Behind Every Good Brand, There’s a Great CMO: Why Marketing Minds are More Valuable Than Ever Before

By | Wednesday August 1st, 2012

A recent ladder-climb at Audi of America raised some eyebrows in the business world: The company’s Chief Marketing Officer, Scott Keogh, was promoted to CEO. But this wasn’t the first move along those same lines in the ever-competitive luxury auto space. Mercedes-Benz CEO, Steve Cannon was promoted from CMO to CEO earlier this year.

And it’s not just happening at car manufacturers, either. Companies like McDonald’s and Penn Mutual have seen similar transitions in their top offices.

Could we be seeing the start of an executive management trend?

Until recently, CMO to CEO would have been considered a fairly unusual career path, especially since many marketers are known for being a little myopic within management teams. Some might say that if it’s not good for the marketing department, CMOs don’t want to hear about it…and of course, any kind of tunnel vision can doom a company leader.  CEOs are expected to possess a broader perspective, a cross-departmental outlook to ensure every aspect of their operation is working in tandem while moving forward.

But in today’s business landscape, where CMOs are doubling their tenure and marketing is more integrated in the enterprise than ever before, it makes perfect sense that the person who

  • is tasked with establishing and maintaining the brand promise
  • acts as the primary advocate for the customer on the management team
  • understands the competitive playing field—and what the brand needs to do to stand out
  • has to respond to market forces with increasing agility
  • wrangles the stacks of big data indicating what customers really want
  • was the first to tackle the brave new world of digital and social media and figure out where their company needs to land in terms of platforms, strategy and voice

…would be a solid choice for an organization’s key leadership position.

After all, marketing is no longer a matter of creating campaigns and ads, and then pushing out messages. These days, marketing is the company, and the role of CMO now demands open eyes, ears, minds – all directed at developing and nurturing the omnichannel customer experience.

Audi chose to promote its head marketer because he is believed to have the best vision for the growth of the company’s American efforts, the division of Audi’s international operation seen as its primary “brand pillar.”  Clearly,  Audi realizes that without an explicit understanding of what needs to be said and done to differentiate your brand and create a uniquely valuable offering, any company stands to lose market share.

CMOs bring that knowledge to the table—and that’s precisely why we’re going to see more and more of them take their rightful place at the head of it.

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