There is nothing easy that comes with the title of Chief Marketing Officer (CMO) these days. There is no executive restroom key out there that could somehow make up for the very real and present challenges facing marketing teams, and more important their leader.


Let’s first address the gigantic balls of steel possessed by anyone who presents a strategic marketing plan that includes the use of so many untested and unmeasured digital marketing tactics.

While the company CEO and CFO can lean on strategies that have had decades to prove themselves out, CMO’s often find themselves pitching an idea they saw on YouTube, or an interesting marketing spin an affiliate marketer was using.  You know, that discussion about “How to use the mobile app Snapchat effectively” has happened around the world in just about every business vertical.

What data we do know about these new technologies and marketing strategies is that CMO’s that use them every day are winning.


The fear that most CMO’s have expressed to me has been the need to embrace everything out there for fear of missing the boat. “Mike, do we need to do Pinterest and Instagram because seriously they look like the same thing to the CEO?” CMO’s have to determine not only the right strategy, but also do so without fragmenting their already shrinking budget. While it’s easy for manufacturing to “do one thing and do it well” we ask marketing teams to do “everything well”.  The CMO has to carefully balance their available dollars against ALL of these digital and traditional marketing opportunities, and then explain the often conceptual “why” to their CEO and CFO.


These knights of innovation are the guys who have to offer up strategies on changing the brand identity of the company, sometimes taking a stalwart brand and making it look cool again. Can you even imagine the hotly debated discussions on engagement of younger generations to buy an Oldsmobile?  Or the CMO genius over at Kimberly-Clark who reshaped the marketing of an entire product category (feminine products) over the past 6 years.

Agents of Change

A tough task, especially as manager of a stodgy brand, is that of ‘agent of change’ for the company. Changing a sales dynamic, embracing new technologies and deviating from the strategies that worked so well for so long.

CMO’s are asking the question. “How do I deliver this new message, within a change-averse culture and bedrock management system of belief?” making the statement “I feel stymied at every turn. I know what has to be done, but cannot (obviously) force the issue.”

Take the Hill

Easier said than done most of the time, is to broad-stroke these marketing strategies into the organization. Sweeping changes within the marketing department without the buy-in of your CEO and CFO are either signs of bravery, blind confidence or sheer desperation. And based on my experiences within the executive level, all three of these actions may subject the CMO to termination of employment. Bravery is rarely a good sign as the CMO takes chances with a brand that the CEO and Board of Directors believe belongs to them. Blind confidence (also known as stupidity) may guide a CMO to strategize within a closed system, cutting off major supply lines of thought leadership and planning. And finally desperation is the act of a CMO who knows his days are numbered and any strategy that “moves the needle” would simply lengthen the fuse.

Actually Communicate

Self-preservation really is a great quality. It’s undervalued only in those scenes in action movies when people jump out of the airplanes or run into a hailstorm of bullets. The hero always exits nearly unscathed due to mostly dumb luck. Never being an advocate of dumb luck, the best course to take as a CMO would be to accurately, and effectively communicate with your CEO and CFO about business strategies and course of action you see before you. Let them know for instance that while you may have “high confidence” in a particular tactic, that you are constantly tweaking and revisiting it to re-evaluate its use.

And then as David Dalka proffers in Fearless Revival; cut out all that stupid business jargon and industry buzzword use that get in the way of effective action.

“Change in the digital era plays havoc with marketing department functionality. Large, leveraged professional services firms often abuse trusted relationships. The good news is that with a few small changes there can be significant, positive improvements.” – David Dalka from Fearless Revival

You probably know them. Words like “engagement”, “synergy”, “exposures” and of course “forward-thinking”. We all want to aspire to have lots of all of that right? And the team members that bring “win-win, value-added” XYZ to the table are the ones killing it. Or are they? These and other business buzzwords often confuse objectives, misinform, and actually decrease clarity.

Teamwork should be your Jargon

Simple idea. In our minds-eye we think of the word Teamwork and conjure up contractors building a home, or football players in a huddle, or manufacturing workers quality checking a differential on the shop floor.

We rarely consider the CXO class as “a Team” and honestly it’s really a difficult task to consider them as such. These 3-5 individuals operate business units with far flung capabilities and team cultures, each having to meet and exceed defined business objectives, while serving the same master (Board of Directors/shareholders). One trait that you will find within all companies that are operating at maximum efficiency, and with high levels of revenue is that their C-level executives communicate, and they do so effectively. While they might not always agree, the CMO is really just looking for his/her C-level partners to listen, understand and trust their ideas and strategies.

Interested in learning how to bring your C-level executives to the table and encourage them to embrace your digital strategies? Contact us for help.


The post The Raw Deal CMO’s Get Dealt, and Turning those Tables appeared first on Bash Foo.