Chief Concerns: Bridging The Marketing Gaps Between CEOs and CMOs

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To help you prep for those family disagreements bound to bubble up at the table on Thursday, allow me to share some news that will let you practice your debate (and deep-breathing) skills around the watercooler today.

According to the CEOs that McKinsey recently spoke with, about half say they’re comfortable with modern marketing.

According to the CMOs that McKinsey spoke with, however, it’s more like two-thirds of CEOs who don’t understand it.

Please pass the gravy.

“Contributing to this gap is the fact that most CEOs lack a marketing background,” according to the authors of the McKinsey study, who asked CEOs about such modern marketing tactics as paid social, personalization, advanced targeted strategies, and more. Using public data, they estimate only 10% of Fortune 250 CEOs have experience in marketing, with even less having held CMO-like roles.

“In contrast,” they write, “more than 70 percent of Fortune 100 CEOs have an operations or finance background. It stands to follow, then, that many C-suite members underestimate marketing’s potential to create growth, despite the rapid growth in marketing capabilities.”

Nine out of 10 CEOs surveyed said marketing’s role is well defined, though when their answers for what marketing’s primary role was were compared to the answers of their CMOs, only half from the same company gave the same answer. (See chart.)

(Source: McKinsey)

“Without clear, top-down expectations, CMOs cannot effectively align time and resources to the CEO’s long-term strategy,” the article says.

McKinsey calls the underestimating of marketing a “costly mistake,” finding that B2C companies that do prioritize marketing were three times more likely to have 5% or more revenue growth than companies that didn’t prioritize marketing; for B2B companies, it was twice as likely.

“To outperform and stimulate untapped growth, CEOs must clearly articulate the marketing function’s role, build their conviction in modern marketing, and reinforce accountability by aligning the full C-suite on measurement of what matters to overall growth,” the article says.


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