The trend for brands installing a chief growth officer rather than a CMO to lead marketing is gaining pace, with Kimberly-Clark the latest company to make the switch when it brought former Johnson & Johnson marketer Alison Lewis on board.
At the beginning of the year, Mars Wrigley made a similar move. But rather than being a direct replacement for the CMO position as is often the case, the chief growth officer role at Mars is positioned slightly differently.
“The traditional CMO roles I have done were much more focused on brand communication – the brand’s point of view on the world and how the brand shows itself – versus now using the brand as a tool for growth,” says Berta de Pablos, who took on the role in January.
“[It’s about] orchestrating and driving different things from the first interaction on digital, to an interaction in-store, to driving a search campaign. It’s much broader in scope because it’s about reaching more consumer touchpoints.”
Six months on and de Pablos tells Marketing Week the shift has enabled the business to “think differently”.
Because the scope of the role is broader and “touches more points that impact business growth and business performance”, the shift from CMO to chief growth officer has also helped to “frame more clearly” what marketing’s purpose is to the rest of the company.
But she says it still requires collaboration and the importance of close-knit partnerships with other members of the C-suite should not be overlooked.
“Marketing is not something that you do in isolation on the side. Marketing becomes the heart of your growth so you clearly have to have great partnerships with your chief financial officer – that’s an important one,” she says.
“You also have to have a great partnership with human resources because talent attraction and culture [are crucial]; and of course with the CEO to make sure everything you’re doing is in sync with the strategy of the company.”
While de Pablos is a former marketer, prior to taking on the role she spent two years running Mars Wrigley’s US confectionery business to broaden her general management experience, which she says has been invaluable.
“In order to get [a chief growth officer] role it’s important to have some general management experience,” she explains. “That way you understand what drives the growth of the business and you can get into this position. It helps you join the dots and orchestrate what is needed to drive growth.”
She doesn’t believe a chief growth officer will be right in all businesses though, or that the CMO role will disappear.
“There is still a place for the CMO but it depends on the industry and what other peers you have in the C-suite. There are different ways to skin a cat. We chose [to install a chief growth officer] as it was relevant for us in our current organisation but I think there is still space for a CMO and a chief growth officer.”
She believes it’s becoming more common for companies to have both, with the CMO reporting into the chief growth officer, although this isn’t how things are set up at Mars.
From brand management to brand experience
She says “three major shifts” in marketing pushed the confectionery business to restructure in this way.
“Marketing is now less about managing what the brand is about and how it looks, and more about brand experience,” she explains. “There is no more old funnel line; the way you interact with a brand, the way that you read a tweet, the way you purchase from a store, the way you search for a brand – it’s all blurring.
“Marketing today must look at the end-to-end experience of the consumer.”
Secondly, she believes brands must be able to “activate different growth drivers”, which is something marketers need to have within their scope.
Lastly, because 70% of business growth comes from expanding the categories Mars already operates in, “if we want to grow our business we need to think about growing our categories, so that’s the main reason [for the shift].”
As a result digital, innovation and communication all now come under the scope of the chief growth officer.
Doing so has instilled a new way of thinking, both for the marketing team and the wider business, she says, particularly when it comes to the use of data.
“More than ever data is helping us target our consumers better, in a way that is more personalised and much more relevant to them. It’s helping us analyse performance and understand the return on marketing investment. It’s also helping us understand the best way of activating our content and which media to use.”
New recruitment challenges
The shift to chief growth officer has helped Mars embrace technology in a more useful way too, she says, but this brings with it a whole host of new challenges, particularly when it comes to recruitment and retention.
“[The shift in focus] ultimately changes the talent we recruit, the culture that we create and the type of talent we attract,” she explains. “As marketers we must be very comfortable working with people who have a different profile, like a data analyst, for example. They have a very different profile to a traditional marketer, but they are essential.”
She adds that marketers today “need to be much better at being experts”, so she sees businesses shifting from having a number of generalists to having a team of experts that complement each other.
“Talent acquisition is going to be critical in the future for marketing because of the diverse expertise and thinking needed,” she adds.
She reckons retention will be easier though given the vast array of opportunities open to marketers, but admits there will also be greater interest from competitors.
“It has never been a more exciting time to work in marketing, so retention is easier. But it also puts a lot of pressure on us because when you have good talent there is a lot of competition [who want to steal] that talent, which forces us to be better. It means we always have to raise the bar and ensure we have the right culture.”
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