Across multiple industries and geographies, the CMO role is the shortest tenured in the c-suite, slipping to an average of just 43-months in 2019, according to a research from executive search firm Spencer Stuart. Brands listed in the graphic below lost or dismissed their CMO in 2019. We’ve worked with many of these companies.

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We at Kates Kesler have been watching these changes and have seen a spectrum of how the remit of enterprise marketing has been altered, ranging from narrow-focused COE’s to the broad anointment of a Chief Growth Officer (CGO). Additionally, there has been substantial activity in enterprise marketing organization changes over the past 18 months, including structure changes, outside hires, and renewed focus on capability building. Some of the trends that we’re seeing include:

  1. New corporate marketing roles with closer connections, including reporting relationships, between innovation and marketing
  2. The integration of marketing and commercial responsibilities
  3. Building marketing services into cross-functional global business services organizations
  4. CMO changes in the context of broader business-organization changes: some are building stronger business units – at the global level or within regional markets, narrowing the focus of corporate marketing, while others are moving in the opposite direction
  5. Companies are still experimenting with varied approaches to organizing ‘digital marketing’ – ranging from full integration into brand or category-marketer roles to standing up focused digital functions

As we shared in an article on Transforming Global Functions, before you start looking to change your Marketing organization, you need to answer what role marketing will play in the overall operating model of the company: how it fits and interacts with the business units and other key functions in the organization.

It’s critical to use the business strategy as the starting point to determine the design requirements for the marketing function, then design the structure, process, metrics, and talent to activate these capabilities. The maturity of the Marketing organization also influences the nature of the roles and responsibilities within it.

In this model, we see the continuum of evolving marketing roles, starting with a focus on the marketing staff, the services they provide, and the capabilities they are building across the business. On the right side, we see greater focus on operating responsibility, including innovation and brand and category management. Responsibilities tend to build from left to right.




While this framework captures the nature of the responsibility in terms of “hands-off” vs. more “hands-on” orientation, there is actually a

second dimension, which is to what extent the conventional CMO role is broadened to include other functions, like innovation or revenue management, for example.

Coca-Cola replaced its CMO role with a chief growth officer (CGO) position in order to focus marketing attention on growth and brand loyalty as opposed to winning Marketing awards. Unilever took a different spin; CEO Alan Jope announced in Spring 2019 he would replace the long-time chief marketing officer incumbent with what he described as a “CMO++”. “It won’t be an identical role – we’ll chop off 20% and add 20%. It will still be chief marketing officer at the core and then we’ll bolt on a few different things,” he said.

Another stand out trend is how companies are experimenting with approaches to organizing ‘digital marketing.’ Some are rebuilding marketing teams to integrate digital into the core work of marketers. At Vodafone, they brought together their Marketing and Digital teams in order to focus on innovation while being “digitally-centric” co-locating engineers, marketeers, and product managers in one location.  Unilever and others have made the decision to improve their digital marketing capabilities by investing in specialized “digital hubs.” In order to manage the content-driven, highly-targeted, data-led campaigns it needs “new people with new skills.”

Focus on the enterprise operating model. We have worked with many companies that have been frustrated with challenges activating the CMO role. One of the biggest challenges is often getting the business units to buy into the role, and to be willing to let the CMO be a player in their business. It is imperative to be clear what role the central marketing group should play, with thoughtful consideration given to the operating model of the company, and what is likely to succeed given the roles and nature of business units. How will a central marketing group add value in our operating model, with what kind of authority and influence? If we are adding a new CMO role, or changing the role of an existing position, what are the reasons for those changes? What problem are we trying to solve? These are rarely simple questions to answer.


Greg Kesler, Managing Partner

Jonathan Hornyak, Consultant