A CMO (chief marketing officer) is a C-level corporate executive responsible for activities in an organization that have to do with creating, communicating and delivering offerings that have value for customers, clients or business partners.
A CMO's primary mission is to facilitate growth and increase sales by developing a comprehensive marketing plan that will promote brand recognition and help the organization gain a competitive advantage. In order to achieve their own goals and effectively shape their companies' public profile, CMOs must be exceptional leaders and assume the voice of the customer across the company.
Chief marketing officers typically report to the CEO or chief operating officer (COO) and hold advanced degrees in both business and marketing. A CMO who has a strong background in information technology may also hold the job title chief marketing technologist (CMT). In some larger organizations, however, those positions are separate and the CMT reports to the CMO.
Chief marketing officer job description
More specifically, the CMO is the executive in charge of developing the strategy for corporate advertising and branding, as well as customer outreach. As the senior most marketing position in the organization, he or she oversees these functions across all company product lines and geographies.
It is the CMO's job to:
- understand the company's position in the marketplace, using traditional methods, as well as newer technologies such as data analytics;
- determine how and where the company should be positioned in the future;
- develop the strategy to drive the organization to that future market position; and
- execute on that strategy.
The CMO's work is expected to produce top-line results, with marketing efforts raising the brand awareness, recognition and loyalty that will ultimately lead to increased sales.
As such, the CMO is expected to work closely (or in some organizations even lead) the sales unit.
Salary and pay structure
According to PayScale, total compensation for a U.S.-based CMO ranges from nearly $85,000 to about $315,000.
The CMO's experience level and the geographic location of the position influence the pay, as does the size of the organization.
PayScale puts the median compensation for a CMO in the United States at $170,000.
CMOs make that money through an annual salary, individual bonuses, profit sharing and commission.
Chief marketing officer roles and responsibilities
The CMO has a breadth of roles and responsibilities to support its overall mission. Those include:
- overseeing the development and placement of the creative elements that position the company in the marketplace;
- researching and assessing the market and the company's position in it;
- supervising or collaborating with sales to turn marketing insights into sales; and
- directing the company's public relations efforts, or working in conjunction with internal and external public relations teams to create a coordinated message.
Why the CMO role has gained prominence
The technology advancements of the 21st century have elevated the importance of the CMO position in many organizations. The internet, the ubiquity of mobile computing, the internet of things, analytics, artificial intelligence and social media platforms all have created new ways to reach customers and understand their thoughts on products, services and brands.
They also have given a new, much more prominent voice to consumers who can instantaneously broadcast their opinions to potentially thousands, if not millions, of people.
At the same time, CMOs and their teams are able to tap those technologies to reach and influence customers, position their products and challenge competitors at the same speed and scale as the customers.
As it has been with other C-suite executives in this new technology-driven business paradigm, the CMO must collaborate much more extensively with his or her executive peers in order to keep pace. CMOs also must be capable of adaptation and innovation, as technologies evolve and markets shift in response.
CMOs, who may also have the title of vice president of sales and marketing, generally have at least a bachelor's degree in marketing (although an MBA is often preferred, if not also required). They generally have at least a decade of experience in marketing and/or advertising and multiple years of experience in a managerial role.
They're expected to have strong leadership skills, experience in project development, excellent communication skills and a high level of business acumen.
In addition, the CMO role today requires a high level of technical aptitude to maximize the tools and leverage the social media platforms that are essential to marketing efforts.
For instance, CMOs are expected to oversee the company's use of analytics platforms to understand customer preferences, priorities and patterns particularly through user-generated media and how that insight can drive sales.
They're also expected to direct marketing campaigns and customer outreach via existing -- and emerging -- social media sites, as well as through traditional channels.
To that end, CMOs must be highly inquisitive and innovative, able to identify emerging technologies that could disrupt their business or industry and also then able to respond to that by directing his or her C-suite colleagues on how to reposition the company in light of that change.
The future of the CMO
Although the technology-driven changes of the past 20 years have elevated the CMO in many organizations, the position itself is on rocky grounds in some respects.
Some companies are reshaping the job in response to those same technology forces, eliminating the CMO role or morphing it into jobs like the chief customer officer, chief experience officer, chief client officer or chief digital officer. In some companies, the CMO exists in conjunction with one of those other roles.
To this point, Forrester Research Inc. in its 2018 CMO predictions said more organizations will replace their CMOs with chief growth officers (CGOs).
"The rise of the CGO stands as a rebuke to ineffectual CMO," Forrester states. "CEOs pressured to lead a force of change during slow growth will bypass numerous CMOs, looking to install executives with broader remits. For example, for a brand like Coca-Cola, this meant sunsetting the CMO position entirely in favor of a CGO, which represents a burgeoning trend CMOs can only abate by leading strategic growth initiatives."