Why CMOs Are Joining the Exec Table

When it comes to hiring a chief marketing officer, the majority of companies are eager to fill the role. In fact, CMOs are viewed as strategic partners and are increasingly joining the executive table with CEOs, per a survey being released this week by executive search consulting firm Spencer Stuart.

The annual survey is based on the responses of 203 marketers, of which 54 percent are CMOs and 46 percent hold other marketing titles. The findings will be incorporated into Spencer Stuart’s eight annual CMO Summit, taking place on June 2 in New York.

According to the survey, 80 percent of respondents indicated that there is a CMO or a head of marketing at their company. Nearly 77 percent of CMOs report to the CEO or president, and are members of the executive management team. Seventy-five percent of CMOs meet with the CEO on a daily or weekly basis.

An important takeaway here is the difference in roles between CMOs who report to CEOs and those who don’t. Of those who do report to CEOs, 53 percent said their main priority was driving top-line growth. Those who are not part of the executive group said their main focus was growing brand awareness.

“There is a clear distinction between the roles of those at the executive table versus those who are not at the executive table,” said Marie Ford, a consultant at Spencer Stuart, who was involved in the survey. “CMOs who work directly with CEOs are focused on the financial growth of the business. It’s very telling of their function in the company and the decision-making [process].”

When evaluated by their peers, CMOs were described as excelling in their jobs when it comes to brand campaigns, managing agency relationships and building relationship organizations.

However, CMOs appear to struggle in two areas: launching products and services through innovation; and driving change/being agents of change. More than 65 percent of business leaders would rate CMOs as “average” or “above average” in delivering new products or services through innovation. “It’s a key priority and CMOs recognize that the expectations are there,” said Ford.

When asked what the most surprising survey findings were, Ford pointed to the top three priorities of CMOs. “Only four percent listed talent development as one of the top three priorities,” she said. “Forty percent of CMOs are meeting with heads of HR at least weekly, so there’s a connection that exists there. But [hiring new talent] is not necessarily the top priority.”