Evolving from Chief Miracle Officer

A few weeks ago I had an interesting conversation with Todd Wasserman of BRANDWEEK about the evolving role of the CMO. Todd’s insightful article appeared this week in both ADWEEK and BRANDWEEK and included a few quotes from yours truly which he interpreted as complaints. Since my thoughts were more observations than laments, I figured I’d post my notes from our conversation:

The CMO has evolved from Chief Miracle Officer to Chief Minutia Officer. The CMO used to be charged with creating a marketing miracle, finding that magical ad campaign that would have a multiplier effect on awareness, excite the trades and ultimately drive sales. If the CMO couldn’t deliver such a campaign either he/she or the agency lost their jobs and replacements were found. Just about every CMO wanted a mass media brand-building campaign like the Aflac Duck or the Geico Gecko.

Then along came Google complete with truly measurable results and tectonic plates of marketing started to shift. Suddenly CMO’s were emboldened to say “I only want to do what produces measurable results” and the super savvy ones had a dashboard with real time information from search clicks to web traffic to online buzz to 800# calls to retail sales. Jim Garrity, the former CMO of Wachovia was on the forefront of this trend, studying all the data points with unrelenting passion. Business Week profiled Garrity back in 2006 and noted he “sounds like a man who never met a data point he didn’t like” and “Garrity and those like him are quietly reworking the advertising mix of the American corporation.”

This new kind of CMO is less interested in the monumental and more in the incremental, seeking a steady diet of singles and doubles over the infrequent but more showy grand slam. This is not necessarily a bad thing either. The more metrics that a client has in place the more likely that an agency can prove that what it does for the client actually works. It also means that the CMO has a better chance of keeping his/her job for more than 24 months. CFO’s are far more likely to increase the budget if the business case is there to justify such an increase. This methodical approach also dovetails nicely with the current “make more out of less” economy.

For the record, I applaud this new kind of CMO since they make sure marketing aligns with sales and the metrics for success are clear from the beginning.  Without these two factors in place, it will take more than a miracle for even the best of agencies to build a successful partnership.

4 thoughts on “Evolving from Chief Miracle Officer

  1. Hey Drew. Miracle may be too lofty but Minutia is certainly too lowly. Incremental gains by tweaking tactics (measure thrice cut once) is not the job of an officer. Officers should be leading the strategy and pushing its bounds. I applaud the new kind of CMO for understanding and dabbling in the new tools, but would encourage him/her to plan for strategic rather than tactical success.

  2. Steve–thanks for your comments and I agree that both Miracle and Minutia are problematic hyperbole. Finding the happy medium between the two sounds good to me.

  3. Drew:

    As I continue to read pieces like this about our profession, I find it interesting how quickly writers at BrandWeek and other publications are point to the marginalization of Marketing. Yes, as you also note, we’ve made our mistakes (i.e., we have failed to invest the time and energy required for the “marketing of marketing” within our own organizations, in some instances we’ve ceded our leadership of strategy to other functions within the firm, etc.) However, Marketing and CMOs have never been in more demand in the C-suite… and the data proves it.

    Specifically, Penn State researchers Raj Grewal and Rui Wang recently analyzed the prevalence of the CMO position. Although their analysis reveals that the CMO position still does not exist in most publicly-traded companies, an increasing number of firms they studied appear to have been creating CMO positions. Assuming CEOs are rational actors, this data seems to quantitatively contradict suggestions that marketing’s seat in the C-suite is in question (the full analysis can be read in the current volume of The CMO Journal available at http://www.ChiefMarketingOfficer.com).

    I believe the transition from “Miracle to Minutia” is simply a shake out of agency-reared marketing execs that are highly skilled in right-brain cognition, but lack the left-brain rigor required by the role in the new millennium (which can certainly be minutia). So, to bottom line it: Your right, but we need to frame the transition in the proper context. And, while BrandWeek can (mis)interpret your words into a negative story that sells more rags at the newsstand, the boring (data-derived) truth is that the CMO role has momentum.

    Thanks for providing this forum…

    W.L. Koleszar
    Editor, The CMO Journal

  4. Thank you so much for your well-considered thoughts. I agree with you on all fronts. Despite my press-friendly quotes that could be interpreted otherwise, I do believe that the CMO role is invaluable and good ones will always be in high demand. After 30 years in this business, I can tell you with certainty that great CMOs get great work out of their agencies and the inverse is also true. At Renegade we are always thrilled to meet a CMO with a clear mandate and the support of his/her CEO. It is in these circumstances that we can truly cut through together.

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