You need to have a certain tenure as a CMO

43 months. That’s the average time on duty for a chief marketing officer (CMO), according to the latest report from executive search firm Spencer Stuart. A figure that’s declining year on year.

The article title is a quote from Fernando Machado, global CMO at Burger King, who has served as the lead marketer at the fast-food titan for just over 5 years. Prior to Burger King, he spent 13 years at Unilever. And he’s known as one of the most creative and successful marketers in the world, according to sources like Cannes and Fast Company.

In an era of short-termism and flight, rather than fight, attitudes towards careers, some might say that it’s unusual to see a marketer stay at one business for an extended period of time. That it’s acceptable to jump in, navigate the ship in the right (or wrong) direction, and jump back out again. Of course, there are circumstances where marketers are asked to tend to their garden. Where tenure in a role isn’t necessarily a choice, but an uphill battle.

But there are those, too, who choose to stay. To build and coach teams of marketers around them. To set the direction for the commercial success of the business and to increase the value of the brand. To influence the entire organisation that marketing shouldn’t be deprioritised – to demonstrate its value.

Fernando believes that brand management is like buying a house. “It’s like a never-ending project. There is always something broken. There is always something that you wish was better. It’s a labour of love.” The equity gains from buying a house tend to be established over the long term. You can double glaze the windows, renovate the kitchen and make the place feel like home. The flip and tip, short term strategy may give you a quick rush of cash (much like the adrenalin hit you get when a creative idea connects on an emotional note with your boss), but you then have to invest your time and energy into something completely new.

Then there are the customers. As more CMO’s engulf the responsibility for the total customer experience, there are several moving parts and nuances that simply take longer to understand. It’s an education that works in tandem with learning the category, to truly identify why your brand, your product, and your employees can appeal to someone who wants a burger. This education does not, and should not, happen overnight. Because where’s the fun in that?

And finally, there’s the relationship with your agency partners. The love and trust between a client and agency work two ways. When your lead account planner decides to move agencies, leaving the creation, reinvention and delivery of your marketing strategy behind, it is exactly the same as the CMO moving on. There are times when that disruption can be a good thing, especially if you’ve found your product on the bottom shelf in the supermarket. However, the resource that it takes to fill that gap on both sides of the coin is scarce; an overwhelming task that leads to less productive output, wasted time and money.

If you’re anything like me, you bounce to work every day because you want to be challenged. You want to be the curious cat. You want to occasionally step into the unknown to make it more tangible. The BMW M5 Jahre does 0-60 mph in 3.7 seconds. Not 0. The car embraces the process of getting up to speed.

It’s these incremental steps, over time, that lead to success as a marketer.

Joe Carter is communications director at Colenso BBDO. Listen to the rest of Fernando’s learnings here on the Love This podcast.

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