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Marketing-technologyOver the past few years, the role of the Chief Marketing Officer has grown increasingly complex, thanks to the decline in effectiveness of traditional methods of messaging (like print ads, commercials) and the rapid rise of new technological solutions (social media, native advertising, ad exchanges and retargeting, to name a few). Amidst such rapid change, it’s easy to forget that the CMO’s ultimate goals—to attract, satisfy, and retain customers—remain the same. Indeed, as much as the day-to-day responsibilities of the CMO have evolved, the most fundamental change relates not to the new technology itself, but rather to the various ways in which this new technology has forced CMOs to form new relationships within the company.

What Has Really Changed For CMOs

In today’s brand-marketing world, a brand-centric approach—shouting your message and hoping that it sinks in—no longer cuts it. Offering the same tagline, products and experiences for everyone is wasteful at best and suicidal at worst. Consumers now expect custom experiences and smart brands tailor their marketing depending on the type of customer they’re pursuing. While this may sound relatively simple, it can be quite difficult in a world where customers are now users, advocates and potential PR nightmares—all at the same time.

Simultaneously, media fragmentation is making it more difficult than ever for brands to reach their target consumers. The good old days of serving a TV ad to half of America while they watch Dallas is over. Instead of worrying about five TV channels and a few dozen major print publications, CMOs now contemplate hundreds of TV channels, thousands of relevant publications, and marketing verticals that are reconfiguring daily, and these include mobile, social and online video.

It’s not only the media that’s being fragmented, but also consumer attention—multi-tasking, spurred by the second screen, is at an all-time high. And yet, CMOs are increasingly being asked to be the voice of the consumer. How do they do this? By first turning to social and other digital channels to take the pulse of how consumers feel about the brand and then turning all of that data into actionable information.

Finally, accountability is more important than ever. CMOs have never been under so much pressure to produce more with less. By making performance success much more transparent, digital marketing has given CMOs more opportunities than ever to figure out what works. Take display advertising, for instance; it doesn’t take more than a few days to assess the effectiveness of click-through and conversions. It’s not always easy—and it can become a matter of seeing the fern through the forest.

Why CMOs Can’t Handle This On Their Own

A 2012 report by Forrester suggested that the CMO’s role is quickly changing to that of Chief Company Officer. As a result, the report stated, CMOs need to work hard to increase their business acumen: “If CMOs want to become true business leaders, it’s time for them to step up to the plate and proactively evolve their role.”


The good news is that CMOs have made some great progress in deftly aligning with the business goals of the company. In fact, according to AdAge, the average CMO’s tenure has nearly doubled in the past six years, from 23 months to 45 months. In a challenging, recession-laden environment, one might expect the opposite.

The challenge is that the formidable list of skills CMOs are required to master has grown substantially, and will continue grow. Data analyst is one new hat. The rise of Big Data has given marketers the tools to target individuals, not just entire demographics. In today’s marketing world, CMOs who don’t take advantage of these new tools will be left behind. Unfortunately, many CMOs today still don’t know how to evaluate data management platforms or marketing automation tools.

The Solution: Collaboration Between CMOs and Key Stakeholders

Traditionally, great CMOs have been comfortable working with the Chief Commercial Officer (or Head of Sales), in addition to the Chief Financial Officer.

It’s easy to see why. The CMO and the Head of Sales share a common goal (generate new revenue), and if there’s one area where the Head of Sales can help the CMO, it’s in understanding the success of acquisition or retention campaigns. Similarly, the CFO has always been a strategic adviser to the CMO. By helping forecast sales and analyze returns of campaign initiatives, the CFO can guide the CMO towards specific goals in a more efficient way. These relationships need to continue and strengthen.

Even more important is recognizing the growing role of the Chief Technology Officer. CMOs need technology advancements if they want to maintain control of their data and deliver the right messages to the right consumers at the right times. The CTO can help the CMO do that in three ways:

  • Data Aggregation, privacy, and security: This is an area in which the CTO (and sometimes Chief Information Officer) has tremendous experience. The CMO should take advantage of that wealth of knowledge.
  • IT Deployments: Choosing vendors, crafting project plans, and optimizing performance are tasks that most CTOs have mastered. CMOs should look to them for guidance.
  • Scale: A great CTO knows which areas of a particular solution need the most attention in order to scale up. It’s no wonder that large CRM (Customer Relationship Management) implementations are usually led by the CTO.

Ultimately, this kind of collaboration will ease the tremendous pressure that CMOs are feeling in a rapidly changing environment. Smart businesses will make sure to hire CMOs who are hungry to adapt and provide them with the tools they need to succeed.


Ben Plomion, ChangoBen Plomion is VP of Marketing at Chango, where he heads up marketing and communications. Prior to joining Chango, Ben worked with GE Capital for four years to establish and lead the digital media practice. This led to the development of GE Capital’s digital value proposition and its execution worldwide. The new venture re-energized paid, owned and earned media across 70+ web sites. Ben graduated from GE’s Experienced Commercial Leadership program after completing his MBA at McGill University. Before GE, Ben held a variety of Marketing & Business Development roles in the e-payments industry, while working at Gemalto in London. Ben writes frequently for MediaPost, Digiday, CMO.com and ClickZ. Ben is based in NYC.

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by Brandon Gutman
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Brandon is an expert connector and seasoned business development professional. As Principal of Brand Approved, he's led the advisory to become the bridge between brand marketers and best of breed service providers that are reshaping the industry.

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