September 08, 2021

The following is republished with the permission of the Association of National Advertisers. Find this and similar articles on ANA Newsstand.

By Jenny Rooney, Managing Director, Black Glass

In the 10 years leading up to 2020, marketers, thought leaders and journalists alike waxed philosophical about how the turn of the decade—with a buzzy double number to boot—would usher in a transformed world for CMOs: fully digitally enabled organizations, DEI and sustainability as completely foundational to all business practices, and CMOs squarely entrenched in the C-suite as true business drivers deserving of a seat at the boardroom and open-office corner tables. The year held promise.

In the end, 2020 was indeed an inflection point. The Covid-19 pandemic, racial-justice movements, as well as continued political, economic and global turmoil, have all upended—in positive and negative ways—so much about our culture, our world, our communities, our businesses, and, yes, our brands and brand leadership.

Impact for CMOs today requires access to resources and a community that support, empower and promote them, not just as as professionals, but as people. That will drive not only individual performance, but, as a consequence, the performance of the brand and business.

Let's look at where we are now: According to Gallup, 58% of American workers report working remotely always or sometimes to avoid Covid-19. Gallup research also indicates that a quarter of all U.S. workers—26%—would now ideally prefer to continue working remotely, if given a choice, when society fully reopens.

Meanwhile, eMarketer research shows that in the wake of retailers' shifts to online and consumers' comfort and ease with digital engagement, ecommerce sales will continue to grow robustly, reaching 23.6% of total retail sales by 2025 versus 11.0% in 2019.

And according to the Gartner CMO Strategic Priorities Survey 2020-2021, 56% of CMOs expect budgets to grow more than 5% this year, and about a quarter anticipate budget increases of more than 15%. From a hard-skills perspective, the survey found, "CMOs urgently need digital skills. Financial knowledge is another must." These aren't traditional skill sets, and CMOs must expand their professional acumen to evolve as impactful business leaders. And certainly, "95% of CMOs believe that brands should take the lead in finding solutions to major societal and cultural issues," according to the survey. That's become a vital responsibility, not only of brands, but of chief marketers today.

Transformational Times

Of course, these are only a few of the many ways that the world has transformed and the changes affecting CMOs' responsibilities. All of that change has left them facing a very new reality, as marketers, as business leaders—and, fundamentally, as people.

The realities of today have caused CMOs to grapple with more complexity, more challenges, more choices and more opportunities than ever before—and not just in the specifics of their jobs. They helm dispersed marketing organizations and manage brands with dispersed customers. Purpose is priority.

Virtual is now reality. Home is office. Business travel is down, screen time is up. Change is constant. (Just in the past month alone, the marketing world has witnessed the naming of five exceptional CMOs to new roles: Karin Timpone, Minjae Ormes, Carla Hassan, Tariq Hassan, Morgan Flatley—and that's just a sampling of the shifts happening.) Access to diverse and far-flung talent has never been greater. Work's future is today. Consumers are at once within and beyond reach. Families and friends have become both more and less accessible, depending on circumstances, as colleagues and teams are tied together with technology. Life is short, and health and wellbeing loom large.

Let's face it: Being a CMO is exciting, multifaceted, inspiring—and tough. CMOs we have queried have told us that it can be lonely at the top, that there's never enough time to be able to meet all demands, and that balancing internal and external expectations is daunting. At the same time, our newly changed world has them rethinking their own priorities. "Covid proved that I am more than my job," one CMO told us. Meanwhile, others have remarked at how having clarity and understanding of personal strengths, not just as chief marketers but as impactful business leaders, has become paramount.

Through it all, CMOs have remained some of the most driven, creative, innovative, passionate and thoughtful corporate executives—and powerful assets in the C-suite and on boards. They're highly visible, they speak for their brands, they have deep knowledge of their consumers and customers, and they can have tremendous impact on business transformation.

But in this time of change and greater complexity, what resources do they need, themselves, to navigate the now? We all know (or at least talk a lot about) how authentic and human leadership is necessary and beneficial in so many ways. But how do we get there? How can and should CMOs be supported? How do they find balance as people who, not unlike the people who report to them, are also trying to navigate new work norms, perhaps new jobs, and even new dynamics in personal lives?

CMOs are forever on a quest to understand and serve their consumers. Just as they are able to do that, and just as they are able to track the impact of their latest ad campaign, they also should be able to self-assess, tracking the impact they have both within and outside the specifics of their title.

Sure, role-specific data abounds. Discussions at panels and conferences deconstruct functional details.

What CMOs need is data that provides clarity into themselves as people—how they work, where they can and should invest time and energy, and how best to bolster their individual strengths and be supported, satisfied, and empowered in all aspects of their lives. That, coupled with a community of peers who understand, who have been there and are doing that, is a potent combination of much-needed foundation for our "now" generation of marketing leaders.

Forward Momentum

CMOs have told us that what is so critical for them is this vision, sightlines into who they are, their personal strengths, and a report card that provides visibility—intelligence—around how all of the aspects of their lives do and don't fit together, where they could level up and where they could dial down.

To that end, we have identified four dimensions within which CMOs can have and therefore assess their individual impact: self, company, industry and people. Insight into them and where they fall on each will enable CMOs to develop a blueprint for strength-building, satisfaction and success moving forward.

To be successful, not just as a professional but as an individual, CMOs need to balance these four key components.


  •     The self dimension incorporates assessment of hard and soft skills, certainly, but also movement among roles inside and outside companies, board seats, global experience, engagement with universities and students, and even things like time management, balance and navigating responsibilities of personal lives.


  •     The company dimension includes financial metrics, of course, but also reporting structure, marketing budget, involvement in strategic business decisions and creation and stewardship of internal culture and purpose priorities.


  •     This component assesses public profile and reputation, personal brand, thought leadership, specificity of focus, and involvement in organizations like the ANA, for example.


  •     And, finally, the people dimension is about nurturing talent that thrives in and outside the company, the ability to attract and retain people, the ability to create environments in which people want to work, and collaboration in the C-suite.

All of this perspective and insight, gleaned from individual surveys as well as from sector, social-presence, C-suite, direct-report and peer-feedback data, enable CMOs to thrive personally so that they can thrive professionally. It's the radical clarity that's so needed now; it's individual intelligence.

On Marketing's Global Day of Learning and hereafter, CMOs, we invite you to find that North Star and unlock the vision necessary to take the next step, the holistic clarity to forge a new path, lead with conviction, enthusiasm and energy, make impactful decisions, and flourish. Use this moment to rethink, reset and reimagine what's possible, what's meaningful, and what's worth not just your time and energy, but—you.

"The Key to CMO Impact? Bolster All Dimensions of the Person Behind the Title." Jenny Rooney, Managing Director, Black Glass, 9/3/21.


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