My Thoughts on CMO Tenure

I’ve written quite a bit on this topic in the past. Today, Ad Age published the latest statistics on CMO (Chief Marketing Officer) tenure from a study done by Spencer Stuart (here is the link).

As a former CMO, I’ve always kept an eye on this number. As recently as 2006, the average tenure was 23 months. In 2012, that number doubled to 45 months. Why the dramatic increase?

Well, there are a number of factors in my opinion. One, I believe that CMO’s are forming stronger partnerships in the C-suite, specifically with CFO’s and CIO’s. Two, I believe that technology advances specifically in the last 5 years in social media and mobile – two platforms that are unconventional to most outside of marketing – has created a higher demand for CMO’s that understand these emerging platforms. Three, most CMO’s I know WANT to stick around and not jump to another job so fast. The economy likely has something to do with that from a macroeconomic perspective, but I would also surmise that the role itself has matured and become a lot more dynamic than it was years ago.

Will this trend continue? I would say it depends on the industry. I think for CMO’s in mature industries, or bricks and mortar businesses that have yet to leave a real digital footprint, CMO’s will be in demand and the tenure will likely continue to increase for another year or two. For CMO’s in very dynamic, fast-changing industries, average tenure could plateau this year.

Either way, this study is good news for people in the marketing profession as a whole in addition to CMO’s themselves. It confirms the demand for great leaders, great teams, great thinkers and great operators. Not long ago, most people used the CMO role as part of a punchline. Now, the role has clearly gained the respect and status that is on par with other executive functions.