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Why the CMO Role is Going Through a Rough Phase

January 2024 saw the exit of the CMOs from two US companies– Etsy and United Parcel Service (UPS). Directly before the new year, it was Walgreens’ turn to bid farewell to its CMO, distributing the job’s functions to other senior leaders. 

Could these three scenarios signal the end for the CMO? Change in the workplace is nothing new, a narrative that has gained momentum since COVID-19 began reshaping our professional landscapes. But is the predicted downfall of the CMO role truly on the horizon?

Although UPS has phased out the CMO position, it introduced the Chief Commercial and Strategy Officer role, encompassing marketing, revenue, product management, strategy, and more. Likewise, Etsy also did away with the CMO role, integrating its duties into the purview of the Chief Operations Officer.

Confusing, isn’t it?

Echoing a sentiment often credited to Mark Twain, “The report of my death has been greatly exaggerated,” applies fittingly to the CMO role. Despite widespread speculation about its demise, the position has evolved, adopting various titles such as Chief Experience Officer, Chief Customer Officer, and Chief Digital Officer.

This time, though, the chief marketing talk seems different, 

Tides of Change

A LinkedIn article highlighting the 25 fastest-growing roles in the U.S. underscores the deep integration of marketing across various positions. Notably, this includes the Chief Growth Officer but also extends to roles like Director of Revenue Operations, External Communications Manager, Influencer Marketing Manager, and Head of Partnerships.

Over the past decade, the marketing domain has witnessed a significant broadening of its scope. Today’s ‘Modern CMO’ is not just a brand visionary and a product marketing guru but is also adept in emerging fields such as data science, marketing technology (Martech), and lifecycle marketing.

The truth is, it’s rare to find individuals who excel in all these areas, yet those who do are becoming increasingly sought after for their ability to drive strategic and commercial success within their organizations. This presents an unparalleled chance to ascend to a ‘CMO Plus’ role. While these positions might sometimes be labeled as Chief Customer Officer or Chief Growth Officer, it’s increasingly common for the expanded role to be termed Chief Marketing and [insert expanded scope] Officer.

Here are five CMO Plus archetypes:

  • Chief Marketing and Strategy Officer: Here, corporate strategy becomes intertwined with the CMO’s responsibilities, akin to a co-producer role encompassing product marketing to brand awareness.
  • Chief Marketing and Experience Officer: While customer experience has always been a CMO concern, it’s now officially part of the role, reflecting its critical importance in brand building and loyalty enhancement.
  • Chief Marketing and Digital Experience Officer: With marketing and digital realms merging, it’s logical for digital experience and marketing to be unified under one leadership.
  • Chief Marketing and Category Officer: To bolster the link between marketing and commercial operations, many organizations are introducing this role.
  • Chief Marketing and Sustainability Officer: Addressing environmental, social, and governance (ESG) issues has become a priority, affecting CMOs as key C-suite members who evaluate risks and opportunities.

Why does it all matter?

As you navigate through the sea of new job titles and headlines suggesting the replacement of traditional marketing roles, approach with a discerning eye. 

The landscape of marketing roles and functions is transforming, yet the essence of marketing—to create, communicate, and deliver value profitably—remains unchanged.

However, the game has changed. It’s no longer sufficient to have expertise solely in media, marketing technology (Martech), or digital marketing. Ascending to the C-suite demands a comprehensive understanding of marketing’s multifaceted role within a business. 

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