Is the CMO title dead?

Posted on Posted in How to Guide for Marketers

Over the last few months, a number of prominent companies have removed their CMO, and the title that goes with it. And, now we have the over-reaction period of “what does this mean?”

Some of the CMOs have been replaced by the EVP Marketing. That’s the same thing. Others have been replaced by “Chief Growth Officer”; again the same thing. Some have been rolled under sales, and one has been combined with Technology. 


Two weird little HR-things about titles

  1. When a company wants to get rid of someone, but wants to minimize the severance package, they call it a restructure, claiming the position no longer exists. And voila, the CMO is replaced by the EVP revenue. (same thing)
  2. When a company wants someone who was a star in marketing to come back and oversee marketing, that individual could hang onto the previous title. All of a sudden we have an EVP of Marketing and Technology.

Marketing is certainly not dead

Let’s know our history. 

  • Up until the mid-1990s, the VP Marketing was the be-all-and-end-all in marketing, reporting up to a President. They had responsibility for brand positioning, product innovation, advertising, and dealing with customer decisions. They were accountable for the top-line sales, marketing spend, forecasts and overall profit delivery. They acted as the GM of a business unit or major brand within the company.
  • As the global marketing role came into play in the 1990s, there was a Global VP and a Country VP. The Global VP was supposed to work with the country leads, and would work on global product innovation pipeline, global positioning, but allow the countries to focus on local positioning, launches, advertising and customers. The one big difference I saw is the Country VP had the budget and topline responsibility, while the global VP had less money. 
  • The next move was to transform countries into regions and assign priorities. In most brand driven companies, North America and/or Europe were the largest regions, but offered the lowest growth, Asia was the high growth opportunity, and Africa/South America were growth regions.
  • Starting to look complicated with global VPs, regional VPs and possibly local VPs, companies created one layer above them called the ChIef Marketing Officer. At first they were staff roles managing the global VPs, but then moved to becoming the overall head of strategy and go-to-market such as advertising, innovation and retail.

I dreamed of being a VP marketing, never really the CMO. I suppose those under 40 likely dreamed of being a CMO. 

Maybe the CMO role is dying, because there are just too many layers of VPs all in conflict, nothing gets done. It is my opinion that marketing needs a very strong voice at the top, whatever you wish to call it. I’m ok with VP! There still is and will always be the boss who calls the shots, runs the process and helps their teams get better.

There will always be the Marketing Boss!!!

Now, while we are here, and hopefully I have your interest, let’s shift gears and discuss what you need to be successful. 


The five factors succeed as the head of marketing (whatever it is called)

  1. Your people come first
  2. Bring a vision to the role
  3. Put the spotlight on your team
  4. Be an approachable leader
  5. Run the process and the numbers

1. Your people come first

  • The best VP/CMO understands that the smarter your people, the better the work they produce and in turn the stronger your results will be. 
  • Have a regular review of the talent with your directors, with systemic way to get feedback to everyone on the team on a quarterly basis. 
  • Invest in training and development. Marketing training is not just on the job, but in the classroom to challenge their thinking and give them the necessary skills to be better in their jobs.  
  • Marketing fundamentals matter. The classic fundamentals are falling, whether it is strategic thinking, writing a brand plan, writing a creative brief or judging great advertising. People are NOT getting the same development they did in prior generations. Investing in training, not only makes them better, but it is also motivating for them to know that you are investing in them. 

2. Bring a vision to the role

  • Bring an inspiring vision to the role, that everyone can follow and push themselves to achieve. Look at what needs fixing on your team, and create your own vision statements that relevant to your situation.  
  • Bring a human side to the role. Get up, walk around and engage with everyone on your team. Make someone’s day. Your role is to motivate and encourage them to do great work.  
  • Influence behind the scenes to clear roadblocks. Know when you need to back your team up, whether it’s an internal struggle, selling the work into your boss or with a conflict with an agency.  
  • Do they love it? When they put their great work up for approval, and it’s fundamentally sound, approve it. Don’t do the constant spin of pushing for better, because then you look indecisive. 

