CMOs and CEOs illustrative image

We Need To Talk About the Disconnect Between CEOs and CMOs



Business success hinges on various factors, but a robust partnership between the CEO and the Chief Marketing Officer (CMO) is paramount. Despite many recognizing the potential of marketing as a growth driver, there’s a prevailing disconnect between these two C-suite leaders.

The role of the CMO has expanded over the years. Once they focused mainly on brand promotion, today’s CMOs are expected to be data-driven, digital-savvy leaders with a deep understanding of the customer journey. They’re no longer simply overseeing advertisements but are integral to shaping the business’s growth strategy.

A recent study by McKinsey underscored this evolution. CEOs prioritizing marketing as central to their growth strategies tend to see higher annual growth rates. Yet, the mere intention isn’t enough. The challenge lies in nurturing a dynamic and fruitful relationship between the CEO and CMO​1​.

Challenges in Alignment

Despite the evident correlation between a solid CEO-CMO relationship and business growth, there’s a growing murkiness regarding roles and responsibilities within the C-suite​2​. With the rapid advancements in technology and the shift to data-driven strategies, there’s a prevailing ambiguity about who spearheads the marketing department.

Furthermore, as marketing’s scope has broadened, companies have introduced more C-suite roles like Chief Growth Officers, Chief Customer Officers, and Chief Experience Officers. This diversification often blurs the lines of responsibility and confounds the CMO’s overarching role​3​.

Aligning for Success

For businesses to outpace their competitors, CEOs and CMOs must have a unified understanding of marketing’s role. They need to agree on its core objectives and how its success is measured. McKinsey’s research indicates that when there’s alignment on marketing’s remit, businesses typically outperform their peers​3​.

However, achieving this alignment isn’t straightforward. A significant hurdle is the lack of marketing experience among many CEOs, especially in large enterprises. This gap in understanding often results in a disparity in expectations and perceptions between the CEO and the CMO​3​.

To bridge this gap, McKinsey advises CMOs to clarify their roles more effectively and to foster open communication channels with their CEOs. Both parties should understand and agree on the goals, metrics, and innovations required for success​3​.

Final Thoughts

A harmonious CEO-CMO relationship is pivotal for businesses aiming for growth. As the business landscape becomes increasingly complex, the need for clear communication, mutual understanding, and aligned goals between these two leaders will only intensify. CEOs and CMOs must work hand-in-hand, leveraging their unique strengths to steer their organizations toward a prosperous future.



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