FAST COMPANY IN THE NEWS: The Wall Street Journal, May 16, 2007
Informed Reader; Page B17
Marketing Chiefs Might Add 'Scapegoat' to Their Resumes
Chief marketing officers serve many roles, but these days, scapegoat might be the most familiar, says Fast Company's Ellen McGirt.
The past 12 months have seen the departures of marketing heads at big consumer companies such as Michael Linton from Best Buy, Javier Benito from Starwood Hotels & Resorts Worldwide and Mary Minnick from Coca-Cola. They all have their own stories, but a survey by executive-search firm SpencerStuart shows that at 100 leading consumer-branded companies over the past three years, CMOs have held their jobs for 23 months on average, compared with 54 months for CEOs. In the fast-food industry, the average CMO stint is about a year.
One danger to marketing chiefs is their wide span of responsibilities. Problems in finance, manufacturing and customer service can trip them up as much as issues with advertising and promotional campaigns. Plus, everyone has an opinion on marketing. Colleagues won't hesitate to tell you if they think an ad campaign is lousy, says Mr. Linton, now a senior vice president at eBay. "No one comes up to the [chief information officer] and says, 'Hey, I was just thinking about your data architecture and how much better things are somewhere else."
CMOs also seem more easily expendable in moments when someone needs to take the fall for a slump: "Getting rid of the CFO might spook Wall Street, while changing a COO or a CIO could disrupt operations." The truth is, however, that ditching the CMO can be just as unsettling, says Ms. McGirt. A revolving door can harm a marketing department's efficiency as it would any other, especially since "the new CMO [usually] gets rid of everything the previous guy championed," Katherine Stone, who survived five CMOs during seven years in Coca-Cola's marketing department, complained on an industry blog.