Report: CMO tenure shortest of the C-suite

​The CMO’s short tenure, exposed by CMO’s ​State of the CMO research​, has been backed by a recent global study

The CMO’s short tenure, exposed by CMO’s State of the CMO research, has been backed by a recent global study, which found the average tenure of the job role was only 3.5 years – the shortest of the c-suite.

In its analysis of the top 1000 US companies by revenue, Korn Ferry, found the average tenure for a c-suite member is 4.9 years. However, chief marketing officers have a tenure of just 3.5 years on average, something the consultancy puts down to a lack of understanding about how marketers can drive business outcomes.

“Short CMO tenure is a reflection of a lack of understanding of how powerful this role can really be in terms of driving business outcomes,” Korn Ferry leader of global marketing officers practice, Caren Fleit, said. “This often leads to lack of clarity around tangible deliverables and also to hiring a CMO whose skills and experiences may not be aligned with business needs.”

Korn Ferry also found CMOs in some sectors spend a longer time than others in the position. Marketing leaders in the industrial sector average one year longer (four years on average) than those in the technology sector (three years on average). Even so, these particular CMOs still manage to have the second-shortest tenure of the C-suite executives examined, on average.

These finding are backed up by the third annual edition of CMO’s State of the CMO, release last year, which demonstrated an average tenure across marketing leadership roles at 2 years 5 months, down from 2 years 10 months in 2018, and 2 years 11 months in 2017.

CMO found declining tenure has been partly due to the continuing disconnect between the marketing leader's expectations of their role, with those of the CEO. When CMO separated out the 64 per cent of CMOs directly reporting to the CEO from last year’s figures, we found tenure fractionally improved (2 years 7 months). What’s more, across 2018’s CMO50, CMO’s list of Australia’s most innovative and effective marketers, average tenure sat at 3 years 7 months.

State of the CMO found, for many, a big stumbling block is that CMOs still struggle to demonstrably prove value and effectiveness. In this year’s State of the CMO, six in 10 marketing leaders said they can prove marketing’s ROI impact quantitatively, while 32 per cent reported a good qualitative sense of marketing’s ROI impact but lacked quantitative results. The remaining 9 per cent haven’t yet been able to show marketing impact either way.

Korn Ferry found CMOs have an average age of 54, and are two years younger than the c-suite average (56) and a good five years younger on average than CEOs, who remain the oldest at 59. In fact, CMOs, along with CFOs, are the youngest in the c-suite. It also found the number of female and male CMOs have reached near parity.

The Korn Ferry analysis of age and tenure of members of the c-suite (CEO, CFO, CIO/CTO, CMO, CHRO) at the 1000 largest US companies by revenue took place in late 2019.

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