The Top Ten CMO Personality Types – Which One Is Your CMO?


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As a demand generation advisor and lead generation consultant, I meet and get to know closely, so many CMOs, especially in the B2B market. I like to observe and analyze people’s personalities in context of where they are and what role they play from an organizational standpoint.

So here’s a list I came up with for the most commonly encountered CMO personality profiles. Do you see your CMO (or yourself) here?

  1. “Think global, act local”—When you are in the cockpit of your B2B organization’s marketing plane, it becomes your mandate to maintain a bird’s eye view of things. But you also need market intelligence at the grassroots level. You need capable, hands-on, dynamic sales and marketing teams working in close collaboration in local markets. Now, if you believe that one sweeping universal strategy will fit the bill across the board, think again. A strategy can take a global view, but without the local perspective, you may be setting yourself up for failure.
  2. “Let me count the trees”—We have all seen this type of CMO who loses the forest for the trees. So caught up in the fine print and minutest details of sales numbers, marketing operations and measurement metrics, this CMO typically fails to look at the big picture. Yes, it’s good to have an eye for detail, but if it starts to come in the way of productivity, and becomes a motivation-downer, what good is it?
  3. “The ambush marketer”—Realizing that the biggest opportunities in the market are already taken by the competition, this type of CMO will rally the company’s forces to launch an ambush and grab attention through the next best target. Although from the B2C world, a recent example that comes to mind is of Nike. The recently concluded Olympic Games had Adidas as their sportswear sponsor, so Nike took an ambush marketing approach. Instead of the Olympic Games happening in London, England, the company focused on other great, but not so well known athletes in other “London” cities around the world. It was their “Find Your Greatness” campaign showing athletes in Little London, Jamaica; East London, South Africa; and London, Ohio.
  4. “I am the target audience”—This one is absolutely, the rarest breed of CMO. And seriously, we need more of the species. I’m talking about the kind of CMO who lives by the “Audience First” approach where understanding a buyer’s decision-making journey within the context of brand experience is of critical importance. The CMO seeks to gain this deep insight by putting herself or himself into the shoes of the company’s target audience. This is both, a fantastic opportunity as well as a tough challenge for the organization’s sales and marketing departments. Imagine—your CMO is now pretending to be your ideal buyer. Talk about a double-edged sword!
  5. “Big data is a big deal”—It’s the time for marketing innovation. Buyers are experiencing serious fatigue from oversell and 24/7 in-your-face push marketing. While marketers realize that innovation is the key to success, they also struggle to understand the complexities of big data. Not every CMO is comfortable with big data or is able to simplify it into useful information that can drive executable innovation mechanisms. Simply making a big deal of big data is not enough; you have to find the balance between technology-driven innovation and market dynamics-driven innovation.
  6. “Who says I’m a maverick?”—The most intriguing maverick will rarely ever admit to being one! If your CMO happens to be this type of radical personality type, it can be both a good and bad thing. Good because perhaps your target audience needs that off-the-beaten-track approach to marketing. It can be a bad thing though if you end up with spike marketing and sock puppets like in the Ford case study I wrote about last week.
  7. “Social media gonzo”—A fairly recent variety, this is the type of CMO blinded by the outward bling-bling of social media. An eMarketer article I read some months back said that CEOs who Tweet are held in high regard. By who I wonder…by Twitter? I think social media is important but there is a place for it within your integrated marketing strategy. I’ve seen CMOs who are ready to forsake proven marketing methodology and run wildly towards social media frenzy that is neither a proven system yet, nor has it delivered any concrete results to their company’s bottom line. Beats me!
  8. “The HIPPO”—Uh oh…let’s get out of the way of this one! Yes, they’re still around and organizations of all sizes and types are frequently affected by the “Highest Paid Person’s Opinion”. A CMO may not necessarily be the highest paid in the organization, but is typically a big influence on the top executives. This can also be a great advantage when the CMO makes a conscious effort to align sales and marketing forces, analyze the demand generation landscape and roll out a comprehensive strategy that integrates the best tools and techniques in the marketing toolbox—traditional and new (digital).
  9. “Diplomat”—This CMO is not quite sure what will work and what won’t but is willing to risk the company’s performance in order to further individual gain and basically…look good. Yikes! How far can such political motivation take your organization? Customer acquisition and retention happens through rational thinking and collaborative efforts where the company and the brand gain greater credibility and ultimately, market share.
  10. “Let me roll up my sleeves and stick my hands in the dirt”—Sure, why not? Welcome to the world of actually getting things done. I admire CMOs who interpret the C-Suite perspective as a combination of boardroom deep-thinking and going out on the field to listen to customers and try to understand what they really want. I only cringe when I see the occasional CMO who wants to get into the proverbial chicken suit and dance to the customers tune to know what song they’re singing. Please…give me a break!

Which one of the above best describes your CMO? Or is she / he a completely different animal? I would love to hear about other types of CMOs and perhaps in a future post we’ll discuss the ideal CMO profile. Email or call me, Louis Foong, at (905) 709-3827.

Republished with author's permission from original post.

Louis Foong
Louis Foong is the founder and CEO of The ALEA Group Inc., one of North America's most innovative B2B demand generation specialists. With more than three decades of experience in the field, Louis is a thought leader on trends, best practices and issues concerning marketing and lead generation. Louis' astute sense of marketing and sales along with a clear vision of the evolving lead generation landscape has proved beneficial to numerous organizations, both small and large.


  1. I’m my own CMO and definitely your #1 – think global and act local! Doing that is the only way to really know you’re on the right track. This post reminds me of my rant post on all the HUGE mistakes most CEOs, small business owners & managers are making – and what to do instead so I linked it to this comment.

    CEOs especially need to stop focusing on what is easy to measure and focus on what is most important instead!


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