Your Key New Business Takeaway From The Disappearing CMO Phenomenon


You’ve likely read about the disappearing CMO phenomenon, and when I say “disappearing”, I’m being almost literal.

Take this article from Marketing Dive, 9 recent CMO departures that point to the radical transformation of marketing:

Dunkin’s Tony Weisman announcing plans to step down last week capped off a remarkable few months that also saw leadership changes at McDonald’s, Taco Bell and Johnson & Johnson.

The CMO position is transforming, rather than truly disappearing.

For current CMO’s, it has to be daunting.  From the article:

“Short-termism” — the demand to provide results on a shorter timeline, often with smaller budgets than in the past — has become a common ailment impacting CMOs at the global level, according to the latest annual survey of the position by Dentsu Aegis Network.

“The problem is that the CMO job has become a marketing job, a brand strategy job, a chief digital officer job and an innovation job. It’s really hard to juggle all of those,” Allen Adamson, co-founder and managing partner at Metaforce, told Marketing Dive.

(Although it’s not just CMO’s dealing with the demand to provide results on a shorter timeline and with smaller budgets. I’m sure you’re nodding your head.)

You see these sentiments echoed throughout our industry.

Another article from CNBC titled Marketing chiefs face a ‘final desperate fight for survival’ in 2020, says report paints the picture further:

This puts more pressure on marketers, who may have previously only controlled the advertising and communications side of things. Now into the job mix comes a greater demand for real-time feedback on how well, and how often, a firm is communicating with customers.

. . . Now more than ever, CMOs have to be in charge of how their brand is perceived everywhere. “The reality is that most CMOs haven’t effectively navigated this transition,” the report’s authors state. “Those who succeed will do so by being accountable for it all — the brand, communications, sales enablement, CX (customer experience) and technology selection.

So, yes, this all sounds like a potential opportunity for CMO’s, while simultaneously sounding incredibly stressful and crappy at the same time. (Welcome to our industry, right?) But the good news?

The Disappearing CMO is absolutely an advantage for agencies.

The quotes I inserted above all point to countless areas where agencies can make that CMO (or whatever their title may be) look like a hero.

What’s In A Name

I mentioned titles above. Let’s not kid ourselves, call it what you will, the CMO will always be there in some form or fashion, whatever the sleek, new title may be.

That the position is changing and pressure increasing is real, but then you have ridiculous sentences like these from the CNBC article:

Counterintuitively, eliminating the CMO position sets the brand free from the confines of marketing, reuniting it with the business,” the report stated.

That’s hot garbage in my opinion.

But the notion of titles is critical and represents the key takeaway I mention in this post title.

As the CMO title transforms into different permutations, it will be harder and harder to pin down who you prospect.

The takeaway is this:

You can no longer treat your prospecting list as an afterthought

It’s concerning the number of agencies that can’t pinpoint distinct titles to go after when prospecting. I’ve asked the question in conversations with agency principals or new business directors before. I would guess about 40%, maybe more, have a hard time stating specific titles.

How in the world are you going to obtain new business if you don’t know who you’re going after?

I know not all of you reading are going after the KFCs and Cokes of the world, but these changing titles are starting to trickle down to companies at the next tier.

Here are just a few examples of the types of titles these companies are now creating:

  • Birchbox-CMO is now chief customer officer (with responsibility for digital engineering and customer experience as well as marketing)
  • Mars-CMO position eliminated, is now CGO (chief growth officers)
  • McDonalds-Global CMO will be replaced by global marketing SVP and SVP of marketing technology
  • Johnson & Johnson’s consumer division-no plans to replace CMO, and will divide responsibilities among other managers
  • Lyft-Departed CMO replaced with CMO duties divided between two newly formed roles, VP of marketing operations and VP of brand

While not exactly rocket science, the lack of uniformity means more work, and all the technology in the world won’t ultimately help here.

Certainly not in the short term.

Be wary of list building companies that are defined solely by their platform.

While CMO or VP of Marketing may be your typical go-to’s, there could be 7 or 8 different titles in the future (or now). You’ll have to have a human perform a more detailed search.

It’s why, to be self-serving for a moment, we’ve always had a list-building team of humans. And we supplement their efforts with the various technologies we use to make the process more efficient.

And yes, in many of these cases, you’ll have to find out the correct title through boots on the ground, prospecting detective work.

But it all starts with a solid list.

With the transformation of CMO responsibilities and titles comes a real opportunity for your agency.

Don’t get sloppy or try to wing the work you need to put in to take advantage of those opportunities.

I'm the VP of Sales at RSW/US. We specialize in working with services firms to help drive and close new business-if you need help with that, email me at What I actually do: drive sales efforts to bring ad agencies and services firms on board with RSW, create content around successful new business tactics and help drive RSW/US marketing objectives, including social media channels, blog content, webinars, video and speaking engagements. Dig it.