- CMO role transformation. Amidst economic turbulence, CMO duties are being revised to include strategies for handling workforce reductions and shifts within their industry.
- Emerging trends. Technology trends in marketing are significantly reshaping how CMOs approach and implement marketing strategies to drive brand success.
- Strategic CMO insight. Chief marketing officer responsibilities include employing strategic foresight to navigate through economic uncertainty and position their brands for recovery.
Have some sympathy for the CMO. Amid economic difficulties and shifts in the role, CMO duties are evolving, including navigating layoffs.
Changing CMO Duties Cause Anxiety
“The Chief Marketing Officer is the most-fired member of the C-Suite!”
It was a statement meant to shock and amuse the audience that viewed this role as the target persona of their sales efforts. I was surrounded by a thousand or so digital experience professionals — and not a few CMOs — at an industry event. I can’t remember if any sources or statistics were offered to back up this assertion, but no one questioned the validity of the statement. The laughter in the auditorium was loud — although a bit uneasy.
As overseer of the strategy and execution of an organization’s brand success, the CMO is burdened with high expectations of effectiveness and low levels of confidence in the various metrics that indicate success. Technical advances, access to analysis tools and staggering amounts of available data set those expectations even higher. Year after year, the explosion of marketing technology and analytical capabilities seem to provide only incremental improvement while adding exponential complexity to the process and CMO duties.
As the voice of the customer, crafter of the brand, communicator of strategy and data-driven visionary, the modern CMO must nurture cross-functional cooperation to delicately maintain the nexus of art and science this role embodies. But the modern CMO duties are changing.
Stir in some economic uncertainty, and you naturally feel sympathy for the beleaguered CMO.
Resilience or Recession: A Matter of Perspective
Current economic indicators are mixed at best, with inflation and interest rates rattling consumer nerves. A recent article in Marketwatch describes the current market as resilient while also predicting a shallow recession in the first half of 2024 — same article, same experts! So, which is it?
Some say it depends on your perspective, or which indicators are important to you, or even your feelings about the Federal Reserve. CMSWire has reported in the past on the optimism of today’s CMO, and a little later in this article, I even touch on why it is important for them to be that way. Being a “glass half empty” kind of guy myself, however, let me first point you to some news I’ve been reading. Resilience, it seems, is the undercurrent that sustains optimism.
Related Article: Marketing Leadership: Is Chief Marketing Officer the Right Title?
Marketers Are Understandably Anxious
While American job growth seems positive, some sectors, such as technology, are reporting massive layoffs. More than just tech jobs are being shed by these firms.
- According to a recent Crunchbase News tally, more than 177,293 U.S. tech company workers have been laid off in 2023 so far. Many marketing jobs are included in this number.
- Business News Daily recently reported that marketers were among those most likely to be worried about a job loss due to companies’ concerns over inflation.
- LinkedIn’s US Workforce Confidence Index (WCI), reports that 39% of marketers fear a layoff.
Although there is good data to support that any across-the-board reduction in marketing spending is ill-advised — especially in uncertain economic times — it happens anyway.
Related Article: AI in Data Analysis and the Evolving Role of the CMO
Evidence Shows Marketing Reductions Are Short-Sighted
In a 2019 article, McKinsey reported on a group of publicly traded companies that fared considerably better than the S&P 500 when emerging from the Recession of 2007. By the time the downturn bottomed out in 2009, these companies reported earnings increases of 10 percent, while their industry peers reported losses of 15 percent. These companies, labeled “resilients” by McKinsey, appeared across various sectors. An investigation revealed there were several behaviors adopted by these companies that set them apart. All of them anticipated the recession, acting early and decisively. Most importantly for this discussion, all invested for growth, anticipating opportunity when better days returned. That’s where the optimism comes in.
A more recent article from McKinsey revisited this concept, speaking more directly about marketing spending during the COVID-19 pandemic. It highlighted an “investor approach,” and a “CFO-mindset” for the CMO. This “CFO-mindset” targets pockets of inefficient spending for cost reduction rather than implementing cuts across the board. With an “investor approach,” the CMO examines spending in the same way a chief financial officer identifies “bad revenue” that doesn’t produce sufficient margin to merit an investment. In this way, spending can be reduced at a granular level and reinvested into branding efforts and campaigns that offer greater results.
Related Article: CMOs Report 5 Effects of AI on the Role
Opportunities in Tough Times and Shifting CMO Duties
This “CFO-mindset” frees the CMO to actually discover opportunities in recessionary times by examining changes in buying behavior brought on by inflation and tightening resources. Customers react to economic downturns in very specific ways; for example, buying larger package sizes, seeking products that remain in style longer and focusing on quality. By recognizing these changes, and pivoting messaging, nimble brands can appeal to changing priorities.
Market conditions can also influence how customers research products, how they choose to purchase and their delivery choices (cost versus convenience). This alters the customer journey in predictable ways, but it is important to understand if these behaviors represent lasting or temporary changes when deciding how to apply an organization’s limited resources. And as customer behavior changes, the CMO duties change as well.
Changes and Challenges for CMO Duties
Chief marketing officers should use their optimism to see past hard times. Those who can anticipate change, choose the right tools and apply a strategic and granular approach to CMO duties and the bottom line will be laughing loudest at the next industry event!
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