Working With A Target On Your Back

54938190 - businessman get success with red arrow on target at the back of his suit on dark background, business concept

We have noted for years in this blog that the CMO position has a high turnover rate. We even suggested in one post that this is because when things go bad, the CEO needs to fire someone visible and by firing the CMO they do that without really messing anything up because, “what does the CMO do anyway.” The CMO position continues to be one of the most ill-defined positions in the corporate structure.

A recent article in Advertising Age suggests that while the argument has changed, the CMO is still the #1 C-level exec with a target on their back if growth goals aren’t met. The article reports on a study done by Accenture of companies with over $1B in revenue and notes that the CEOs of those companies place their CMO as the #1 target for termination if growth goals are not met since they are allegedly responsible for “disruptive growth.” Seriously? Fire them if you like but spare me the delusion that the CMO is the Chief Disruptive Growth Officer (yet another title for the CMO).

While I will concede there may be a few CMOs with that kind of “power,” the majority are brand focused, which is a euphemism for advertising. Since advertising is simply one mechanism by which branding is accomplished, it is brand building that gets the focus. However, what CMOs have any authority over customer experience? They may create the video I watch where the various airlines tell me how important I am to them; but they have no authority over the employees on that same flight proving exactly the opposite in real-time. And that is just a simple example.

Do you really think the CMO at Intel (as a high-tech example) is focused on disruptive innovation? I doubt it. That is being done in R&D or within the product/business divisions.

I submit that most CEOs have no idea what to do with their CMO, who is really only responsible for the “back-end’ of Marketing. Given that Kottler and others have noted that the real leverage in Marketing is at the front-end, why have your “chief disruption officer” focused where the least leverage exists?

Again, I submit it is more about having a sacrificial lamb then about disruption.


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