What the Heck Is a CBO and Why Should You Care?

Why aligning business goals to the customer and brand is critical for success

The mandate of the chief marketing officer has evolved beyond its traditional remit. Today’s CMO is not only the architect of the brand narrative but also a key player in the business decisions that drive overall growth and profitability.

Since expanding my role at Xandr to include revenue and growth responsibilities, I’ve been fielding questions about what exactly a chief business officer is.

I tried typing in “what is a CBO?” to everyone’s favorite search engine to no avail. It turns out there are a lot of different views on the role. Some people believe that CBO stands for chief brand officer, but let’s be clear, that’s a very different role. The answer lies in the marriage of marketing and sales, two disciplines that have evolved significantly over the last decade and resulted in the emergence of a new role.

A new kind of CMO

With its heavy dependence on data and technology, the last decade of digital has equally transformed business and the role and responsibilities of the CMO. According to Forrester, the CMO role has evolved from “brand-building growth captain” to “a quarter-disciplined and data-focused operator.” It also found that 88% of organizations agree that the role of the CMO has changed and will continue to evolve.

Marketers have always been tasked with building brands through high-impact campaigns and increasing a company’s share of voice through strategic communications and product marketing. But now, enabled by technology and data, marketers are also critical drivers of commercial growth, cross-functional sales, product, finance and HR accountabilities.

CMOs now own the brand, employee and customer experiences along with how these priorities ladder up to drive business impact.

The rise of the CRO

The decade also saw the rise of the chief revenue officer as the role of the sales leader evolved. You can probably credit Silicon Valley startups for the birth of the title that has made its way into media companies and tech startups around the world.

Sales leaders have always been relationship-driven and focused on meeting net new revenue goals. Much like the evolution of their marketing counterparts, they’ve added tools and technology platforms to improve their outcomes and the efficiencies of their teams.

For example, making decisions on Salesforce automation software and CRM systems and using data and analytics to inform pricing and product bundles. And that’s just a random Monday for today’s CRO. But on Tuesday, they have to get involved in defining product requirements and competitive product positioning with their engineering and product counterparts and work with marketing to create customer advisory councils and events to evangelize new product offerings.

No longer just the liaison to clients and cheerleader to the sales team, today’s revenue leaders hold a seat at the table in product, engineering and C-suite discussions. With increasingly sophisticated customer needs, technology and data have become critical components of driving success.

Defining the CBO role

So, what’s in a title anyway? Leadership is probably best defined by the people and teams that are willing to align behind a purpose to accomplish a unified goal.

The Xandr team has aligned behind our purpose statement to make advertising matter. We’re taking on this lofty goal at a time when the relationship between consumers and content is being transformed. There could not be a better time to make sure that we have aligned our business strategy to customer success and commit to customer-based outcomes.

The CBO owns the business narrative that drives the customer and brand experience, while also being responsible for the revenue and operational infrastructure to ensure scalable and repeatable growth. It’s the marriage of sales and marketing with a keen eye on customer needs and business profitability.

The bottom line is that doing good by your customers is always good for your business.


Kirk McDonald is the CBO of Xandr. He has more than 25 years of experience working with the world’s top brands, media companies and technology providers.