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AI an additional responsibility for CMOs: How they can cope

AI an additional responsibility for CMOs: How they can cope

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With AI fast becoming part of the everyday workflow, it has been predicted that in 2024, experience with generative AI will be written into 20% of new CMO job descriptions — as AI exploration becomes AI experimentation.

However, despite this, fewer than one-third (30%) of US B2C marketing executives believe their CMOs are directly leading their organisation’s AI efforts, according to a new report by Forrester on how AI is impacting CMOs. 

Additionally, based on Forrester’s analysis of 165 US CMO job postings, it found zero mentions of AI responsibility as part of the role.

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“CMOs don’t have the luxury of taking a month off to think about AI,” said Steve Boehler, founder of Mercer Island Group. True enough, about half of respondents to Forrester’s Q2 B2C Marketing CMO Pulse Survey, 2024 indicated that their CMO doesn’t have time to take on what’s necessary to advance AI.

“CMOs look like they’re playing goalie for the dart team. There’s no time in their day to even entertain thinking about AI,” said Matt Ryan of Roth Ryan Hayes.

“To make room to lead AI, I don’t think CMOs give up anything. Their job just gets harder,” added Norm Yustin, managing director at Russell Reynolds Associates.

In order for CMOs to better prioritise AI, this is what they can do:

1. Deprioritise less essential tasks: Given that the marketing function is especially disrupted by AI, the CMO needs to be setting the strategy for AI and how it’s used, according to Bob Van Rossum of MarketPro.

To make space for this, start by inventorying other tasks that don’t absolutely need your involvement. “Deprioritise things that don’t require your focus and get comfortable with delegating them completely to people on your team that you trust. Are there spaces in the org that are humming along nicely?” said Andrea Brimmer, CMO at Ally.

2. Empower your management team: You can’t make AI a priority without rock-solid direct reports who reduce your day-to-day burden, said Forrester. This starts with having the right managers in the right roles.

“I have a lot of incredibly competent people on my team, which allows me to step up and out and spend my time on what will fundamentally change marketing going forward,” said Tyrrell Schmidt, CMO at TD Bank Group. This also requires CMOs to be clear on expected outcomes and then get out of the way.

“This is the strongest leadership team I’ve ever had in place. I work with them on strategy and trust them to follow through and to execute with periodic check-ins as needed,” said Tory Pachis, SVP of marketing at Amica Insurance.

3. Appoint AI transformation leads: Most CMOs don’t have all of the skills needed to fully bake an AI strategy. However, Shiv Singh, who has held top marketing spots at PepsiCo, Visa, Expedia, and LendingTree, cautioned against hiring a separate AI specialist — which 31% of US B2C marketing executives have done.

Instead, Singh said: “Every marketing subfunction needs an AI transformation driver. CMOs should bring these leaders together as an AI marketing council.” But beware of spreading accountability thin. A point person to the CMO who goes deep on AI is still necessary for an integrated strategy."

4. Commit to an AI learning agenda: Some CMOs told Forrester that generative AI (genAI) in particular is already making their jobs easier — for things such as thought starters and content summaries.

To expand the range of personal use cases, formally schedule dedicated time to learn and apply AI to your actual work, it suggested. Nearly all (91%) of the US B2C marketing executives Forrester surveyed indicated that their CMO prioritises making time to learn about AI.

Across both quantitative and qualitive research, CMOs told Forrester that efficiency is their top objective for AI. However, CMOs continue to be asked to do more with less — making the notion of talent redeployment more of a hope than a certainty, it said. 

Additionally, just 45% agree that AI will lead to smaller marketing departments. However, AI has many benefits. As a result of AI:

1. The CMO’s remit expands (again) to include AI strategy:  Forrester expects AI to show up in new CMO job descriptions by the end 2024.

For now, AI is showing up in CMO job descriptions as a ‘nice to have’ thought leader who is already on the AI journey, said Peri Hansen from Korn Ferry.

2. Commoditised marketing activities get done by AI agents: AI automates all marketing processes, but it impacts each differently . Some will still require lots of human involvement, while others will be more autonomous.

“Every CMO has to lean into the hard reality that there are a whole bunch of activities that can be done by AI. At least 25% of their human team will be replaced by autonomous agents,” said Singh.

This means the human touch is more important than ever. “AI will speed up processes, but we cannot remove human approval,” said Tyrell Schmidt of TD Bank Group.

3. Shiny new AI marketing roles will get assimilated: AI will indeed displace some marketing jobs. But new jobs will emerge. 

"In this regard, history repeats itself when disruptive tech first hits. Remember the webmaster in the 1990s? Or, most recently, the ill-fated chief metaverse officer?" said Forrester. 

While AI marketing specialists continue to crop up, expect their responsibilities to get absorbed as AI matures and becomes part of all marketers’ jobs.

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