How CMOs can manage board expectations, carve out clarity, and deliver real value to influence business outcomes

I recently read an article stating that the Chief Marketing Officer (CMO) is now the “Chief Metaverse Officer”.


After chuckling, I thought, is this the state that marketing discussion has come to? Or can we do better?

With the latter in mind, I’m writing this post from a more positive perspective.

Firstly, it’s critical to acknowledge. The Chief Marketing Officer role is not an easy one today.

What was once black and white in terms of remit (insert multiple Ps), has turned severely grey, often resulting in beige outcomes and high job role turnover.

At TrinityP3 we’ve seen almost every version of a CMO role across a wide variety of local and global B2B, B2C and B2B2C organisations at various stages of growth (or lack thereof).

In working with CMOs 4, key areas have dramatically impacted:

Refined remit: product, distribution and pricing have typically been removed, giving rise to the Chief Growth Officer (CGO). The CGO has more responsibility for the underlying business strategy and numbers than a modern CMO. Resulting in marketing being pushed more downstream to advertising and promotions – the communications hub.

Confusion has crept in with the desire to understand the impact of advertising versus wider economic and consumer behaviour variables.

We’ve seen the rise of marketing mix modelling versus media mix modelling. Both create massive confusion and are generally only as good as the data used for the models, which is not holistic.

Media mix modelling (MMM) has also trended towards conversion points only, which lean heavily towards paid media versus non. And lack the input of quality conversion filters and ongoing customer lifetime value to determine real effectiveness and return on investment calculation. Return on ad spend, or ROAS, has become a poor default measure.

We recently assessed an MMM that was only tracking leads – not converted sales – which gave the marketing team an unrealistic view of budget allocation success. It’s not the only one we’ve come across like this.

Next stage technology transformation: marketing technology (and insert digital, online media, and e-commerce in particular), has exploded again, giving rise to the Chief Digital Officer (CDO) and Chief Technology Officer (CTO), plus a myriad of other Cs such as Chief Innovation Officer (CIO), Chief Disruption Officer (CDO), Chief Evangelist (CE), and Chief Business Transformation Officer. Although, we haven’t yet seen The Chief AI and Machine Learning Officer (CAML – sorry, best I could do there). Whilst the technology is integral to marketing, these new roles have absorbed the activity that previously sat with the CMO—taking charge of the technical infrastructure, data systems, and marketing technology stack.

The challenge is that the Chief Digital Office has typically assumed the role of helping transform an organisation’s legacy systems. Helping move from antiquated systems, often siloed, to more integrated systems and processes.

The output is operational efficiencies rather than a focus on effectiveness measures.

Customer experience complexity and changed customer expectations: in a more customer-centric era, marketers have seen the explosion of media channels, interaction opportunities, and increased decision-making speed. As a result, marketing teams have lost many of the core functions that they used to focus on. Customer centricity brings massive data management, analytics, governance, and privacy challenges. This gives rise to the Chief Customer Office (CCO), Chief Data Officer (another CDO), Chief Analytics Officer (CAO), Chief Data Scientist Officer (CDS), Head of CX, and Chief Privacy Officer (CPO), to name a few.

The CCO, whilst considering the customer experience, is typically focused on segmentation, repeat purchase patterns, and ongoing loyalty, whether with loyalty marketing or loyalty programs. Delving heavily into customer value analytics, and of course, now often underpinned by machine learning techniques.

The Head of CX tends to be responsible for the touchpoint and channel experiences. Typically, improving journey experiences from external media to owned assets, with measurement focussed on engagement, conversion, and ultimately cost per acquisition (CAC).

The two roles often fail to complete a holistic view of ensuring targeted media is driving quality acquisition, with long-term loyalty measures holding both roles to account, causing friction within organisations and, of course, conflicts between customer measures.

Therein lies the opportunity for change in most organisations.

Culture and the focus on people and values. In an era of far greater transparency and openness, we’ve seen the rise of the Chief Culture Office (another CCO). Front and centre focus on ethical sourcing, human dignity, ethical team management, and the underlying core values of a business (add a dash of purpose here).

This brings far greater focus on internal branding, employee satisfaction, team behaviours, and market reporting.

However, once generally seen as a marketer’s role to help inspire employees, these areas are now given greater weight and importance.

Especially in a post-COVID era involving hybrid working, flexibility, mental health assistance, and productivity, which all need a renewed value equation.

In short, we’re seeing the hidden power of culture to accelerate, impede or prevent the successful implementation of strategy.

The challenge? Drowning in silos

Due to the complexity outlined above, we’re seeing the rise of silos.

Resulting in more business units being accountable for parts of the sum. And less understanding of their influence on overall business outcomes.

With more silos, we see less holistic accountability for the CMO.

Focus has shifted away from setting real strategy based on insights. Due to the distraction of ever-increasing marketing technology offerings, seeking a 360-degree customer data view nirvana and delivering personalisation and so-called targeting at speed and scale.

Whilst many CMOs are focussed on carving out an ownable market position to help create competitive advantage by boosting brand recognition – all of which should lead to customer interest, sales, and ongoing loyalty – there are many CMOs who are not ruthlessly prioritising and measuring what matters most.

The answer? Laser focus on strategy

The bottom line is that marketing (and the CMO) should be accountable for Marketing Strategy. A strategy is ‘how’ to achieve the business and marketing goals.

In TrinityP3’s language, if marketing owns strategy, then the CMO can be responsible for structuring the required model and the best way to develop, execute, and measure the strategy.

The CMO can allocate the most optimal level of capability, decide the level of in-souring versus outsourcing, and identify the combination of expertise, specialism and skill level required to deliver their scopes of work.

And then decide what agency support model is most optimal and whether this is best achieved from one agency, a panel of agencies, or some other combination.

The CMO can then refine processes to optimise the relationships between internal and external resources, systems, and working methods. This ultimately has a heavy influence on the culture of an organisation, which in turn influences whether a strategy is successful or not.

What works for one company in having a CMO more comms-focussed doesn’t necessarily work for another where strategy, product, channels, customer experience, pricing, analytics, and more are unified into a scope of responsibility.

In our experience, ensuring clarity of goals and objectives will lead to clarity of strategy. And the rest follows.

The results can then be measured to determine what worked, how it worked, and what the greatest influences on success were, whether it be short-term or longer-term sustainable growth, brand position, or internal and customer relationship health measures.

As boards demand greater value from investment, CMOs need to carve out clarity and deliver real value to manage expectations and have greater influence on outcomes.

If you would like an independent view of your marketing management operation, then contact us.

We’re always happy to share what we’re seeing in marketing transformation today and help businesses identify where improvements may be made.

Our single-minded purpose is to:

“improve the marketing outputs of every single organisation that engages with us”.