CMO Pulse Survey 2019

Korn Ferry’s Global Marketing Officers practice surveyed more than 200 marketing leaders, including 67 chief marketing officers (CMOs), on a variety of topics to understand their perspective on the role and the major business trends that are impacting the marketing function.

The 2019 CMO Pulse Survey uncovered a looming leadership crisis facing the marketing function, with 84% of CMO respondents saying there is not an internal ready-now successor for their role, and only 41% believing there is a comprehensive succession plan. Compounding those issues around the lack of successorship is the historically short tenure of CMOs.

The survey also found that 41% of CMOs see strategic thinking as the top capability gap they are focused on developing in their direct reports.

“Given the proliferation of specialists in the marketing function, and the fact that there is often not enough focus on developing those specialists into strategic generalists, is likely why strategic thinking is a gap and is one of the reasons there is a challenge finding successors in the ranks,” says Caren Fleit, managing director of Korn Ferry’s Global Marketing Officers practice.

CMOs play a critical role in driving value across their organizations. When asked where they spend the majority their time, 67% of the CMOs surveyed said either driving revenue or driving strategy. Additionally, 78% believe their role is important to firm strategy, while 90% said they present to their boards.

“In today’s world of constant change, it is not enough for CMOs to be focused only on the creative side of the function or on marketing metrics,” says Fleit. “A CMO’s performance must translate into creating value across an organization. Everything CMOs do must be in service of specific business objectives and be measured in terms of business impact.”

As the champion of the customer, it is not surprising that CMOs cited customer centricity as their top strategic priority. What is concerning, however, is that while more than a third of the CMOs (35%) cited customer centricity as their top strategic priority, only 10% spend most of their time on optimizing the customer experience.

“Customer centricity is the top priority for CMOs, but it is a significantly lower priority for the C-suite, which may speak to the challenges CMOs face when trying to align a company behind a customer-centric agenda,” observes Fleit.

As in prior years, digital transformation continues to be top of mind for CMOs. When asked which area of their function is in greatest need of talent transformation, 38% chose either digital or performance marketing.

Fleit adds, “Many organizations are still playing catch up and have yet to fully build marketing teams that can best leverage rapidly evolving technology to create intimacy and connect with customers holistically across the customer journey.”

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  • Caren Fleit

    Managing Director,
    Global Marketing Officers Practice

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