Are Chief Revenue Officers the new CMOs?


In many organisations the CMO is role is being replaced by that of Chief Revenue Officer. For some, it is a trend that points towards an important and long overdue shift in the understanding of the CMO role. For others, it’s just spin that glosses over an underlying problem resulting in the systematic departure of seemingly talented CMOs from what appear to be dream positions. So, will a change in job title help to ensure there is at least one individual accountable with a mandate to speak for the customer and the return on customer investment?

Good intentions: a familiar story that’s leading to the rapid departure of many CMOs

In 2017, an article on the Harvard Business Review, poignantly titled, ‘Why CMOs Never Last’, tells a familiar story that illustrates the tensions of the CMO role and what is understood about it. To paraphrase, a leading retailer sought a CMO in order to: “play a big, important role, leading the company’s efforts to boost revenues and profits”. The job seemed like a golden ticket, and it sounded as though the business had a very clear understanding of who and what they wanted.

Fast forward 12 months however, and their bright shiny new CMO was frustrated. “Given the job description, his experience, and his conversations with the recruiter and the chain’s CEO, he’d assumed he’d have the authority to create a strategy for driving growth. To his surprise, his role was limited mostly to marketing communications, including advertising and social media.” Did the retailer not really know what they wanted from the role? Or were they just not structurally ready to embrace it?

On the rocks: a relationship we’re all rooting for but haven’t quite made work

The problem is, there is a difference of understanding amongst business leaders and CMOs about what the CMO role really entails. To CMOs, the job is to come up with a strategy that will drive profitable revenue growth. However, and more so in Europe than in America, there remain many firms who do not see the strategic benefits of a CMO participating fully alongside the CFO and CEO. Some firms think of marketing in purely tactical terms.

The irony however, is that trends are showing that we do actually all want the same thing. Following the departure of Chief Marketing Officer, Keith Weed, it is said that Unilever is considering retiring the role of CMO altogether. It comes in the wake of other, similar moves. At the likes of Coca-Cola and Hyatt, they have ditched the typical global chief marketing officer roles favour of more regionalised structures. Coca-Cola now has a Chief Growth Officer in place of a CMO. Meanwhile, other brands are hiring and recruiting roles such as Chief Customer Officers, Chief Commercial Officers and Chief Revenue Officers instead of CMOs. In essence, they are creating hybrid roles that fuse marketing, customer experience and revenue growth.

So, are CMOs simply rebranding? Or are we seeing the role being reshaped into one at the heart of the corporate strategy and getting the recognition it deserves as an enterprise wide P&L role?

Couples’ therapy: preparing the right environment for successful CMO roles

At gigCMO, much of our work is with companies who are at a point in their growth and development where they are on the cusp of appointing permanent CMOs. However, making sure the role is successful is about more than a job title. It’s about really knowing why you’re appointing that person and creating an infrastructure that embraces their role.

We help businesses to create that environment. That often includes breaking down a discrepancy between what business leaders think a CMO should be doing, and how they are most likely to make a substantial impact to a company’s future.

Fractional CMO, Mikki Hall, says: “All organisations need someone owning and driving the customer agenda. Enlightened organisations realise this is central to the CMO role and part of the responsibility of an effective C Suite. The CMO role looks outward, making sure the commercial strategy is driving revenue. So it should be right at the heart of that top level, strategic conversation. Would changing the job title to CRO change the way the role is seen? The important thing is that it’s recognised as hugely important and that it challenges a business from a unique perspective.”


Mark Magnacca, Managing Director at gigCMO says: “There is a legitimate argument that in order to convey the true extent of the CMO role, perhaps the existing and traditional title doesn’t do it justice. So while there is work to be done within organisations and within business leadership to action meaningful change, in the way those roles are seen and used, it is also important CMOs to reflect on how they can best convey the bottom line contribution they do make. For CMOs who can’t get a hearing, it is important to figure out what we need to do differently to make sure their voice counts.”

Create the right environment within your organisation for a successful CMO with the support of interim support from gigCMO’s team of experienced Chief Marketing Officers. Contact us to find out more about how we can support you and your business.