Marketing Moves: H1 2020


To better understand current trends in the appointment and turnover of marketing officers, Russell Reynolds Associates tracked and analyzed 241 notable, publicly disclosed marketing leadership moves from January to June 2020.

Marketing Moves Jump by 15 Percent Despite COVID-19

COVID-19 has presented ongoing challenges to marketers as massive uncertainty, economic slowdowns and public health concerns persist. The initial wave of COVID caused a number of firms to slash their marketing spend, due to live TV and outdoor advertising grinding to a halt. Across the globe, marketing teams were reduced in size, and the big question on everyone’s lips was: Where is the future of marketing heading? To our surprise, the reduction in marketing spend during COVID did not translate into a reduction in executive marketing leadership moves. In fact, between January and June 2020, we have seen an increase in marketing moves by 15 percent at the senior-most level versus the same period a year ago.


Industry Breakdown of Marketing Moves

Consumer hires in freefall:

The consumer industry accounted for 41 percent of the marketing leadership turnover in the first half of 2020, an 11-percentage point decrease from the same time period in 2019, where more than half of all marketing moves came from the consumer industry. Shelter-in-place and working from home has had a significant impact on consumer companies, which has negatively impacted consumer CMO opportunities.

Technology hires driving the market:

Technology companies have been crucial in coronavirus responses, as they partner with retailers and first responders to help streamline supply chains and increase data and analytics processes. In turn, the technology sector saw a 9-percentage point increase in marketing appointments from H1 2019 to H1 2020, the highest by far of any sector or industry and maintaining momentum from the previous quarter.

Financial services and retail need a comeback:

In contrast, the number of financial services moves decreased a full 7 percentage points, and the number of retail moves decreased by 5 percentage points from H1 2019 to H1 2020. This demonstrates the increased volatility in the financial services and retail sectors over the past few months as leaders seek to adjust to the current economic downturn and systemic changes prompted by the pandemic. Leaders across these industries are trying to get their bearings and maintain their balance sheet, leaving marketing as a secondthought. We can expect that as we emerge from the crisis, and the business landscape looks brighter, that retail and financial services companies will place a refocused lens on the marketing function in this new context.

  H2 2018 H1 2019 H2 2019 H1 2020
Apparel/Retail 14% 13% 14% 9%
Consumer Digital & Media 15% 13% 14% 10%
Consumer Products & Services 12% 17% 11% 13%
Leisure & Hospitality 14% 10% 13% 9%
Financial Services 12% 13% 12% 13%
Healthcare 7% 8% 7% 9%
Industrial & Natural Resources 4% 6% 4% 10%
Education/Nonprofit 2% 3% 4% 5%
Professional Services 2% 3% 3% 2%
Technology 17% 13% 18% 27%
  • Source: Russell Reynolds Associates' analysis of marketing executive job changes (n=241), January-June 2020.

Internal vs. External Appointments

The CMO succession crisis remains a major issue for marketers across all industries, yet H1 2020 showed a slight improvement for internal candidates. While external hires are still 75 percent of all marketing placements, this is down from 80-plus percent in the previous 18 months. Due to the uncertainty permeating the market and unpredictable hiring freezes, we find more executives are looking inside their organizations for step-up candidates and high potential marketers.

  H2 2018 H1 2019 H2 2019 H1 2020
Internal 17% 20% 18% 25%
External 83% 80% 82% 75%
  • Source: Russell Reynolds Associates' analysis of marketing executive job changes (n=241), January-June 2020.

As digital transformation becomes a top priority for organizations, leaders are forced to not only have front-end capabilities but also the ability to understand data, analytics, and back-end systems more fluently. With a unique perspective on customer demands and behaviors, marketers must act as the cross-functional “glue” and lead customer experience initiatives across the broader organization. This has broadened the talent pool, but additionally, it has been a key factor in the volatility of the role.

  H2 2018 H1 2019 H2 2019 H1 2020
Apparel/Retail 83% 81% 94% 68%
Consumer Digital & Media 88% 70% 83% 79%
Consumer Products & Services 67% 72% 75% 69%
Leisure & Hospitality 96% 90% 70% 55%
Financial Services 71% 81% 77% 62%
Healthcare 88% 92% 93% 86%
Industrial & Natural Resources 57% 54% 56% 57%
Education/Nonprofit 100% 100% 75% 92%
Professional Services 100% 86% 83% 100%
Technology 83% 86% 92% 88%
  • Source: Russell Reynolds Associates' analysis of marketing executive job changes (n=241), January-June 2020.
Tech hiring tech:

Over the past few quarters, marketing moves in technology companies have been slightly increasing, spiking to a peak in Q1 2020. However, the industry’s CMO appointments have been almost exclusively external hires. Only about one of every 10 CMOs appointed at technology organizations in H1 2020 were promoted from within. Notably, just 19 percent of those external CMO hires came from a non-technology organization, indicating a true “revolving door” for tech CMOs.

Healthcare, industrial and education also staying with what they know:

In general, healthcare companies have been increasingly looking for marketing leadership outside of the organization, although there has been a slight decrease in this trend over the past year. As external CMO hires have decreased year over year, the percentage of healthcare appointments from different industries has also decreased drastically, down 27 percent fro