The ‘death of the CMO’ is more clickbait than forecast

Ashley Regan
By Ashley Regan | 15 August 2022
Source: Sabina Music Rich via Unsplash

Reports of the death of the CMO may have been exaggerated.

Spencer Stuart’s annual CMO tenure study shows the average CMO tenure was 40 months, the lowest in more than a decade. Their bosses, the CEOs, are staying in their roles more than twice as long.

The news headlines generated from the study included:

However, the study's sample size only included the top 100 advertisers in the US. A lot of other chief marketers out there. What about the rest?

An Australian version of the study suggested the same. The State of the CMO annual reported that the average CMO tenure shows “a sizable decline”. 2022’s average is two years and five months, down from three years and two months in 2021.

The report noted, however, that only “29% of respondents stated their job title as ‘chief marketing officer’.” 

Instead when looking at the 2021 Forbes’ world’s most influential CMOs list, more than 40% of CMO's have been with the same company for more than four years.

And among the world’s most admired companies? Their CMOs have an average tenure of nearly 50 months and counting.

Catherine Zaharias, chief marketing officer at TRAVLR, told AdNews: “The brutal headlines are intriguing and feed our human desire for drama. 

“Plus these articles often end in either viral social debates and/or rage sharing amongst mates - always good for those CPMs.”

“Taking away the CMO is like taking away the head chef. Sure, you’ve got great ingredients and really good cooks, maybe even an incredible sous chef. But if you lose that holistic viewpoint and overarching strategist, something’s going to burn!”

AdNews asked some of Australia's CMOs if the tenure reduction claims reflect their own experience and if they are worried about their position dying off.

The majority were not concerned and most believe that as long as there are customers, brands will need a CMO. 

Although the title may change, the fundamental responsibilities of the c-suite role will always remain. 

Vanessa Lyons, ThinkNewsBrands general manager, who previously held the CMO role for several brands including Wilson Parking: “Overall, I wouldn’t say the requirements of the role have expanded – rather the perceptions and understanding of what a CMO does/delivers have evolved (for the better) and are now much more aligned.

“CMOs have always had a broad remit. They have always been the key linchpin for a business in terms of knowing the customer - their profile, their pain points and their future needs. 

“Whether it's enhancing customer experience, developing and introducing a new product/service, or nailing a USP and brand position in-market, representing and being the voice of the customer has always been a key part of the marketing function. 

“CMOs have also always needed to have strong commercial capability – both operationally and financially. Always having to deliver margin and revenue growth, whether through campaign initiatives or new products/services or portfolio management efforts. 

“There are not too many projects or initiatives in a business that don’t require marketing as a core team member – even internal initiatives.But while the remit hasn’t changed, the way the role is performed has evolved.

“Martech stacks, for example, now support the role with greater speed, providing data and insights that can empirically validate a customer’s behaviour and needs, thereby arming CMOs with the support they need to drive change within an organisation. 

“So while the title and how it’s conveyed internally and externally may have shifted, the core table stake requirements of the role remain and should be here to stay – commercially and customer-driven; invested and balanced across the long and short term.”

Karl Winther, chief marketing officer, Kogan: “It's curious that we would be debating the future of the CMO. Would we ask if the CFO has a future? 

“I see all roles in the c-suite continuing to evolve in terms of the requirements and responsibilities but I don't think the CMO will cease to exist.

“No two CMO roles are identical based on the nature and the structure of an organisation. The core of the role is being the voice of the customer, the custodian for the brand and driving growth in the short and long term. 

“There will always be the requirement for a combination of individuals to look after all aspects of the four Ps, not just the CMO, although the CMO is vital to the coordination and integration of these aspects.

“In the future, I don't see the core responsibilities of the CMO role going anywhere different from where it has been. 

“What has changed and will continue to is the way the job is executed - the tactics and tools will continue to evolve as they have done since the role began.”

Vijay Solanki, chief marketing officer, Sinorbis: “​It's the constant evolution of the CMO that matters, as it's a pretty Darwinian role and driven by external factors - from the economy through to social & cultural trends through to technology. 

“So, this means that CMOs that are good need to understand technology as well as the cultural zeitgeist.

“Every day, the CMO needs to show the CEO that they can grow the company and that they have worked out the levers to pull. Those that can, will flourish.

“However, as we go hard into economic headwinds, CMOs will need to demonstrate stronger commercial prowess.

“The CMOs that can defend brand building investment and who show the commercial upside of brand will increase their tenure.”

Francis Coady, chief marketing officer, Havas Media Australia: “Every agency or brand should have someone acting as a brand custodian, like a CMO. 

“Agencies need a person who drives a unified, clear position to market that can help engage, secure, and retain clients and the talent that services those clients. 

“On the brand side, the custodian needs to engage, secure, and keep customers and the staff to service them accordingly. 

Claire Williams, head of marketing for the Premium Content Alliance: “The CMO is the only person in the c-suite thinking about the needs of the customer. 

“Fundamentally, the CMO is still responsible for creating and driving demand which is critical in a branded business as it heads towards its vision.

“The CMO role has changed to be left and right brain: how creativity and technology form the perfect package to connect with a customer in ways that delight them and generate demand, through the array of customer touchpoints.”

Catherine Zaharias at TRAVLR: “The CMO role is essential to the marketing function and long-term success of a business. 

“Without a CMO, it leads to a dysfunctional approach to achieving business goals and a hyper-focus on specialist areas which, stand-alone, cannot function long-term without a clearly integrated and overarching strategy.

“While martech and digital ad solutions clearly offer efficiencies and quick wins, the CMO is often the one connecting the dots between the customer, the market and the business itself, in a way that makes good commercial sense and leads to short and long-term success.

“Power lies in the sum of all parts and only the CMO has command of this. I believe the CMO role is set to become more important than ever, particularly in today’s continually changing landscape.

“I definitely don’t hear as much about the CMO as I used to but I think that shift is more to do with optics than anything else. Businesses and professionals are afraid to be perceived as being ‘behind the times’, so they follow suit.”

Have something to say on this? Share your views in the comments section below. Or if you have a news story or tip-off, drop us a line at

Sign up to the AdNews newsletter, like us on Facebook or follow us on Twitter for breaking stories and campaigns throughout the day.

comments powered by Disqus