Super Chief Marketing Officers: Ensuring Survival of the Fittest in the Online World


A book called CMO Thought Leaders: The Rise of the Strategic Marketer, published recently by global conglomerate Booz Allen Hamilton, uses interviews with CMOs and other marketing experts to scope the sea-changes successful marketers will survive and thrive in: Global penetration of an Internet-centric culture and its dramatic demographic shifts—where 1.2 billion consumers simultaneously occupy the online ocean and a myriad of invaluable, ultra-focused niches; where warp-speed concept-to-market delivery of new products and information intersects with end-users possessing unlimited ability to pick and choose what they want, when they want it, and who they want it from; where a brave new world of marketing scientists and analysts focus their experiments on one thing: discovering what really works when it comes to navigating a company through those wired and wireless cyber-seas.

It’s time for those who claim the title of CMO to “lead, follow, or get out of the way,” as my former boss Ted Turner was fond of saying. If you’re going to lead, you’d better be a marketing Übermensch—capable of drilling straight through an amorphous marketplace to the data that can feed an immediate decision on the most profitable model, the best optimization tweak, the sharpest hook, the killer copy you need to make the right changes, the right move, the right decision, right now, and as close to the end user/customer as possible—because tomorrow it will be too late: You’ll be eating the dust of a million other companies, including a half-million that didn’t even exist yesterday.

Oh yeah, you’d better put being best friends with the Chief Information Officer on your to-do list as well.

According to a fascinating article by Randall Rothenberg and Association of National Advertisers President and CEO Robert Liodice published by the Interactive Advertising Bureau, the study looked at “the rise of marketing as a core function in the operations of consumer and business-to-business companies. . . . Whatever the industry, companies today have little choice but to embrace the Growth Champion marketing model — to become, as Rob Malcolm, president of global marketing, sales, and innovation at the $18 billion liquor giant Diageo PLC puts it, ’the engine room of demand creation.’”.”

“Growth Champions” was a term coined for the leaders of marketing teams by Harvard Business School gurus John A. Quelch and Gail J. McGovern, who labeled these visionaries “Super-CMOs.” (See also “Growth Champions” by Edward Landry, Andrew Tipping, and Jay Kumar).

Here are other key insights from the book that Rothenberg and Liodice mention in their article:

• “The consumer is not an idiot; she is your boss. Consumers have near-total control of communications channels, choices, and content is now the principal underpinning of companies’ marketing strategy.

• The “purchase funnel” has Web feet. Interactive media are perceived as central to marketers’ new growth mission, capable of supporting brand awareness, retail traffic generation, product trial, loyalty programs, and other needs.

• Marketing experimentation is accelerating, along with the need for new metrics, as communications cost barriers continue to plunge.

• Marketers’ arsenal is expanding. The definition of “advertising” is changing to include multi-platform campaigns, marketer in-sourced infotainment, user-generated content, complex CRM programs, and other activities rarely associated with traditional advertising.

• There is a race for new capabilities among media, agencies, and marketers as the marketing-media value chain grows more tangled and competitive.”

Adrenaline rushing? Invigorated? Ready for the challenge?

If your visionary board, your CEO, or your company president has seen the benefit of empowering a super-CMO to make change as quickly as possible and as close to the consumer you can get in order to drive company growth, congratulations; but as Ted Turner also said, “Here’s the rope; go hang yourself.”

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