I recently started a LinkedIn discussion on whether a Chief Marketing Officer should be a leader first and a marketer second.  I was quite surprised by the diversity of opinion on the question; and I was even more surprised by the number of people who thought leadership was more important because the next logical step after CMO is to become a CEO.

Interesting perspective.

So I posted a question asking if anyone knew of a company where the CEO had been a CMO.  I got no responses at all.  Now, no responses doesn’t necessarily mean much.  But it did set me to wondering:

♦  Are marketing people deluding themselves that marketing is a path to the top?

♦  And why don’t more marketers become corporate leaders?

CFOs and COOs regularly become CEOs.  CFO and COO are seen as bottom-line functions.

But notice that neither of these functions brings in revenues.  They are both intimately involved with controlling costs and enhancing efficiency, but not revenue generation.

CMOs, on the other hand, are tasked with increasing revenues and market share.  But marketing is perceived as a staff function, having little involvement in the actual running of the enterprise. Indeed, marketing is regularly called upon to justify its costs to the CFO.  And marketers tie themselves in knots trying to show ROI.

Is it just me or is there something wrong with this picture?

Okay, here’s where I get into trouble.  I think it is largely marketing’s fault that this perceptual disconnect exists.

As long as marketing remains on the defensive about its contribution to the bottom-line, it will be seen as an expense, not an investment with an ROI.

As long as marketing accepts how the accountants have traditionally booked and attributed revenues, it will be seen as a staff – not a line – function.

As long as marketing ignores the need for an internal constituency, it will remain a function that everyone knows he can do just as well.

As long as CMOs struggle to be “leaders” rather than leaders and managers of a dynamic function, they will have trouble being seen as potential leaders and managers of the entire enterprise.

If CMOs want to be CEOs, they need to show how marketing infiltrates every aspect of an enterprise’s profitability and viability.  They need to show how marketing is integral with corporate success from product design and development through manufacturing (by setting the price the market will bear and determining the necessary manufacturing costs to support that price) through brand and product awareness in the marketplace into sales support and strategic business planning.

And they need to show that they excel at managing these diverse elements of corporate success.

Until we do that, we will be deluding ourselves about marketing as a path to the top and ensure that very few CMOs become CEOs.






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