The CMO’s Growing Focus on Innovation


August 27, 2021

“The revolving door of the marketing C-Suite has been greased.” – Ryan Barwick, Morning Brew

Over the last 20 years, the shoulders of a chief marketing officer have gotten incredibly broad. Well, that is, if they want to be able to outlive the average month tenure of their office.

At nearly every turn, the role of the CMO looks vastly different than it did just a few months, much less years, ago.

Then there’s the dilemma of getting everyone in the company to even understand what, the heck, marketing’s all about these days. What the chief exec says they want from the head of marketing, and what they actually expect can be drastically different.

The short shelf life of a CMO

If you look at the to-do list of the execs in the C-suite, most are pretty straight forward.

CEO – Head honcho to which all others report.
CFO – The money person
CIO – The technology person
COO – The process person
CHRO – The people person

Obvious, right?

Then we get to the CMO.

Sure, we can say that the CMO is the marketing person, but the problem is half the time their own team doesn’t know all that entails, much less the rest of the top brass. It could involve any or all of the following…

– Brand/employer brand
Brand purpose
– Corporate communications
– PR
Employee communications
– Executive communications
– Demand gen
Content marketing
– Digital
Growth driver
Customer experience
– Voice of the customer
– Transformation

And that barely scratches the surface!

Amidst all of this, CMOs are falling behind on the one thing that can help them with every other aspect of their job: innovation.

Gartner recently released a report that showed CMO investment in innovation, where the money’s going, and what kind of results they’re getting.

In its report, The Role of Marketing in Digital Transformation and Innovation, Gartner points out that 72 percent of marketing leaders say their marketing innovation budgets increased year over year, despite cuts to their overall budget. In total, they’re saying that they set aside 21 percent for innovation projects.

This is big news!

90 percent of innovation happens outside of traditional innovation, which is why CMOs believe they’re leading the charge. In the last 18 months, a hefty amount of innovation has come from how companies do business and they ways they connect with customers. In other words, the digital transformation side of things. Even with this…
– Less than 20 percent have the necessary digital business capabilities
– 33 percent are early in their digital journey, showing that even in 2021, there’s still a gap between digital leaders and laggards.

The chart below shows that CMOs truly believe that innovation is the path to growth. And, they’re willing to bank on it by putting their money where their mouth is.

Source: Gartner

However, a majority of CMOs only invest on sure bets or random acts of innovation.

Source: Gartner

It’s no wonder, then, that the two biggest downsides of marketing innovation are measurement and results –
– 91 percent struggle to measure the impact of innovation
– 83 percent say that innovation has not delivered to management expectations

The best path for CMO success

Does this mean that marketing execs have no alternative than to throw up their hands and wish for the best?

Absolutely not!

Here’s where they can gain traction –
✅ Set clear objectives for the team and reinforce them. I see so many marketing teams running around getting busy, but not focusing on anything, much less the right things.
✅ Make sure you team understands your definition of innovation and what it looks like in practice. Innovation is a fuzzy word that’s overused. No one can deliver measurable results on something they don’t understand.
✅ Give them a tried and true process to follow so they know how to identify opportunities and solve problems.

Innovation isn’t something that CMOs and the marketing team are now expected to do on top of the rest of their job. It’s the way they’re expected to do their entire job.

Want to make innovation a core capability for your team?

Grab your copy of Carla’s book RE:Think Innovation, have her speak to your team, host a workshop, or work with her one-on-one.

Download the full Gartner report.

Photo credit: ar130405 via Pixabay

About Carla

Carla Johnson Innovation Creativity Speaker Author

Carla Johnson helps leaders who are often paralyzed by traditional thinking. They suffer from slow growth, an eroding competitive advantage, low employee engagement, and depleted investor confidence. Their teams lack purpose and progress and constantly battle a resistance to change and new ideas.

As the world’s leading innovation architect, Carla’s spent 20 years helping leaders shatter limits and discover undiscovered possibilities. Through years of research, she’s developed a simple, scalable 5-step process that teaches people how to consistently produce inspired ideas that lead to uncommon outcomes.