Posted November 1, 2011 7:14 am by with 1 comment

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The more that is written about the world of the CMO the less attractive it seems to be. Sure it would be nice to have the big salary and the perks of being the top marketing dog but if recent research is any indication it appears as if being a CMO also means you are a bit out of the loop.

I have likened the plight of today’s CMO to that of climbing a burning rope. Most CMO’s are likely to have about 20 years or so experience before they reach the top of the food chain at a major company. That time may shorten at a smaller firm and there are those that are very young for the role as well. What has happened though is that as they climb the rope to the top of the marketing food chain many of the techniques and skills needed to get there have gone away away thus leaving them at the top with no way to get down except to fall

According to a study by IBM entitled “from Stretched to Strengthened: Insights from the Global Chief Marketing Officer there is quite dilemma facing this group as it relates to social media. emarketer presents the findings that show social media as a prime desire.

That’s all well and good but why do folks insist on calling social media a technology? The technology piece is the tool part of social media. The application of social media is much less about the technology and more about the psychology of marketing. Referring to social as a tool implies that it is something you use and the job gets done. But it’s not like that at all. Another analogy I often cite is that a screwdriver is a fantastic tool but you wouldn’t paint your house with it. Looking at social as a tool rather than a system and a process is the easy route for CMO’s but it is far from accurate.

Maybe they know this deep inside. Look at the next chart and the story is told quite clearly. While CMO’s know social media is important, about 7 out of 10 admit they are unprepared to deal with it. I bet the remaining 3 out of those 10 are lying to some degree about being prepared as well.

The two things that go hand in hand, social media and the tremendous amounts of data it can generate are what the CMO crowd are not prepared to handle. So who’s really in control in the world of marketing these days as it becomes more and more prevalent and integral to a business’ success?

It’s like having a captain of a ship who recognizes that he doesn’t understand the shifting tides but will keep sailing anyway. That usually doesn’t end well. How can this “preparedness” gap be solved? The most obvious way is to have CMO’s come down out the ivory tower, roll up their sleeves and learn what social media is. That sounds nice but most CMO’s won’t have the stones to do that.

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So what will happen? Most likely there will be tremendous C-suite crashes and burns and next will come a younger crowd of CMO that will suffer from the opposite problem. Complete understanding of social media but limited business experience in which to apply it properly. Either way we are in for a rough transition in the upper levels of marketing for quite a few years to come.

What are our thoughts?

  • “Looking at social as a tool rather than a system and a process is the easy route for CMO’s but it is far from accurate.”

    Excellent point! The analogy is use (though I like your screwdriver one) is Microsoft Word. It will help you write, but it doesn’t make you a writer. Word is a tool but writing is the actual process.