A recent CMO.com column by Thomas Yang, Why More Marketers Are Taking the CEO Reins is a thoughtful piece about what may be a new trend in corporate America. It offers solid insight and should open the eyes of corporate boards everywhere.

But I don’t see the move from CMO to CEO as a trend: not yet. Those few who’ve made this rare transition are distinctive. But look closely at the companies who’ve moved CMO to CEO. Audi, Gilte Group, and Ruby Tuesday are all consumer product companies.

CMOs in this industry are ahead of the game, rapidly diving into the Big Data pool and truly understanding that Marketing is about creating and sustaining relationships—relationships manifested in sales. They have resources and data—lots of it—and deploy it to create insight into consumers to drive financial success.

I’m currently working with a CMO in the consumer products industry who is destined for the top office. This person has:

• Led marketing for a multi-billion dollar name brand company with a $300M marketing budget and 300-person staff
• Implemented the company’s first CRM system with a 5-15% ROI
• Consistently delivered 6% sales growth for three years
• Created new multicultural marketing programs that generated 8% revenue growth among Hispanic consumers.
• Mentored multiple members of senior leadership including the current CEO

An impressive track record by any measure. But this person’s peers in B2B, Manufacturing, and other industries aren’t there yet. Generally, their margins are thin; marketing departments less robust; and the competition is either far more concentrated or highly price sensitive.

How can these CMOs seize this newfound trend?

I have five key recommendations for making the jump from CMO to CEO:

• Understand, embrace, and deploy your data
• Blend insightful technology with management insight
• Integrate to reduce costs and strengthen your competitive hand
• Ensure that Marketing objectives clearly drive company objectives with measurable impact
• Move beyond brand management to customer engagement

Follow these five objectives and you may soon be decorating a new office in the C-Suite.


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