Uh Oh. There Goes the Marketing Profession…

Uh Oh. There Goes the Marketing Profession…

Spencer Stuart recently issued a press release with the headline: “Average Chief Marketing Officer Tenure Hits New High: 42 Months.”

Okay, so it is a press release, and the headline is an exaggeration. In fact, their data comes from CMOs at “leading marketers or advertisers with a significant ad spend…as of December 31, 2010.

Actually, I don’t have any particular problem with the data being out of date or the fact that the sample is in no way representative of Chief Marketing Officer tenure in business as a whole.

What I do have a problem with is the gleefully reported view that “These CMOs view themselves as leaders first and marketers second, assembling teams with expertise where digital and social media play prominent roles in meeting the demands of the consumers.” And the implication is that general conclusions should be drawn from this.

Uh Oh.  Is this really a reason for glee?

First of all, the role of social media platforms in general – and in B2B in particular – is problematic. I have seen no hard, empirical evidence that social media platforms work equally well (or at all) for all sizes and shapes and product/service configurations. And let’s remember that these “leading” firms and CMOs have budgets that most of us can only dream about. Money does make a difference in marketing.

Second, and to my mind, far more significant, is the concept of CMOs as leaders first and marketers second. I find this troubling.

It is very much like saying that a general is a warrior second. He can rely on his line officers’ expertise to ensure success. He can be less than proficient with strategy, tactics, and maneuvers as along as his team knows their part of the battlefield and how to use the latest technology. And he can rely on his specialists on the ground to ensure that all their tactics will lead to an integrated, coordinated, and successful campaign.

By that logic, leading people is an area that requires no functional expertise. Whew! We can now get rid of the Army War College and West Point and Annapolis and the Air Force Academy.

Okay, marketing doesn’t have the same life and death consequences as the military.  But is this really the best approach for business?  Are most companies off-target when they ask for experience and expertise when qualifying executive job candidates?  Or should we just agree that Wow! I’m a good marketing leader, so maybe I really can make the career shift to engineering.

The good thing about this approach, though, is that it is intuitively obvious. After all, we all know that anyone can lead marketing. Right?

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