“Chief Marketers Eye CEO, COO Roles” – Is This News?

A study conducted by Forrester and Heidrick & Struggles found that CMOs are eyeing other c-suite roles such as CEO and COO roles as opposed to the consulting gigs and marketing-centric roles they were entertaining a few years ago. Is this a surprise?

I was scanning through Ad Age and came across an article, “Chief Marketers Eye CEO, COO Roles”, and my immediate thought was, why is this a surprise to anyone?

The story is about a study conducted by Forrester and Heidrick & Struggles, an executive search firm. In it they “found that chief marketers are eyeing other c-suite roles, as opposed to the consulting gigs and marketing-centric roles they were entertaining a few years ago.”

Somehow, after the recession marketers have suddenly become “almost universally viewed as c-suit executive with the most customer insight” and they “are assuming responsibilities well beyond core marketing and promotion activities.”

Now, I’ve been involved with marketing and general management since the 70’s and from my experience great marketers have never been just about core marketing and promotion activities. Great brand marketing has always been about engaging with the consumer to understand needs and satisfying those needs, not just talking about those needs.

Smart CEOs and Boards have sought to look at their businesses from the outside in and in doing so have long depended on their marketing executives to lead their strategic thinking and planning, product development and testing, even supply chain and pricing, because delivery against consumer needs demands an understanding of and involvement in all of these elements.

My two favorite quotes from Peter Drucker make the point:

“Marketing is not only much broader than selling, it is not a specialized activity at all. It encompasses the entire business. It is the whole business seen from the point of view of the final result, that is, from the customer’s point of view. Concern and responsibility for marketing must therefore permeate all areas of the enterprise”

“Because the purpose of business is to create a customer, the business enterprise has two – and only two – basic functions: marketing and innovation. Marketing and innovation produce results; all the rest are costs. Marketing is the distinguishing, unique function of the business”

If you accept that this is true then marketers have been General Managers from the time the Procter & Gamble instituted the brand management system.

The marketers that I recommend to my clients have to think like general managers or they can’t do the real job of a marketer. Those who see a marketer as the keeper of the advertising and merchandising programs have defined a marketing communications person, not a true marketer.

Perhaps what this article is saying is that more CEOs and Boards are recognizing that to be truly successful their businesses need to have a marketer’s perspective at the top of the organization. It is no longer sufficient to have a finance executive or a plant operator in the top job because those are not the people who dive insights and turn those insights into products and services.

In the article, the study’s author said that “more than half of CMOs said meeting revenue targets is their most important business driver. Meeting profit targets, increasing shareholder value and growing market share are also key objectives for many CMOs.”

If profit and shareholder value are not the primary objectives of your CMO, then you have the wrong CMO. Heck, if those aren’t the primary objectives or your Marketing Vice Presidents, Marketing Directors and Marketing Managers then those should be changed as well.

The study’s author, Ms. Sheryl Pattek, said “It’s a different view and lens that’s broader than just marketing.”

If that’s the view of many CEOs, then I’d suggest that somebody doesn’t understand what real Marketing is supposed to be.