3. Put the spotlight on your team

  • Let them own it and let them shine: It has to be about them, not you.  
  • Don’t be the super-duper Brand Manger. It’s not easy to balance giving them to freedom to lead you and yet knowing when to step in and make a decision. By making all the decisions, you bring yourself down a level or two and you take over their job.    
  • Instead of telling, you need to start asking. Ask good questions to challenge or push your team into a certain direction without them knowing you’re pushing them is more enlightening than coming up with statements of direction.  
  • Challenge your team and recognize the great work.

4. Be an approachable leader

  • Your people have to know how to act around you. Make it comfortable enough for them to approach you, to communicate the good and bad. A scary leader discourages people from sharing bad results, leaving you in the dark. Open dialogue keeps you more knowledgeable. 
  • Inconsistent behavior by a leader does not “keep them on their toes”. It inhibits creativity and creates tension. Be consistent in how you think, how you act in meetings and how you approve.  
  • Leadership assumes “follower-ship”. Creating a good atmosphere on the team will make people go the extra mile for you. 

5. Run the process and the numbers

  • The best VP/CMO runs the profit statement and the marketing processes, so your people can focus on what they need to be their best; running the brands and the execution
  • Run the P&L and make investment choices. Bring an ROI and ROE (return on investment and effort) mindset to decisions.  
  • Great processes in place—brand plans, advertising, creative briefs, sales execution—is not restrictive but rather provides freedom to your people. Focus your team’s creative energy on great work that gets in the marketplace, not trying to figure out what slide looks really cool in the brand plan presentation. 

The brand leader must deliver

  • Quintessentially, rule #1 is you have to make the numbers. As the VP, your main role is to create demand for your brands. What’s expected of you is to gain share and drive sales growth to help drive profit for the company?   
  • The results come from making the right strategic choices, executing at a level beyond the competitors and motivating your team to do great work. But how you do it, and the balances you place in key areas are choices you need to make.  
  • Making the numbers gives you more freedom on how you wish to run things. Without the numbers, the rest might not matter.

The head of marketing can be a lonely role

I remember when I first took the job as VP, I found it surprisingly a bit lonely.  Everyone in marketing tries to be “on” whenever you are around. And you don’t always experience the “real” side of the people on your team. That’s ok. Just be ready for it.   

The distance from your new peers (the head of sales, HR, operations or finance) is far greater than you’re used to. And it might feel daunting at first. Your peers expect you to run marketing and let them run their own functional area. And the specific problems you face, they might not appreciate or even understand the subtleties of the role.   

Your boss also gives you a lot of rope (good and bad) and there’s usually less coaching than you might be used to. It’s important for you to have a good mentor or even an executive coach to give you someone to talk with that understands what you’re going through.

Beloved Brands: The playbook to build a brand that consumers will love

What will you get from the Beloved Brands playbook?

In the past two decades, what makes brands successful has changed, and you must change with it. You will learn the fundamentals of managing your brand, with brand love at the core. I will show you how to improve your thinking to unleash your full potential as a brand leader. 

You will learn how to think, define, plan, execute, and analyze, and I provide every tool you will ever need to run your brand. You will find models and examples for each of the four strategic thinking methods, looking at core strength, competitive, consumer, and situational strategies. 

  • To define the brand, I will provide a tool for writing a brand positioning statement as well as a consumer profile and a consumer benefits ladder. I have created lists of potential functional and emotional benefits to kickstart your thinking on brand positioning. We explore the step-by-step process to come up with your brand idea and bring it all together with a tool for writing the ideal brand concept. 
  • For brand plans, I provide formats for a long-range brand strategy roadmap and the annual brand plan with definitions for each planning element. From there, I show how to build a brand execution plan that includes the creative brief, innovation process, and sales plan. I provide tools for how to create a brand calendar, and specific project plans. 
  • To grow your brand, I show how to make smart decisions on execution around creative advertising and media choices. When it comes time for the analytics, I provide all the tools you need to write a deep-dive business review, looking at the marketplace, consumer, channels, competitors and the brand. Write everything so that it is easy to follow and implement for your brand.

You will learn everything you need to know so you can run your brand. My brand promise is to help make you smarter so you can realize your full potential.

You can find Beloved Brands on Amazon, Kobo and Apple Books

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