Marketing Recruitment: “Crew Wanted for Hazardous Journey”


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Small wages. Bitter cold. Long months of complete darkness. Constant danger. Safe return doubtful. Honor and recognition in case of success.

— Sir Ernest Shackleton’s recruitment notice for the 1915 Endurance Antarctic expedition (some 5,000 applicants were summarily rejected. By the way … the crew did return!!)

I welcome each of my new marketing classes with the sound-bite above. It’s an attention getter and a thought provoking way to get the class started.

It also makes a point because it appears today’s marketer’s also face a hazardous journey. Over the past couple of years you could count on at least one speaker in all marketing related conferences to quote the statistics from the Spencer Stuart CMO survey. The 2006 numbers stated that the average tenure for a Chief Marketing Officer was 23.2 months (23.5 months in 2005 and 23.6 months in 2004). And now a new report from the University of Texas, which interviewed more the 150 top companies with minimum annual revenues of $250M. The reports conclusion – the presence of a CMO in a company’s senior management team has no effect on the firm’s financial performance.

Marketing in today’s relationship economy is a bit hazardous. Many (most?) CMO’s have limited control over the product, the price, the distribution (or channel) or even the marcom budgets … let alone control over the customer or the management of customer accounts. Are marketers destined to fight for their survival and justify their existence because they are viewed as a cost center by the other C-levels?

What’s your view or opinion on how a CMO’s impact should be measured in order to bring “Honor and recognition in case of success!”

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  1. Alan, an excellent and provocative post. I remember hearing about that study. It doesn’t surprise me that have a CMO alone doesn’t matter (in terms of the firm’s financial performance), and I suspect the same is true of other CxO positions.

    But someone has to be in charge of marketing, and if title inflation means calling that person CMO instead of VP of Marketing, so be it.

    The more interesting question, I think, is what is different about the behavior of CMOs in companies that do perform better. There is good evidence that listening and customer-centric organizations can perform better (no guarantees, though) and in such an environment, the CMO should be more focused on understanding and anticipating customer needs, instead of just pushing the company’s “message.”

    Bob Thompson, CustomerThink Corp.
    Blog: Unconventional Wisdom

  2. Bob, great comments and follow-on question. Many customer-centric organizations (and marketers) have embraced the “Net Promoter Score” as a kind of listening post and metric to measure customer loyalty. And now it appears that an article in the July issue of the American Marketing Association’s Journal of Marketing challenges the claim that the NPS is the most effective metric linking customer loyalty to company growth. The findings have certainly sparked a debate between NPS advocates and those who have felt the metric needed more study.

    As pointed out in other posts, there are no silver bullets; however, in which camp does your company (or you) fall? Why? Is the NPS a tangible marketing metric capable of bringing honor and recognition?

    Alan See
    Blog: Welcome to Marketing 101

  3. Alan

    Another interesting view of the Journal of Marketing article I refered to in my post on Do You Really Need a Chief Marketing Officer?.

    Like Bob, I agree that the actual title carried makes little difference other than to convey a certain weight within each individual organisation. And like Bob, I agree that the more CMOs return to marketing’s roots, the more likely they are to be succesful in driving mutual value creation for customers and for shareholders.

    I come across a lot of CMOs in my consulting and interim work. Sadly, some of them are more concerned about the artefacts and the process of marketing, than they are about marketing’s role in the larger business system. A new through-the-line campaign really gets the CMO excited in a way that customer-driven innovation at the front end, or marketing resource management at the back end just doesn’t. The almost symbiotic relations that some CMOs have with their lead ad agencies have isn’t always helpful either when it comes to understanding business fundamentals.

    Graham Hill
    Independent CRM Consultant
    Interim CRM Manager


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