Keith Johnston, VP, Research Director

Show Notes:

2019 brought mixed signals on the fate of marketing’s top spot. Johnson & Johnson, Uber, and other major companies either eliminated the CMO role or left it unfilled, while Coca-Cola just restored the global CMO title. At other firms, meanwhile, titles such as chief growth officer and chief customer officer have cropped up in place of a CMO position. On this week’s What It Means, VP and Research Director Keith Johnston explains how chief marketers will need to refashion their role to thrive in the year ahead.

The shift comes as companies reorient their growth strategies around a holistic view of the customer. “Marketing is part of the mix, but so is customer experience,” Johnston says. “You can’t separate brand from the customer experience anymore.”

One designated C-suite role — whether it’s labeled CMO or not — will take charge of all that touches the customer and brand experience, from marketing and communications to sales enablement to analytics. Johnston predicts that fewer than 10% of CMOs will broaden the role to this degree. Others may end up reporting to another executive with this expanded mandate.

Despite the uncertainty, core CMO functions remain critical. At a time when brands’ digital experiences feel largely similar, for instance, CMOs are challenged to differentiate their brand by recommitting to creativity investment. “The function of branding, advertising, and marketing is not going away,” Johnston says. “But we just know that it needs more.”