The waning role of the CMO – is this really a good thing in our new decade ?

After Coca-Cola had eliminated the CMO role back in 2017, replacing it with a chief growth officer position, a big controversy started…more companies followed suit with CGOs or with tweaking the responsibilities of their CMOs, by adding in aspects of digital, data and growth strategies or defining closer collaboration with operations.

Coke shifting gears back toward a CMO recently – albeit one tasked with integrating marketing and operations – is a potentially promising development for marketers in 2020, a year that seems to promise a renewed focus on brand-building for many. Several iconic brands have recently admitted to losing sight of brand-building over  a focus on short-term results, discounting and attempts to win the loyalty of fickle millennials, indicating the need for course corrections and providing CMOs — or what replaces them — with an opportunity to get them back on track.

With the future of the planet top of mind for many, demands for purposeful brands are rising — especially among crucial young audiences like Gen Z. Sustainability will take center stage in 2020 messaging strategies, and very clearly, simple CSR programs and one-off pledges will no longer cut it. Climate positivity will be a new bar to reach, and another opportunity for the CMO to proof her skills and her worth.

Another question is how the partitioning of responsibilities will change. Will the duties of the CMO be divvied up between new SVP appointments, or will there be this one person that is responsible for everything “customer” ? (Re-)Prioritizing brand as a strategic force will be crucial across industries in the new decade. Not only to cut through the noise, deal with disruption, and manage new trends…but to give meaning, demonstrate purpose, and give direction in the form of a solid brand vision. Therefore, while the word “marketing” may be misleading as part of the job title and hence may benefit from being called something different, the dispute seems to be around how to better connect branding within an organisation (and reflect this in the name of the title) rather than fundamentally questioning the actual need for a strategist that brings it all together.

See also here how The WSJ argues that Eliminating the CMO role can help companies take marketing more seriously