2019 Outlook for the CMO Role

by Beverly Harvey

What You Need to Know this Year to Level Up as a Chief Marketing Officer

CMO“Growth” is the watchword for today’s CMOs. With some experts characterizing CMOs as “Chief Growth Officers,” the growth imperative is increasingly expected of this role. Jean-Baptiste Coumau, Tom French, and Laura LaBerge note in the Harvard Business Review that to get ahead of the competition, “CMOs must deliver above-market growth” by facilitating outstanding customer experience and organizational alignment.

Traditional aspects of the CMO role include brand management, marketing communications, sales management, market research, marketing training, product development, distribution channel management, pricing, customer service, strategic planning, and data analysis. In many cases, we can now add for the contemporary CMO customer experience, data strategy, change management across the business, information technology (with CMO and CIO often closely collaborating), marketing strategy, storytelling, and driving innovation. Today’s CMO can be seen as voicing the customer perspective to the rest of the C-Suite and the board.

Brand-building is still counted as a top priority for CMOs; this function is increasingly impacted by storytelling, emotion, and the customer experience.

Perhaps surprisingly, the CMO role is far from universal in corporations, and tenure of incumbents in the position tends to be shorter than for other C-Suite roles.

Key Competencies for the 2019 CMO Role

Here are the skills experts say are key to the evolving CMO role. In your career-marketing communications, showcase the competencies on this list you possess:

  • Strategic thinking
  • Ability to drive organizational alignment to deliver better customer experiences
  • Data-driven decision-making
  • Evangelist for emerging technology, such as artificial intelligence and machine learning
  • Cross-functional leadership
  • Ability to foster agility
  • Storytelling
  • Communication
  • Vision
  • Innovation
  • Product understanding
  • Customer focus

Level-Up Tips

A few suggestions for those seeking to break into the CMO role, expand their horizons in an existing CMO role, or even rise beyond the CMO role:

  • Deploy full C-Suite strategic thinking. Matthew Lieberman refers to a “multihyphenate role” – CMO-CEO-CFO – to describe the kind of full-organization integration necessary to excel as a CMO.
  • Have a command of the best technology to yield the right data. Writing for Chief Marketer, Patty Odell suggests emphasizing the “four forces underlying consumer technology adoption — tools, coordination, conversation, and emotion” to refine the approach to engaging customers.
  • Get experience working on an integrated team. McKinsey found upon surveying 200+ CMOs and senior-marketing executives that marketers termed as “integrators” –those who have merged data and creativity – increase their revenues at twice the average rate of S&P 500 companies. The ability to build bridges across functions is a competitive advantage. “In the future,” writes blogger Martin Roll, “the CMO will emerge as the strategic connection between the corporate boardroom, the top management team, the CEO, and the customer.”
  • It’s OK to aspire to be CEO. While CMOs were once dismissed as CEO material since they were not directly accountable for profitability, the customer focus of this role has propelled it to CEO-worthy status. David Shrank of Deloitte Consulting notes that “the role of the CMO has changed dramatically in recent years, and this new breed of CMO is being shortlisted for the top spot … as the CMO continues to own the customer across all channels – as well as the data that drive the business – the CMO quickly becomes a logical person to own the company’s growth agenda in the CEO role.” In one study, more than half of surveyed executives said their CMO could eventually become CEO.

For inspiring stories of marketers’ varied career paths to CMO, see articles in MarketPro and Mashable.

CMO Trends to Watch in 2019

  • Mass Data Fragmentation is a challenge for marketers: CMOs must contend with unstructured data that is currently widely scattered, resulting in an incomplete picture. These leaders seek a more holistic data scenario.
  • Customer acquisition remains the No. 1 objective: The best CMOs are relentlessly dedicated to understanding the customer and push their organizations toward customer-centricity. The Three E’s – Empathy, Emotion, and Experience – will increasingly inform marketing to customers, as will personalization. Writing for Forbes, Jenny Rooney cites “near-obsessive focus on their customers … engaging with them in a fully omnichannel world and with a unique respect and allegiance.” Some experts suggest a CMO’s role should be Chief Experience Officer.
  • The Holy Grail for CMOs is to marry data with creativity: This “right-brain/left-brain challenge,” as Alan Schulman calls it in Adweek, is a unique CMO imperative within the C-Suite.
  • Emerging technologies, such as artificial intelligence and machine learning, will impact CMOs and help solve data problems: Increasing use of these technologies enables CMOs to extract optimal value and insights from their data.


As a career coach, I’ve helped numerous executives transition into more fulfilling careers. Schedule a call with Beverly today for a complimentary discussion https://www.harveycareers.com/discussion.

Beverly Harvey
Executive Career Coach
Forbes Coaches Council Member
Credentialed Career Manager
Certified Career Management Coach


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