to 90 operating units around the world. Each of these units employs local marketers who develop, establish budgets for, and execute local marketing initiatives. The central sales and marketing organization has responsibility for brand positioning, consistent brand presentation worldwide, and all marketing communications strategies that build the brand. Mr. Kuehn says that this shared accountability model, where local operations and corporate sales and marketing share responsibility for executing marketing plans, works because he “has learned how to lose the unimportant battles.”

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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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