The Case For Two CMOs
Can a single person truly be expected to know everything about marketing? Columnist David Rodnitzky proposes an alternative.
Thomas Young lived from 1773 to 1829. To say he was a scholar is an understatement, since during his lifetime he “made notable scientific contributions to the fields of vision, light, solid mechanics, energy, physiology, language, musical harmony, and Egyptology.”
Young’s knowledge was so vast, in fact, that he is often referred to as “the last man who knew everything.” Young’s designation as the “last man” is indicative not only of his breadth of knowledge, but also of the limited canon of information available at the time.
No doubt there have been many equally impressive scholars since Young’s time, but the breadth and depth of information available in the modern world makes it impossible to claim that any one person could know everything.
Indeed, even if we limit the scope of inquiry to just marketing, it is no longer possible to “know everything” about marketing. It may even be a stretch to say that one person knows everything about search engine marketing (SEM), or even just Google AdWords!
And yet, companies hire a Chief Marketing Officer (CMO) and assume that this person will be an expert in all areas of marketing. In fact, most CMOs are just the opposite, typically wired in one of two ways: direct response or branding.
To expect one person to understand both is folly and, frankly, sets a new CMO up for failure. As such, I believe it is time for a new marketing organizational structure: the two-headed CMO!
Focus On What You Know
I’m a direct response guy. I’ve never been trained in the “four Ps of marketing,” nor do I understand why it is a good idea for AT&T to spend $1.59 billion a year on mostly unmeasurable brand marketing.
I know from experience that most brand marketers know next to nothing about direct response advertising, and I’m sure that they have an equally dismissive view of the efficacy of my craft.
So what happens when you hire a CMO with great brand marketing experience? He or she focuses their time and budget on what they know, at the expense of direct marketing programs.
A few years back, I noted that Ford had spent $5 million to sponsor the Super Bowl pregame show. That’s all well and good; yet, when I actually did a search on Google for Ford products, they hadn’t bothered to actually buy their brand terms!
On the flip side, we recently worked with a new toy manufacturer who was convinced that they could sell their new toy directly to consumers without any branding.
This can work — if you sell a commodity product and can price the product below the leading brands. But without this unique situation, an unbranded product cannot compete against a great brand. And indeed, the toy has yet to take off.
I’m not suggesting that these CMOs are dumb — you don’t get a plum CMO position unless you’ve had a lot of prior marketing success. It’s human nature, however, to focus on what you know.
This often results in unconscious bias toward one side or the other of marketing. So even if a CMO has hired a director of online user acquisition and given that person a budget, if the CMO is an offline branding expert, that hire will never get the resources nor attention s/he deserves.
For this reason, I think the only solution is to have two CMOs — one for direct response and one for branding. Give the direct response CMO a ROI or ROAS goal; give the branding CMO a lift/awareness goal.
Let the direct response CMO own all online and offline channels that drive direct ROI (SEM, direct mail, DRTV, email marketing), and let the branding CMO take care of the awareness channels (TV, out of home, display, and print).
Let the direct response CMO run analytics and tracking; let the branding CMO own the Nielsen relationship. Give them separate budgets and separate teams. Have them both report to someone who can be impartial — perhaps a COO or even the CEO.
Be A Better CMO
Someone smarter than me once said, “An expert at everything is an expert at nothing.” CMOs who are hired to run branding and direct response, and online and offline, and people and technology, are set up for failure for this very reason.
Marketing is simply too nuanced and too complex to expect one person to “know everything” anymore. Both companies and marketers will be more successful if we admit that the time has come to have more than one CMO at the helm.