Guru or under-achiever: How does your CMO stack up?

Study identifies six personas of CMOs

CMOs can be classified into one of six personas, but only a small percentage of them can be considered true elites of the profession, a recent study suggests.

While the global survey, published by Forbes Insights, found that 90% of CMOs have a growth mandate, weak corporate culture and rigid controls hold many back.

The study, based on interviews with 318 CMOs and marketing professionals—including 12 Canadian respondents—also identified data and digital as an ongoing challenge that even the best and brightest are struggling with.

“This study can serve as an aid for CMOs to identify strengths and weaknesses in both themselves and their marketing organizations,” said Bruce Rogers, chief insights officer at Forbes Media.

Here are the six personas, ranked in order:

The Strategic Guru – An experienced marketing professional with a strategic role at a big corporation, this CMO is a master networker with an ability to influence colleagues.

The Dynamic Orchestrator – A big personality who surrounds himself or herself with capable people, this CMO still scores high in terms of agility, despite a desire for control.

The Selective Defender – This risk-averse CMO lacks the ambition and the strategic roles of the top dogs, but picks his or her battles carefully to defend the marketing turf.

The Conventional Coach – Generally employed by big corporations with slow growth, this CMO has to deliver on static plans under rigid company controls.

TheDemand Driver – Usually coming from a sales background, this type is often adept at coordination, but lacks technological savvy. Key roles can include CRM responsibilities.

The Untapped Potential – This persona works under tight internal controls in slow-growth companies that lack a strong corporate culture. They also have to contend with shrinking budgets.

The Gurus and the Dynamic Orchestrators tend to be the most successful among the personas, and many of the differences between these two seem to be culturally appropriate adaptations—based on whether they are operating in a more consensus-based or individualist culture,” said Rogers.

He added that some of the other personas face obstacles out of their control—such as being stuck in a declining industry.

However, Rogers noted there is something to be gleaned from each persona.

All CMOs can learn from these personas in terms of rebalancing strengths and weaknesses, not just in their personal approach, but in balancing skill sets and personalities in their marketing teams,” he said.

Another thing unites CMOs of all stripes—the rising challenge of digital, said Madhur Aggarwal, a senior vice-president at SAP Digital, which collaborated on the study along with Forbes and Gyro.

According to the statistics, CMOs everywhere have yet to master data and digital approaches.

But as companies look to establish a sustainable growth model, CMOs will have to rise to the occasion.

“CMOs and chief digital officers are increasingly looked upon by their CEOs and boards to ride at the forefront of this wave,” said Aggarwal.

The challenge will be ongoing, too, as companies continue to tweak their digital marketing formulas.

“Digital will likely remain a key issue for the next several years, until smooth integration of all digital channels becomes as routine for business as using the web is today,” Rogers told Marketing in an email.

The study is believed to be the first to classify CMOs by personas based on statistical techniques.

Curious about where you or your colleagues might fit in? Take the test here.


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