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The evolution of the chief marketing officer

legendre-glenda-col-sig-1Just a few years back, as the top marketing individual at both a for-profit and then a non-profit organization, I was initially responsible for brand or product management, market research and effective advertising. My role — along with those of my professional colleagues in the field — rapidly evolved.

Chief marketing officers (CMO) continue to see dramatic changes that bring them to the forefront of leadership in their vastly expanding roles. As McKinsey & Company advises its clients when seeking candidates to serve as effective CMOs, “marketers must help companies find and meet the unique needs of an ever diverse and global customer base.”

What has changed? The constant growth of internet usage has changed the way consumers research and buy products. Web-based research is now widely used to help buy products and even to verify medical recommendations from physicians. There is also an expanded distribution model for customers outside of retail stores and even food stores.

Media changes are correspondingly dramatic — bloggers, influencers, gaming and streaming programs, as well as user-generated media like YouTube now all influence the customer’s voice. Earlier internet “push ads” are less relied upon than video-sharing sites.

Sales roles have therefore changed as well, and public relations practitioners not only have fewer traditional media outlets to create awareness for the organizations they serve but also more challenges in reputational management. For example, no restaurant or food product manufacturer wants to see its employees on a video “gone viral” in some weird interference with food safety.

Today’s marketers must constantly analyze and reflect on new consumer buying behavior for their company’s sales and publicity.

The customer’s voice

Deloitte Insights has determined there are three main factors for CMO success: knowing how to use customer data and analytics; understanding the full enterprise and its business mindset; and bringing the client’s voice to the leadership table.

The CMO has to make sure the organization is customer-centered, and tracks relevant results or implications to convey to top management to drive business decisions. Marketing is not done effectively in a vacuum. The marketing plans need to make sense to the chief financial officer and chief technology officer, and short term and long-term goals need to be featured.

Pricing strategies are increasingly complex among dispersed and global channels. Geography can affect price and demand forecasting.

McKinsey adds that skill-building challenges abound for the CMO. The marketing department structure will continue to change as external expertise in areas of marketing continues to expand. Market research, digital analytics, new media buying, web site management, social media outlets, upgrades to web-based ads utilizing 3-D product appearances, reputation managers and more can be outsourced to maintain best practices.

Further, expanded internal organizational communications across business units are vital to coordinate customer focus. Importantly, the chief executive officer needs to take an active role in supporting the CMO in fostering the appropriate connections with the rest of the organization and in comprehending the changing customer realities for the business.

With the increased complexity and top level institutional support, CMO jobs have an increased salary and demand in today’s marketplace. According to Payscale, with about 10 years of experience in running the marketing and sales function of a large business, the median salary domestically is $171,000. Salaries are of course lower with less experience and with smaller organizations.

There is a high level of job satisfaction in this field, so it is well worth pursuing the requisite skills and experiences. Marketing combines the “center brain” mentality of the combination of analytics and creativity, a value to any organization.

Glenda LeGendre is principal of Marketing & Strategic Communications and can be reached at