By Caitlin Kenefick & Sarah Robertson
At Herbert Mines Associates, we partner with best-in-class, consumer-facing brands to find top talent. Our work means we are privy to macro-level changes in the industry and at functional levels. As we continue to navigate market headwinds with our clients, we have witnessed profound disruption within the Chief Marketing Officer role over the last few years.
Recruiting a highly successful Chief Marketing Officer has become more difficult than ever due to external market conditions, expectations for the role, fierce competition among brands, and significant leadership turnover. Through these challenges, we have partnered with over 65 organizations over the past five years to find top marketing talent and are able to share the key themes we have observed as well as our recommendations for how to successfully recruit game-changing marketing leaders.
UNDERSTANDING THE DISRUPTION:
The disruptions created by the pandemic and the current landscape, including political, social, and financial concerns, have only accelerated change and increased pressure on the Marketing Officer role. But even before these times, we saw significant external factors impacting the marketing role within consumer-facing brands, including:
Consumers becoming more discerning about their purchases, social media accelerating brand development and influence, and lowered barriers to entry within the direct-to-consumer channel.
THE MAJOR CHALLENGES:
On top of external factors, the scope of the Marketing Officer role continues to expand, creating a highly competitive market for top talent and room for misalignment.
Scope of the Role:
Organizations often seek the perfect blend of brand marketing and performance marketing; leaders who drive BOTH brand (telling compelling stories that connect to consumers in an authentic, digitally enhanced way) AND performance (consumer acquisition, conversion, retention, and loyalty).
Marketing Officers are seen as the “fix it” person who will not only own brand and performance marketing, but also address PR/communications AND customer experience/engagement.
A Marketing Officer’s responsibility can be a “catch all” for other functions; Marketing Officers may take ownership for data/analytics, strategy and even eCommerce when there is not another clear functional leader.
Because of these demands, Marketing Officers can be set up to fail between a lack of prioritization, a lack of clearly defined outcomes and unrealistic expectations of functional expertise.
Great marketing leaders who can drive brand and performance AND successfully impact the bottom line are in high demand, fueling a competitive market for top talent. Most marketing candidates are exploring multiple opportunities/offers and, as such, can be discerning about:
The brands they choose to work for, ensuring a deep alignment with the company values, mission/purpose, in addition to the product/experience.
Relocation, often requesting a hybrid scenario.
Cash compensation and equity, raising the overall market compensation.
The combination of unrealistic expectations from the company and a high degree of optionality for the candidate has led to a significant amount of turnover at the Chief Marketing Officer level. As reported by the Wall Street Journal, the average tenure for a Chief Marketing Officer at 100 of the top US ad spenders is 40 months; the median is 25.5 months (The Wall Street Journal, 2022).
Despite the talent pool challenges, it is still possible to recruit and retain a top marketing leader. We encourage implementing the following criteria for a successful search:
1. One Size Does Not Fit All: Identify and understand the unique needs of your organization, the strengths of your current team, and the desired end-state for your business. This will help you make appropriate trade-offs on background, skills, experience, and responsibilities for your next Marketing Officer.
2. Understand Your Options: There is a significant amount of variability in title, scope, and responsibility for the Chief Marketing Officer. Understanding your priorities will allow you to title and scope the most appropriate role for your company. The most typical roles we see are: (A) Chief Marketing Officer = Brand + Performance (B) Chief Marketing & Digital Officer = Brand + Performance + eCommerce (C) Chief Marketing & Experience Officer = Brand + Performance + Customer Experience (D) Chief Brand Officer = Brand / Creative / Storytelling
3. Solve for the “AND”: Most companies want a blend of brand and performance marketing, but it is worth noting:
a. Performance and brand come together at the top: Typically, a marketer will either be a brand, or a performance (analytical) route-up. The functions come together at the Chief Officer level.
b. Performance may get brand, but brand may not get performance: It is more likely that a performance Marketer will understand brand storytelling, while it is less likely for a brand Marketer to have deep expertise in data analytics, retention, and conversion.
c. Pureplay experience does not guarantee success: As pureplay organizations have deep consumer data and analytics, their Marketing Officers are inherently more performance marketing oriented. However, many executives from pureplay organizations lack experience with the scale and complexity necessary to be successful at larger organizations.
4. Need for Speed: Successful searches require expedited decision making and a commitment to investing time and resources to the recruiting process. Align on your company’s value proposition and move quickly to recruit the top talent.