Have CMOs lost the ownership of marketing?


There was a time when all CMOs were at the vanguard of the business and management. However, marketing has lost much of its luster. As technology radically alters the way people interact and buy, many marketers find their roles reshaped and marginalised.

A study done by Forrester found that marketing’s scope is contracting. In companies, marketing leads marketing communications activities such as advertising and social media in more than 80% of the cases. However, marketers seldom take a leadership role in business-critical activities such as CRM (40%), revenue growth (33%), or new products (23%).


The study found that many senior marketers expressed frustration about how the discipline had been marginalised and seen more as sales support. Others distanced themselves from the CMO title and its “perception that we are the people who make ads and go to fancy parties,” said the report.

Marketing teams also saw a shift away from the epicenter of the business that drives growth and value. Marketing as we knew it to be in the past is now unrecognisable; its lexicon is replete with previously unheard-of terms like real-time bidding (RTB) and robotic process automation (RPA). The change we are witnessing is not just about marketing; it is reshaping business priorities. Topics such as marketing technology, first-party data, and cookie deprecation were on the board of directors’ agenda and marketers who cannot pivot to embrace data, analytics, and technology see peers such as chief digital officers supplant their contribution.

Overall, the study said the CMO’s influence is waning. As marketing contracts and falls out of step with the technology innovations reshaping the discipline, the importance of its leader diminishes.

When asked which of their C-suite members the CEO considers critical, only 19% pick the CMO. In contrast, 57% choose the CFO, and 56% the COO.

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Winning back the influence

There are few bright spots during a pandemic; one of them is a resurgence of marketing. Currently 72% of marketers report that the role of marketing has increased in importance during the pandemic. Many CMOs say that the pandemic had brought about a renewed urgency for marketing and afforded its leader a more prominent seat at the business table.

As such, now is the time to strike for CMOs to own marketing again. This can only be done if they are committed to customer obsession in the following ways:

-Elevation: Marketing is elevated when it encompasses a span of responsibility across the marketing mix to develop and implement brand and customer experiences that inspire devotion and cement loyalty. It begins with an insatiable curiosity and intimate. While data can often lead to moving forward looking at the rearview mirror, marketers need to also be the “headlights” for the company to predict the future. Success entails tactical mastery over a wide span of activities such as product, pricing, distribution, media, and advertising.

-Evolution: Marketing is evolved when it stays in sync with the continuously advancing marketing, media, and tech landscape. The evolution of marketing to harness the power of technology will extend its capabilities in critical areas such as AI, digital commerce, and data strategy and do so through the lens of privacy and ethics. There are strategic decisions to be made about how to optimally acquire and deploy these capabilities — a trusted, complementary, and transformational partner ecosystem will enable marketing to make a disruptive leap.

-Emboldened: For marketing to be emboldened, it must deliver on two counts: Demonstrate value through measurable outcomes and; as a result, earn the support of the CEO and the rest of the C-suite.

Value is created when marketing is elevated and evolved, but the marketer still needs to account for this value.