Chief Marketing Officers Gaining Momentum As Business Game Changers

September 23, 2016 – Many view Amazon as the most recent talent raiding case in point. The company is seen as a breeding ground for innovative talent — and hanging on to people has created a logistical nightmare for Jeff Bezos, the company’s CEO. In one recent raid, Chicago-based DHR International lured Amazon’s head of worldwide mass and brand marketing to sports clothing and accessories client Under Armour as its newly minted chief marketing officer (CMO).

As business becomes more global and complex, and power shifts from producers of goods and services to consumers, a CMOs responsibility of planning and coordinating an organization’s marketing activities has become much more challenging, according to recruiters specializing in the function.

In the following interview, Christine DeYoung, a partner at DHR International, and Kim Whitler, PHD of University of Virginia Darden School of Business, discuss general trends within the CMO function that they gleaned from recent research culled from a survey of executive recruiters representing 19 different firms — including boutiques, mid-sized outfits, and large generalists.


Why are chief marketing officers in such high demand today?

Today’s CMO works with the CEO to accelerate the organization and drive transformation. CMOs also collaborate with other members of the C-suite, especially with a company’s top HR executive to shape the company brand. As such, chief marketing executives are gaining rapidly in stature and influence in the C-suite.

Where do you find the best marketing talent?

According to our study, the companies that have reputations for developing the best C-level marketers tend to come from big, global, marketing-academy training companies, like Procter & Gamble and Pepsico. The importance of marketing — and therefore the role that marketers play within companies — varies significantly. Consequently, the best talent comes from companies that: 1) have a systematic approach to training that has been proven over time to develop strategic, P&L marketers; 2) place marketers at the center of the strategic decision making table (as opposed to on the periphery; 3) operate in highly competitive industries where marketers hone their skills to compete; and 4) have sufficient budgets so that marketers have the opportunity to test, learn, and improve. There frankly aren’t a lot of companies that do all of this well.

Why are executive recruiters the ideal partners for companies looking for marketing talent? Can’t corporate in-house search teams do this themselves?

Executive recruiters have a unique perspective that makes them ideally suited to understand the skills needed in C-level marketing roles. To be a true valued partner to our clients, it is our job as recruiters to understand how different career paths can develop different skills and competencies in executives. Executive recruiters have a birds-eye view and can compare companies across industries. This provides us with a unique vantage point from which to identify the companies that develop the top C-level marketing leaders.

What’s sort of training regimen produces academy CMOs? 

We have seen, not through the research, but instead through the level of strategic thinking and business impact, the CMO’s that have training across a general management approach (versus pure marketing levers). In other words, the best CMO’s often were at a training ground where ‘marketing or category management’ were at the hub of the wheel. This allowed them to learn how all aspects of marketing are driven, effected and collaborated across all functions of the company and then these CMO’s understand the total P&L and the impact the marketing can have (price, positioning, placement, packaging etc.) The best companies tend to put marketers in strategic roles, rather than marketing communication roles. In some industries, marketers are relegated to communicating the strategic innovations led by others. In the best companies, marketers are in the driver’s seat in terms of developing the direction for innovation. This is a big difference. The former tends to prepare marketers to be communicators while the latter prepares marketers for the C-suite.

Do academy companies, in essence, make themselves vulnerable to talent raiding?

Yes. But this isn’t always bad. Consider consulting firms. They plan for consultants leaving, in some cases, to join clients. The benefit of placing a consultant at a client is that the ex-employee may be more likely to hire the consulting firm in the future. In the case of P&G, for example, they have leveraged their ‘alumni’ database to source solutions to unique problems. They hold global alumni meetings and tap into the broad network of past employees as needed. So while they may lose valuable employees to other companies, they have found a way to stay connected with alumni to leverage them as needed.

Contributed by Dale M. Zupsansky, Managing Editor, Hunt Scanlon Media and Scott A. Scanlon, Editor-in-Chief, Hunt Scanlon Media

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