Marketing Officers

From CMO to C-Uh-Oh

Why the level of turnover among retail Chief Marketing Officers?

Turmoil and turnover in retail marketing leadership is nothing new. For years, legacy brick and mortar retailers have struggled to adapt their business models to the reality of digital & mobile as well as the shifting tastes and preferences of a new generation of shoppers. Poor performing businesses rightly have a need to bring in new leadership to steady the ship.

Among the top 30 retailers with an enterprise level Chief Marketing Officer, just under half have seen their marketing leader depart within the past 12 months. Even strongly performing businesses, such as The Home Depot, have witnessed a shift in marketing leadership and a recalibration of the role. We interviewed 12 executives at major retailers, both CMOs and CEOs, to reflect on the volatility within the marketing function and share their thoughts on the current challenges they face. The following is a summary of our findings regarding the causes behind this abnormal period in retail:

The CMO role is rapidly evolving into a more growth‐oriented role. The adaptation is causing a strain on both retail organizations and their marketing leaders. The traditional CMO role is fragmenting. The appointment of Chief Digital Officers (approximately 30% of retailers have implemented this role)*, Chief Omnichannel Officers (13%), Chief Customer Experience Officers (13%), Chief Innovation Officers (4%) and others demonstrates the path on which marketers need to travel. Retail marketers are being asked to do more now than ever before, but are frequently coming up short. This is not an easy fix. As the retail industry broadly struggles with transformation, marketing will as well.


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