CMOs and CFOs often speak completely different languages. This can create a lack of understanding and appreciation for the role and impact of marketing on the business.
Mastercard CMO Raja Rajamannar calls this the “existential crisis of the CMO.” He says it’s essential for marketers to think and talk more like business managers than communications experts. As Raja says,
“Because many CMOs have risen through the creative route, much more than the financial route, they are like a rabbit caught in the headlights. They talk about jargon and marketing KPIs, which the CFO and CEO could care less about – they are looking for financial results. Is customer growth happening, is my profitability increasing, what is marketing doing to my EBITDA?
“In that scenario, some companies are losing patience and replacing CMOs with a chief revenue or chief growth officer. Some are not even from a marketing background. When that happens at several companies, that is an existential crisis.”
Last year, Coca-Cola replaced the global CMO position with a Chief Growth Officer position, following consumer brands like Colgate-Palmolive, Coty, Mondelez, and Tyson Foods. These changes are seen as signs that the credibility of the CMO in the C-Suite is slipping. Or even that some companies are losing trust in marketing altogether.
Thomas Barta described the existential crisis of the CMO this way:
“As long as marketers continue to position themselves as experts in advertising, brand positioning, millennials and the latest digital fads – instead of being growth drivers – we’ll see more CMO positions disappear … The message is pretty simple: as a marketer, stand for growth — or else.”
Here are a few related cartoons I’ve drawn over the years:
“Deer in Headlight” February 2012
“Seat at the Table” May 2015
“Marketing ROI” May 2016
“CMO of the Month” October 2013