Growth Insights for CEOs

80% of CEOs Have Lost Trust in Their Marketers

Posted by The Chief Outsider

The following blog is Part II to my recent blog Over 70% of CMOs failed to deliver expected real ROI for their efforts in 2013 

The breadth of discontent among companies with their marketing begs a further look at the why? How have CMOs become less well regarded than say their IT peers, who have something in the neighborhood of a 50% success rating for their projects? Why is the role of the CMO oftentimes the most precarious in the c-suite? Why are 80% of CEOs unhappy with their marketing talent? The consensus seems to be skill level. While many marketers are strong in one or two or even more areas across the board, strength in both left and right brain functions is rare. And oftentimes, the lure of a good creative can be seductive to a CEO, but at the expense of solid business acumen, disappointment is a sure thing. Few marketers have the finance, technical or operations knowledge to effectively lead business modeling, strategy, and positioning as well as marketing functions such as operations and technology, so instead focus on the ‘softer’ or more tactical aspects of the role.


This being the case, why do CEOs of growth oriented firms continue to hire marketing leads who are not skilled, trained or knowledgeable about the very measures they gate them on? Why is there a continued draw towards Marketing Communications or “Creatives” for the CMO role instead of market and business savvy strategists?

Oftentimes, the awareness of what marketing should be doing for the business is just not there, or if it is there, is not met by the available candidate pool – those needles can be hard to find.  Another challenge we see is companies promoting from within. With their limited knowledge of the scope of the Marketing discipline or what it should be expected to deliver in terms of bottom line results, CEOs oftentimes tap staff who have been successful in other disciplines and can ‘pick up Marketing’. 

The end result is an acceptance of a limited role for marketing, and a limited ability to capitalize on Market forces that could promote growth and deliver the return on investment that CEOs are more and more assuming as a baseline for all operations within their firms, which is what neither the CEO or the marketer wants. 

A previously unheard of phenomenon was seen when Steve Cannon assumed the role of CEO of Mercedes Benz USA – he came from the CMO role. In years past, the role of marketing devolved to running ad campaigns, targeting customers and brand stewardship and there were many marketers who could manage that scope. But for the CMOs who go beyond that limited field and become partners with the CEO, defining product, corporate and business strategy, they become business leaders and growth accelerators, driving the company to strategic long term thinking and measureable results. For these CMOs, their business savvy plus strategic innovation create the ideal mix to take the company to the next level. 

However, as the CMO skillset evolves to include more business strategy and acumen, the core of the Marketing discipline remains critical to CEOs. According to, CEOs want ten things from their CMO:

  1. A Focused Financial Steward – soft benefits are no longer enough
  2. A Data Analyst – understandable metrics and fact based decision making
  3. A Dedicate Brand Steward – the keeper of the corporate reputation
  4. A Business Strategist – a ‘seat-at-the-table’ business partner
  5. A Consistent Innovator – the kind that pumps up the top line
  6. A Customer Whisperer – who can tell the CEO what the customers want before they even know
  7. A Social Media Maven – they don’t know what they want, but they know it’s integral to the business
  8. A Capable Crisis Manager – someone who can differentiate ‘noise’ from ‘intelligence’
  9. A Customer Advocate – the voice of the customer among competing priorities
  10. A Motivator in Chief – someone who can anoint all stakeholders as ‘brand advocates’

A difficult blend of tactical and strategic, business and creative. In Part III of this series, we will get some insights into how CEOs in growth oriented companies can optimize their marketing function, the role and the talent and avoid falling into the 80% of company leaders who have lost faith in their marketers. 


Topics: Chief Marketing Officer, CEO Choices