CMO: The Chief Muddled Officer.

This past week, we were treated to two very intriguing — and yet seemingly contradictory — pieces of research concerning the state of marketing and the relative health and wellness of its fearless leader, the Chief Marketing Officer.

To begin, we have a Spencer Stuart study that reports the average tenure of the Chief Marketing Officer has doubled, from 23 months (2006 figure) to 45 months.

Contrast that with an Accenture study that reflects a whopping 40% of marketer feel they are not well-prepared to meet their objectives. The study listed key impediments to marketing performance being inefficient business practices (19%) and lack of funding (17%).

Cut to Spencer Stuart crowing about how CEOs are finally coming round to giving credit to the tough job of CMOs in these current recessionary times, combined with credence on the responsibility associated with a CMO’s burgeoning portfolio to include so many more technology-enabled components perhaps previously associated with IT — along with an expanded role including the mission-critical specialties of customer service, social media and the like.

And back to Accenture, indicating that 48% of marketers will spend more on managing customer data; 40% will increase spending on Web analytics; and 39% will boost spending on marketing analytics — with their limited and insufficient funding, of course. Furthermore, half of the respondents indicated they would begin an internal reorganization to become more digitally savvy, and 52% said they would be hiring more digital talent.

So let me see if I’ve got this correct: the CMO is living large and enjoying unprecedented job security and tenure amidst a time of unprecedented economic pressure, organizational upheaval, business volatility, and technology-enabled change, given they don’t have enough processes, budget and/or talent to do their jobs effectively.

Is it just me, or is something a little off here?

I’ve tried to reconcile these two insights to come out with a warm and fuzzy glass-half-full outcome. My feeling is that this is a classic case of lesser evils. On one hand, we have CEOs giving CMOs a little more respect and “slack” to do their jobs. This is a good thing; a VERY good thing, in fact. It’s imperative that CMOs have enough time to execute on a longer-term vision and mission.

On the other hand, this just may be a white flag to essentially throw in the towel, with CEOs conceding that scapegoating CMOs is not necessarily a sustainable practice — while at the same time, not exactly shaking up the status quo to empower CMOs to do their jobs and achieve their goals with the appropriate levels of budget (more), talent (more) and/or resources (optimized; majorly reallocated).
Arguably, the one common thread that connects, unifies and even explains these two disparate findings is the acceleration and proliferation of disruptive technology-based innovation in the marketing world. The goalposts continue to shift and become elusively more challenging to reach from month to month.

Put metaphorically: We’re still chasing our own tails, only what’s changed is the frantic and frenzied (read: manic) pace at which we’re doing it.

Firing the CMO does nothing more than set back the organization even more into an arguably insurmountable back foot posture and laggard position. That said, without implementing dramatic changes associated with the egregious gaps in investment and talent, the company is no closer to being able to exponentially adapt and power forward. Restructuring may help, but only if painfully cathartic, profound and sustained.

The solution? I’m afraid I don’t have a silver bullet, but giving the CMO more room to breathe is a definite start, if — and only if — they take this as a golden opportunity to effect meaningful change within their business unit, company and even industry.

By Joseph Jaffe
Joseph Jaffe is founder and CEO of Evol8tion, an innovation agency that matches early stage start-ups with blue-chip brands. He has written three books, including “Flip the Funnel.”
Courtesy of MediaPost

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