Tomorrow’s Chief Marketing Officer

The future CMO will be a key revenue contributor responsible for effectively predicting and delivering top line growth. S/he owns the brand and uses data to find tomorrow’s customers today. With an ever expanding breadth of influence, the CMO profile is increasingly looking like that of the CEO.

Companies are struggling to find growth and stay relevant in increasingly complex commercial environments. The prevailing headwinds of global uncertainty, technology, industry convergence, intense competition, and ever changing customer expectations are forcing companies to examine their core business and operating model – think Uber, Netflix, online retail, subscription models – and to evolve in ways that leverage existing strengths, and future opportunities.

Businesses are under immense pressure to navigate through the ‘new normal’ and to stay ahead of the game. But there is too much complexity for the CEO to do it alone, and so smart companies are looking at spreading the commercial responsibility across the leadership bench. In turn, functional leaders are transforming in ways to provide more tangible value from their activities.

For example, CFOs have evolved over the past decades from a reactive, accounting, administration and process-focused function to a strategic, proactive, commercial and business partnering one. Today, evolved CFOs have liberated CEOs from the heavy weight of data and provide meaningful intelligence and insights that facilitate quality decision-making.

Over the last decade, the CMO has been undergoing a similar transformation, and continues to evolve in exciting ways as the commercial landscape changes at blistering speed.

Given the new environment, and given marketing is ultimately responsible for the customer experience and for driving sales, it is arguably the most important function currently undergoing change.

Tomorrow’s CMO has to be much more than the traditional brand and creative custodian. S/he now has a vast range of complex responsibilities that materially impacts all aspects of the business. As the focus and impact has changed, so too have the expectations around skills and competencies. In examining the core responsibilities and competencies of tomorrow’s CMO, they are increasingly looking like the CEO in waiting.


Brand Tsar

Tomorrow’s CMO touches every function in the company with responsibility for driving sales, innovation, customer service and experience. By using data and digital channels, s/he will accurately identify, engage, and track customers with personalised experiences that are on brand every single time.


Customer Clairvoyant

The always-on and connected customer is providing opportunities to engage with them in real-time and in a personal way.

Tomorrow’s CMO actively embraces ever-changing, highly informed and spoiled for choice, culturally diverse, global customers, and tailors strategies to fulfil their unique needs. S/he also anticipates the emergence of new segments, and knows where, when and how to reach them.

So, like the control tower, marketing operations are evolving to allow the collection and management of timely data and intelligence to facilitate real-time decision making and stay relevant.



Tomorrow’s CMO has authored a compelling brand narrative that is authentic, unique, intuitive, heartfelt, and very brief. S/he embraces higher-purpose marketing and can communicate company positioning in a hashtag. #Really.


Strategic & Visionary

Tomorrow’s CMO is directly accountable for reaching financial targets, and knows more about future revenue streams and opportunities than anyone in the C-suite. Not only will s/he have a powerful voice and own the marketing strategy, s/he will be a business strategist, an operator, and collaborator of technology, products and finance teams and influence all aspects of the business.


Data Obsessed

Tomorrow’s CMO is data, technology, and revenue focused. By 2020, s/he will spend more on IT than the CIO, and will be an expert in transforming big data into competitive advantage. It is also likely that tomorrow’s CMO will come from a technology or engineering background rather than from the more traditional advertising background.

Integrating customer insights gathered across the entire touch points provides opportunities for companies; an opportunity to derive a holistic picture of a customer’s engagement and expectations, and consequently an opportunity to devise customer experiences that deliver on the promise. McKinsey’s DataMatics 2013 survey suggests companies that can effectively turn data into intelligence, and apply it, are twice as likely to achieve above average profits than those that do not.

To make this happen, the CMO will need to champion investments in technology, redesign business processes, develop analytical capability, bring teams together, and foster a culture of collaboration and sharing. However, this is easier said than done. Previous research form Harvard Business School suggests 73% of CEOs think that CMOs lack the capability to generate business growth, and a similar percentage are tired of allocating marketing funds without justification of how it translates to commercial outcomes.

With tighter controls and scrutiny around cash flows, critically, the CMO will need to link activity with the P&L, and communicate authoritatively about the positive financial impact.

Apart from core strong strategic and operating skills, tomorrow’s CMO will be commercially focused and have solid financial acumen. As the relationship with the CFO, CIO and CEO are key, other competencies required are organisational savvy, interpersonal skills, communication skills, and learning agility.


Change Provocateur

As CMOs are being asked to develop new sources of revenue to drive both short-term and long-term sales, tomorrow’s CMO is a persuasive leader who sparks innovation and change to move the company forward. S/he utilises social, mobile, and connected devices to attain real time insights from consumers, and uses that data to inspire creative thinking throughout the company.

Tomorrow’s CMOs are at the forefront of shaping innovation across the value chain. This is not just about new product development, but innovation in more interesting ways such as identifying new revenue streams, business models, and route-to-market.

Hence, s/he will be persuasive and skilled in inspiring others to make bold decisions, and have the organisational and political savvy to navigate past the road blocks and package ideas to reach the desired outcomes. Given the pace of change, CMO leaders will also be competent in dealing with ambiguity.



As the commercial environment continues to change and develop in new and interesting ways – companies are being tested to navigate through the complexity and find opportunities for growth. CEOs are spreading the responsibility and demanding more commercial firepower and tangible results from functional leadership. In this regard, the CMO is one of the most influential functional leaders at this point in time, and consequently undergoing significant transformation.

CMOs are becoming a more indispensable partner to the CEO. With this, the breadth of responsibility, and profile, are changing accordingly. Tomorrow’s CMOs are strategists, operators, collaborators, clairvoyants, fortune-tellers, and leaders, capable of navigating through the headwinds, leveraging new opportunities, and driving innovations that materially impact the P&L and future direction of the business. In turn, skills and competencies are aligning in ways that are elevating the CMOs prominence as a natural successor for the CEO.

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