Wednesday, July 30, 2008

CMO to CEO: Is this a Trend?

In a recent op-ed piece in Advertising Age, branding expert James Gregory of consultancy CoreBrand contends that Chief Marketing Officers are more qualified to rise to the CEO position than any other executive in the corporate C-suite.

Do I agree with his assertion? Absolutely. Do I think there will be a movement of CMOs to the top job? Not a chance.

Here are a couple of highlights from Gregory’s article:

-A CMO has a panoramic point of view and, thus, has a more important and valuable leadership-training position than someone who has gained status and power through finance or through other vertical silos within a company.

-The first generation of CMOs, whose tenure was brief, didn't understand their purpose in value creation and reporting. They were forced into a vaguely defined role that was created more out of a sense of fashion than practicality.

-While the present second generation of CMOs still doesn't fully understand how to account for brands' value, they are slowly learning. They are much savvier about C-suite culture and have a better perspective on what is required of their position.

-The present Achilles' heel of CMOs is the lack of experience in finance, and, without a doubt, the lack of this vital skill is the biggest obstacle to their ascension to higher levels of leadership.

Where I disagree with Gregory is in his assertion that “branding is now accountable because it no doubt contributes significantly to company value. CEOs and chief financial officers are now recognizing brand value as an asset that can be managed for growth.”

This is simply not true. There is doubt among board directors, corporate executives and investors about how a strong brand contributes to the overall revenue growth and valuation of a company. Moreover, the process of brand measurement is murky and often relies on anecdotal evidence.

I’m sorry, James. I stand with you on the growing strategic value and impact of the corporate CMO. Yet, when it comes to the top post Boards will continue to go with the candidate whose performance and contribution they can measure in a more defined way. And that’s finance and sales.

CEOs' Heirs Apparent? Clearly, CMOs

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