New MO for the CMO

New MO for the CMO

By Adam Hillier

In a rapidly changing world, the Chief Marketing Officer (CMO) needs to ensure their organisation remains relevant and competitive. This demands new ways of working – essentially a fresh modus operandi.

We have spoken to leading CMOs from a range of sectors, and distilled their views into seven key factors:

    • Greater company-wide influence

Many CMOs see a tangible shift in the breadth of the position, with greater involvement in business decisions. One global fashion retailer CMO believes strategic decisions are becoming more values-led, centred around clear brand purpose and linked to growth and loyalty. This proposition requires the CMO to be the brand guardian, to actively input into company-wide decisions, and to take full responsibility for the customer experience.

    • Partnerships, acquisitions and alliances

Partnerships are becoming more important to the CMO’s agenda. Faced with a landscape that is constantly changing, CMOs need to harness specialist capabilities to complement and enhance their offering. The emergence of incubator divisions (focused on new ventures, start-ups and VC-backed organisations) to help with commerce or tech related challenges is gaining traction. The CMO needs to be progressive, embrace these conversations, think laterally, and above all connect.

    • Commerciality

ROI and spend is becoming higher profile quarter by quarter. CMOs need to create compelling business cases, justify spend and demonstrate support for long term objectives. Indeed, what we are seeing is a blurring of the lines between content and commerce: where does sales stop and marketing start? Mars Incorporated, for example, has combined the role of Chief Customer Officer and Chief Marketing Officer into one highly commercial position in order to leverage global opportunities.

    • Data and analytics

One CMO identified data and analytics as the most fundamental change to the role in the last five years. Where customers are at the heart of an organisation, CMOs are deploying insight programmes such as research panels and Net Promoter Scores to drive advocacy, sentiment and awareness levels. Whilst there is no shortage of metrics, the trick lies in identifying those that are most relevant for your context. A Marketing Lead for a global coffeehouse chain highlighted the importance of using data to create personal relationships with particular customer subsets. The CMO therefore needs to figure out the best way to deploy data in a way that is both persuasive to the business, and also crucially, acceptable to the customer.

    • Digitisation and customer communication

The exponential growth in advertising and communication channels has created increased complexity for marketers. It has caused CMOs to rethink their relationships with brands such as Google and Snapchat, beyond the traditional means of customer acquisition and towards more innovative ways to build relationships (and reduce reliance on specific platforms). The former CMO of a global enterprise argues that organisations need to get better at communication and create a genuine two-way conversation. This in turn requires an understanding of the consumers’ path to purchase, combined with a nimble model to access them. CMOs need to engage consumers in the creation phase and curate brands, content and products that sell. Increased global connectivity means the brand promise needs to be compelling and that the product/service offering must be delivered consistently every time, across all touch points.

    • Technology

Irrespective of the industry, the need to navigate effectively in the digital age has raised the importance of a CMO’s technical competence and credibility. In many cases, it has resulted in a much closer relationship with the Chief Technology Officer. We think it unlikely that marketing will ultimately morph into a pure CTO role (at least in larger companies) but contributing constructively to technology-related decisions will be essential. The Group CMO for a major frozen food company believes that marketing has experienced a rebirth with digitalisation and the explosion of media, necessitating cross-functional working and relationships with IT never previously imagined. Through proactively forging these relationships CMOs can realise further opportunities and drive competitive advantage.

    • The orchestrator

Marketing drives company performance more than ever before. This places the CMO in the spotlight for decisions, information and performance and requires them to be both top and bottom line focused. Marketers need to understand ROI and the core elements of finance – such that contemporary CMOs need to master the quantitative elements of the role yet retain their flair and innovative instincts. At root, they must orchestrate and enable through others.


CMOs need to build their team capability by identifying, attracting and blending all these essential ingredients to maximise performance. They must work closely with other leaders to help define organisational strategy, and associated investment and resource decisions. They need to be on the front foot, connected to today’s and tomorrow’s consumer base.

Is creativity as important as it used to be? Will AI and AR mean that human imaginative input can be replaced with something cheaper? All these questions will play out over the coming years. One thing is clear however, the best CMOs will proactively develop their MO to ensure they and their organisations remain relevant, progressive and value-adding.

In our next article (Building marketing capability for the future) we explore how these changes have influenced the talent agenda in marketing and how organisations might go about acquiring and developing these crucial skills. For a discussion about any aspect of leadership, please contact Adam Hillier on 0203 940 6446 or email

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