Another CMO Bites the Dust…

Lisa Bongiovanni

I don’t mean to sound so crass, but I feel like we’re living Groundhog Day over and over and over again.

The Fortune 500 companies we all know and look up to for the iconic worldwide branding and 30 second Super Bowl ad spots that get us all talking about how fun advertising are pointing fingers at their CMOs, and giving them a swift kick right to the kiester out the door.

In case you didn’t hear, another supergiant in the retail beverage space has parted ways with Chief Marketing Officer. Last week, MillerCoors announced they are letting go of their CMO, David Kroll at the end of the month. Surprise surprise, this is after continued market share declines for the beer maker. Having been born and raised just a mile from the Golden, Colorado Coors Brewing headquarters, this brand is close to my heart. Although my tastes have evolved to the alcoholic goodness provided by Colorado’s craft beer scene, I still want to see Coors grow and kick the crap out of Bud.

Beer giant feuds aside, what do I mean by another?

In case you had forgotten, the planet’s most recognizable brand did the same move just last summer and it shocked the world. We’re of course talking about Coke letting go of their CMO Marcos de Quinto after nearly four decades with the company.

Although Coke didn’t explicitly blame Marcos for falling revenues (global sales fell from $48 billion in 2012 to $44.3 billion in 2016), we all know that the boardroom blame game happened and the management shakeup was, in part, driven by declining revenues.

In this case, though, there was one significant difference.

Enter the Chief Growth Officer

Instead of replacing Marcos, Coke created a Chief Growth Officer role and assigned more responsibility to the new recruit to ensure they didn’t have another failing year.

So did Coors follow the same formula? Of course not. Surprise, suprise, they’re “ looking for a new CMO to take bold action to optimize our brand portfolio, with an urgent focus on turning around Coors Light’s performance and capturing more growth in above premium,” said the MillerCoors CEO defending his decision. Sounds like the same old formula to me with a new face to point fingers at.

Now, I know what you’re thinking: same role, different title. Who really cares what we call it? Not quite.

In case you hadn’t noticed, we’re really big on Growth Marketing at CleverFunnel and we reject most of the notions of traditional marketing. Growth Marketing implies a much more holistic view of the funnel than traditional marketing. So what’s a Chief Growth Officer responsible for that a Chief Marketing Officer wasn’t? I can’t speak for Coke specifically but in our world, a Chief Growth Officer has a much bigger role than a CMO and it includes the FULL FUNNEL, from awareness to cultivation to sales, and in some cases, even retention.

Coke isn’t the first huge brand to see the light and make this change. In 2015, Kellogg appointed a Chief Growth Officer that assumed the responsibility of global sales and marketing. Just before Coke made their change, Hershey announced they had hired Mary Beth West as their Chief Growth Officer. So what do all of these new positions have in common? They each oversee not only marketing, but sales as well, all with a “Growth Team”.

Sorry Gretchen, we’re making the CGO happen.

Is the CMO role dead?

The CMO role is not quite dead, but it’s certainly been on life support for some time now. For years, it’s been reported that the CMO’s longevity is continuing to decline as has been for some time.

The role of the CMO has been quite unstable, to say the least, for years. A 2017 study reported by the Wall Street Journal found that the average tenure for a CMO fell to 42 months in 2016, down from 44 months in 2015.

And it’s not about to stop anytime soon. Forrester is reporting this is a trend that will continue next year. “In 2018, we expect CMOs to fall under even more pressure to drive growth — or step aside while someone else takes the reins.” Ah, there’s that word again — GROWTH! 

So basically taking a role as a CMO in 2018 is equivalent to putting your head in the company guillotine and just waiting for the blade to drop.

If all the CPG brands are doing this, why do we still see job post after job post looking for the unicorn CMO? This is simply baffling. With the exception of the few examples I mentioned, companies big and small are still hiring CMOs with the same tired old and frankly useless job descriptions.

Now, we’re all familiar with the definition of insanity… Why do we keep hiring CMOs with the same skills, tactics and approaches and expect them to make some significant difference without changing literally anything else about the position, accountability or otherwise?

Over a decade ago Fast company even reported that the CMO position was the riskiest job in the American C-suite. They’re not wrong. 

Step aside crab men, CMOs have the riskiest jobs now!

Jason Lemkin said it best: “Hire the Right Type of VP Marketing — Or You’ll Just End Up With a Bunch of Blue Pens with Your Logo On Them.” Simply put, there are two types of marketers and the outcome you get from them is VERY different.

So, if you’re head of marketing for any company, what should you do (other than always keep your resume up to date) to secure your tenure as a valuable member of the leadership team? Two words: PRODUCE REVENUE.

Get your team, campaigns, strategies and everything you have in your marketing arsenal aligned to produce verified company profits. Get ready for the accountability and reap the rewards of the praise when you pull off revenue growth for the company.

Not sure if you’re on the growth marketing path? Give us a shout and we’ll give it to you straight, and give you a kick in the tuchus in the right direction to make sure you’re on the growth marketing track.

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