You’re the CMO Now

Marketing has become too cross-disciplinary for one role. If you are a leader in your business, you’re the CMO

Are you a CMO? Another trick question – to which the answer is yes – if you have any sort of leadership [1] role in your business. 

At least according to Ad Age which says, more brands are ditching the CMO position.

Other leadership roles are filling that vacuum, taking on a more cross-disciplinary approach (examples cited: President of Brands, Chief Growth Officer, Chief Experience Officer, Chief Brand Officer, etc).

Ad Age is concerned with the bigger “brands” that fall somewhere between the Fortune 500 [2] behemoths and the top 10,000 funded startups [3].

That may not or may not be you – or you may not even sell products and services to companies on this list.

Regardless, it affects you and it means something for your business right now.

Consider the discussion points Ad Age has identified to help explain the disappearing CMO trend:

  •  “We’re at that tipping point where we’re trying to decide what marketing really means in this era” (Keith Johnston, Forrester)
  • The word “marketing” … no longer encompasses all that goes into building brands and growing revenue
  • CMO’s were all about outbound marketing … now it’s all about having a conversation with the customer being two-way
  • Marketing has become a balance of left-brain, right-brain. It’s no longer all about creative

A caveat: to some extent, this whole article is about “corporate governance” and business strategy – how do a board of directors and the CEO of enormous organizations design C-suite leadership roles like CMO? And more to the point – what does that mean for execs at big ad agencies that read Ad Age?

Interesting questions but not ones I’m concerned with.

But some of the problems Ad Age identifies here do apply to niche knowledge businesses, like yours and mine.

  • First of all, what the hell is marketing? Good question. I think everyone should make their own definition. Especially if you have decided you, “don’t like it” [4]
  • Whatever marketing is, it indeed requires a balance of the left and right brain
  • Outbound marketing kind of sucks (not always actually, but that’s for another email)
  • And as Seth Godin pointed out many years ago [5], marketing is now two-way

Hopefully, most of this is a given but it still requires careful contemplation as you allocate resources to growing your business.

But what’s most interesting to me about this article is this sentence: 

One reason some companies have moved away from CMOs is that the role, in some cases, lacks financial accountability.

I don’t know about you, but that’s a sentence I can relate to. Because I’m at least partly concerned with the financial aspect of marketing: will it result in more leads, more demand, higher prices, longer client relationships, a healthier financial future for my business?

If you’re a leader in your business, you’re the CMO now. [5.1]

And as CMO, you are responsible for original, ideas-driven marketing that creates financial benefits.

Ideation seems like an abstract concept, a luxury. It’s not – it’s subject to financial accountability.  At its core, marketing ideation is a profitability accelerator.  A way of surviving and – hopefully – thriving.

It’s how our Homo erectus grandparents started imagining technology (handaxes) when they looked at rocks [6].

If we know one thing for sure, it’s that marketing and business development has to eat, breathe, and sleep with (literally, in my view) a continuous supply of original ideas. And those ideas have to be pretty good or better. 

Congratulations on your new role as CMO!!

Here’s to sleeping with good ideas,




[1] I like Blair Enns’ off-the-cuff definition of leadership, “directing people to better versions of themselves …  the idea is the focus is entirely on the other person and helping them get to a more beautiful place”.

[2] it’s always interesting to look at trends here… did you know that the fourth biggest employer in the US is Yum China Holdings? It employs 435,000 people

[3] This is just the US… which may not be so useful. You can browse some of the data with a free account

[4] If you really don’t like marketing, try defining – and thinking of it – like this: teaching. Teach people what you do and how it can help them. Et voila, you’re marketing. (Seth Godin paraphrase)

[5] Permission Marketing is the cornerstone of inbound marketing, content strategy, and other ideas that define modern digital marketing. If you don’t have time to read the book,, try the blog post

[5.1] BTW, don’t tell me that you don’t know enough about marketing – because you’re talking about tactics and tools. NOBODY knows everything there is to know about marketing to tactics and tools. Every years, hundreds if not thousands of new tactics and tools enter the market. The question is whether you can teach people what you do and how it can help them transform.

[6] One of the joys of living in London was getting to see in person one of the most disruptive technology innovations ever, the lower paleolithic handaxe