The opportunity for the Australian CMO is in through the line C-Suite collaboration

Each year, Deloitte welcomes 50 of the top emerging or newly appointed CMOs around the world at Deloitte University, just outside Dallas, Texas for a three-day programme to prepare them for the C-Suite. CMO Jim Stengel hosted, with four Australian CMOs included this year for the first time. This what David Phillips learned.

The CMO role and function continues to be inconsistently defined across the corporate world, with many (particularly in Australia) still serving as the advertising function of the business. While marketers on average have a very high proportion of traits required to run at executive level, they are held back by a consistent gap – pragmatism.

While US CMO’s are a little more progressed than others in the revival of the function, the great CMO’s around the world are continuing to champion the customer and taking on responsibility for top-line growth. All must to do more to collaborate and pragmatically connect across the business.

This correspondent highlights:

  • 50% of CMO roles have changed title and scope to become more growth orientated (CRO, CGO, CCO)
  • The CMO office is still experiencing the shortest tenure (2.2 years)
  • CTO, CCO, and CEO are still a CMO’s key relationships, more effort needs to be put into the CFO office
  • Completing digital transformation and retaining top talent are what CMO’s are viewing as their key obstacles (unchanged since pre-pandemic)

So let’s spend a bit of time thinking about what it means for Australian and New Zealand marketing leaders.

  1. The big existential question for marketers

I even find on a day-to-day basis with my clients and peers, what we mean by the word marketing takes a thousand different forms. The existential question for marketing is still the one holding us back. “The CMO is the most interesting role as it’s as big as we define it … we’re wired to be left and right brain and forward thinking” (Noohan).

Within the US, the key change in job ad descriptions is growth in ‘cloud migration’ and ‘analytics’, creative design appears to be the loser. CMO’s with brand backgrounds are struggling to transform the organisation, and when the CMO doesn’t have the skillset, IT is taking over.

No other function in business has such variation in remit, capability or even acknowledgement of role. A few years back, 82% of the office still held the title CMO versus 50% most recently.

Whatever the title, the office now must understand analytics, technology, product, supply, and finance, then translate all they do into how all these functions need to hear it.

The key trend though emblematic of the change organisations want to see – 50% of titles are now growth related, up from 18% a few years back – many are picking the ‘renaissance’ of marketing in the US and for this to swing back. CMOs in the US are taking the opportunity to be CGOs, CCOs or CROs in droves (Growth, Customer and Revenue Officers).

Unfortunately for Australians, we are a long way away from resurgence, with marketing still seen as a cost centre lacking accountability by many executives and as a result lacking representation at the most senior levels of decision making in most local organisations. Australian marketing leaders must learn from their US counterparts and press to own the top line of the P&L, making them more accountable for what is the largest discretionary spend lines for customer led organisations.

Regardless of title and scope, one thing is clear – the modern CMO must be left and right brain, be able to understand the language of business (data) but story tell too in the language of humans (emotions). They must be able to span from customer strategy, product, and end to end experience and the technology that underpins. Most importantly though, they need to be clear on role and remit of marketing with their peers to have any chance at success.

  1. Servant Marketing leadership (how not to get isolated)

When we talk then about clarifying role and remit, it may sound obvious, but there is only one place to start – the executive. In my favourite remarks from my week with CMO great Jim Stengel, he urged the attendees to check with their C-Suite peers “what they want from marketing before you define it for yourself…misalignment will be your undoing.”

Much is said about the short tenure of marketing executives (2.2-2.4 years) being linked to the creative nature of the CMO and their constant need for reinvention. This damaging and perhaps even condescending view ignores the underlying drivers of tenure.

As several speakers pointed out, key to success for the new CMO are their relationships across the executive suite, particularly after a period of delivery of the ‘new strategy’ (I.e. one year to write and build it, one year to execute and a few months to evaluate). Too many CMO’s are working in isolation under the belief that the other functions just ‘don’t get what marketing are doing’. If you take one thing from this piece – that attitude is the start of the end for the marketing leadership team.

Recent US data further supports this, indicating that only one in five CMOs appointed are coming from within the organisation. Often, the C-Suite is going back to the drawing board after only two years of new marketing leadership. Effective consultation and collaboration would minimise this risk for all executives.

CSO, CFO and CEO are still seen as the key relationships for the CMO, followed closely by the CTO. So how do CMOs avoid the two-year trap?

  • Genuinely listen – start by asking the executive, board, and CEO what they believe the role of marketing is, align them, then play it back. Once aligned, be empathetic, and open to sharing the metrics of the firm.
  • Pragmatism – we learnt CMO’s are seen as having the best mix of attributes to become CEO’s albeit for one gap, pragmatism. Choose your battles and understand internal context of customer and marketing before every key interaction.
  • Connection – we have written before that marketing can lead by not just driving growth but connecting all the functions behind the customer; Product, Supply Chain, Sales, Finance and Strategy, marketing can not only speak in a language these functions understand but also unite them behind the customer. As we all move toward to the adaptable (and agile) organisation, this connection will be more valuable than ever.
  1. But keep your edge – leading in beyond marketing 

“Show me a business that has soul and I show you a successful company. Marketing brings the soul”

More than ever, organisations need marketing to step up and bring creative solutions across the business.  We need to be considering how marketers can help with supply chain, sales, and employee experience challenges. How do we have the confidence to lean into the larger challenges across the organisation and operate collaboratively?

Supporting this idea, work by the Cannes Lions team showed exactly this – commercial creativity influenced (not owned) by the marketing function that created real commercial impact. The watch-out here of course is to beware of the lessons above – lean into the challenges of the business, try to bring creativity, and solve collaboratively, but be pragmatic; a puritanic and idealised drive for brand and creativity will not endear marketers to their collaborators. To influence, carefully consider your lexicon.

Marketers must stop thinking about the traditional siloed function and think about the end-to-end business. True impact will not be delivered through the marketing (or digital) function alone, the change makers for the next decade will reach across the organisation, connect its leaders, and solve the big problems together.

David Phillips – partner, and marketing transformation lead, Deloitte Digital; Adobe Alliance lead, Deloitte Australia


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