CMOs take the heat when growth targets fall short

The chief marketing officer (CMO) holds the keys to disruptive growth, according to new research from Accenture Strategy.

Acennture infographic

Currently, CMOs bear the burden of success or failure in driving disruptive business growth, with the majority of C-suite executives (37%) holding CMOs first in the firing line if growth targets are not met.

The research shows that chief sales officers (34%) and chief strategy officers (29%) are also most commonly in the firing line by the C-suite when it comes to leading the disruptive growth agenda. That’s a lot of pressure on one segment of the workforce, much like a coach is responsible for his sports team’s success or failure.

"Organizations that rely on ‘growth by committee’ struggle to achieve their targets. It breeds a C-suite culture where everyone is responsible, yet no one is accountable – and onus unduly falls onto someone, usually the CMO,” said Robert Wollan, senior managing director leading advanced customer strategy, Accenture Strategy.

Further, CEOs see CMOs as the primary driver of disruptive growth (50%), closely followed by chief strategy officers (49%), and chief sales officers (38%). The majority of CMOs (96%) also recognize the importance of disruptive growth to revenue potential, and another 75% believe they have a great deal of control over the disruptive growth levers in their company.

The CMO position has changed much over the last few years, and those with the title have had to try to redefine what it is to be a CMO, often wearing many hats to stay viable. The extra pressure where growth is concerned only exacerbates the situation.

The report found that many CMOs are not currently in a position to drive disruptive growth due to an ingrained mindset and lack of time. Only 30% of CMOs believe they are cutting-edge marketing innovators, yet a third (37%) of their time is currently spent on innovation. In addition, 60% spend the majority of their time on traditional marketing initiatives, such as maintaining brand image, improving customer experience and loyalty. While evidently important, over half (54%) feel that a large portion of their marketing budget is being wasted and not delivering the results the business expects.

To take more command of their destinies, CMOs must take control of their positions and address disruptive growth head on.

“Never has there been a better time for CMOs to reposition themselves by taking control of the disruptive growth agenda. Such initiatives are often the most creative, have the biggest revenue potential and command strong leadership,” said Kevin Quiring, managing director, advanced customer strategy, North America lead, Accenture Strategy. “CMOs are well positioned to do so due to their experience of being brand guardians, which will help enable them to intuitively navigate new opportunities internally and externally, and identify new areas of growth.”

The report went on to say that the CMO can make marketing priorities disruptive by launching new business models, developing partnerships with non-traditional players and increasing revenues from data monetization, among other tactics. Until that happens, the CMO will continue to be the scapegoat in the crosshairs.