Chief Marketing Officer (CMO)

The Chief Marketing Officer (CMO) is the corporate executive responsible for overseeing everything related to marketing in a company.

They are the final say on all marketing activities within the organization. These might include advertising campaigns, brand management, market research, product development and management, pricing and customer service, as well as any marketing communications that the company may have to make.

The CMO is in charge of the team or department of marketing professionals and they typically report to the company’s Chief Executive Officer (CEO).

The CMO’s Main Responsibilities

One of the CMO’s primary responsibilities is to increase the company’s revenues by creating and developing marketing plans. These tasks ultimately give the company its competitive edge, placing itself strategically in the market.

Some of the CMO’s priorities include:

Product Development and Marketing

In product development, the CMO’s role is to conduct or oversee feasibility studies and appraise each proposed product or service. Following this long process, the CMO then looks at launching the new product. This includes supervising promotions, deciding on the messaging, monitoring the competition, and eventually taking customer feedback.

Market Research

There are many ways CMO’s can conduct good market research. These methods can range from customer surveys, focus group discussions, and distributor surveys. Gathering the necessary information is just one part of the equation. CMOs also discern which of the collected data is valuable for developing marketing strategies.

Brand Management

Brand management is building the brand to foster good relationships with customers to acquire brand loyalty. CMOs consider tangible parameters like product, service, pricing, and packaging as well as intangible ones like customer experience when it comes to managing the brand. The CMO also utilizes different strategies to bolster brand awareness and bring more inbound interest into the company.

Necessary Skills & Education for CMOs

Depending on the organization, CMOs might be required to have an MBA in Marketing or Business as well as previous managerial or directorship roles. But the hardline requirements for CMOs are experience and expertise in marketing. CMOs are also required to have strong leadership skills, interpersonal skills, a good eye for business, and even design.

Communication skills are a must for a CMO as they interact with many people within the organization daily. These are also important skills to have as they are tasked with knowing how to communicate with customers.

The CMO also needs to know how to utilize various marketing tools for market research. They need to understand branding. They need to be able to know how to communicate verbally and visually to get the product or service’s messaging across clearly and efficiently.

Becoming a CMO

The career path to becoming a CMO is much the same across industries. Here’s what a career path towards becoming CMO might look like:

  1. Entry-level positions: Account Coordinator, Social Media Manager, Project Coordinator, Marketing Specialist
  2. Managerial roles: Advertising Manager, Public Relations Manager, Brand Manager, Community Manager, Product Marketing Manager
  3. Directorship positions: Marketing and Research Director, Media Director, Director of Advertising Sales, Public Relations Director
  4. Marketing VP designations: VP of Brand Development or VP of Digital Marketing

In some cases, if the company is small, people can jump from project coordinator or specialist to a directorship position if your day-to-day tasks covered enough responsibilities to warrant the promotion.

If you're thinking about your own path to the CMO spot, it's probably a good idea to see where you stand at your job today and how you might progress. One easy way to do that is to join your company's public org chart.

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Career Paths of Well-Known Company CMOs

Becoming a CMO is not limited to following the path outlined above. These examples highlight how varied the journey can be as one moves up the ladder.

  • Hiroki Asai is the Global Head of Marketing at Airbnb. Hiroki got his start at CKS Partners/Marchfirst where he was Creative Director for three years. From there, he spent 16 years at Apple, where he began as Executive Creative Director in the Marketing Communications department until he became the VP of Global Marketing Communications.
  • Bozoma Saint John is the CMO of Netflix. She has a BA in African American Studies and English from Wesleyan University. Her 20-year career boasts great expertise in the marketing sphere, from an early designation as Senior Marketing Manager at Pepsi-Cola North America, to Head of Global Consumer Marketing for iTunes at Apple. She was also Chief Brand Officer for Uber then CMO at Endeavor before joining Netflix.
  • Brady Brewer is the CMO of Starbucks. Before this, he was SVP of Digital Customer Experience at the company and Brady’s career at Starbucks started back in 2001. Brady is even a certified Coffee Master--a program within Starbucks to train baristas--showing his passion for coffee and the company.