Over the last few years, marketing publications have reminded us countless times of the dangers of being a CMO, of which the most lamented was the role’s short-tenure. At the bottom of the corporate trough, the figure of 22 months was bandied about regularly. Research indicates that the number of months has risen slightly but by any measure, it’s still a short duration for any C-level role.
So what’s going on and should we be worried?
The last decade has indeed been tough for and on marketers. Here are some reasons:
- Technology complexity: With the myriad of new technologies and channels being introduced seemingly daily, the marketer has to double as a marketing technologist; further, the ground is always shifting underneath him or her given the birth and demise of new platforms to reach new audiences. If they fail to keep up with this ever-changing state, they are seen as “antiquated.”
- Budgets: Marketers have been asked to do more with less for years now. And despite best attempts, they cannot produce earth-shattering results with small staffs and few dollars; they are often released for underperforming.
- The role of marketing in general is under attack: There exists a large group of voices that suggest that marketing is an imprecise discipline. Build a good product, spend a little bit of money on “virality” and then you can avoid keeping a big marketing team, they say. This overhang affects the ability of marketers to develop the gravity they need within the organization.
None of these is particularly novel but all have created the tendency for CMOs to have to “look over their shoulders” too often, a distraction that can effect morale and performance.
There is another reason, though, that points towards a justification of these short-tenures: marketing campaign failure. In other words, CMOs are often let go when large and important campaigns get lackluster results: a new product launch being flubbed, a rebranding project failing to deliver results, and so on.
The sobering fact is that traditional marketing growth targets must be achieved or the CEO will ask the CMO to move-on.
So why is failure so easy and success so hard to come by?
Because until very recently, there was no way to get real-time feedback and deep data-driven insights before the marketing campaigns occur. In most of its forms, traditional marketing follows a linear, serial process. The marketer had an idea, they hired an agency, the agency built a creative treatment and handed the media component over to another division, the media agency purchased the media, the advertising runs and everyone waits hopefully for the results. Unfortunately, hope is not a strategy and when relying on it, we are often sorely disappointed and as a result CMOs are let-go because their crystal balls weren’t functioning.
No longer is this the case. In the social era, linearity gives way to seriality. With the social explosion afoot and copious social data being there in the ether, ready to be interpreted and acted on, marketers for the first time have a real-time laboratory with a constant data stream emanating from it. With the proper technology and the right team, they can interpret that real-time data and make mid-stream changes to campaigns so as to ensure success.
Social data is a boon for marketers. Real-time data-driven decisions, enabled by technology, have made the marketer’s job much more measureable and accountable
Here’s to longer tenures, more success, and armies of satisfied consumers!