Chief Marketing Officer

Tom Dougherty, CEO – Stealing Share

24 June 2019

Stop eliminating the chief marketing officer

There’s a damaging trend developing in the marketing departments of major companies. The elimination of the chief marketing officer role.

Johnson & Johnson represents just the latest company to decide, oh, what the hell. We don’t need no stinkin’ chief marketing officer. Alison Lewis, hired to be the CMO in 2013, departs with J&J having no plans to replace her.

chief marketing officerThe company, instead, says it will split the CMO duties among “other leaders in the organization.”

Others are following suit. Lyft splits the duties of a chief marketing officer between its vice president of marketing operations and vice president of brand. Uber is considering the same.

What gives? The simple answer is that some brands see the CMO as superfluous with so many marketing executives in house. They no doubt also think this is the way to foster accountability across the entire marketing team.

“The role of a chief marketing officer is to make the final decision on themes, execution, positioning and messaging that reflects the vision of that CMO. Brand positioning by committee reflects the vision of no one.”

A chief marketing officer gives you accountability and vision

Will it work? Hell no. Bacardi tried the no chief marketing officer route in 2015, only to scrap it and re-introduce the CMO role last year.

Barcadi found out what Lyft and possibly Uber will soon discover. That no one builds monuments to committees. Often, the largest problem for companies, big or small, is that they’re always trying to reach consensus. But that’s how you end up with safe decision-making, soft messaging and brands that fall back into trite positioning.

It’s also how you reach inertia.

That’s not to say there isn’t collaboration with a CMO. But without someone in charge, vanilla becomes the norm because no one is empowered to make a decision. In effect, what happens is a form of a focus group. You get average and maybe good. But never great.

You need a decision maker. The role of a chief marketing officer is to make the final decision on themes, execution, positioning and messaging that reflects the vision of that CMO. Brand positioning by committee reflects the vision of no one.

Think of it this way. Brand positioning is most effective when it defines who it is for and, most importantly, not for. For companies eliminating the chief marketing officer position altogether, they believe they will now be for everybody. When, in reality, they’ll be for no one.

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