WTF? Average CMO tenure is only 48 months? 23 percent of top jobs are open annually?

Marketing Department and CMO Churn

Here’s an article with a ton of buzzwords that reads like a catalog of CMOs who have been promoted in recent years; it’s actually really hard to get through without gagging or trying to smash your computer into 48 pieces on the floor. There are some interesting components, though: first off, the average tenure of a CMO is 48 months. That’s an uptick from previous years, but still … 48 months is four years. Considering you do about 590 actual hours of work per year, that’s about 2,400 hours of legitimate work for a CMO before they’re off to the next thing. Also, this tenure study encompasses the 100 largest advertised brands and companies, right? In the last year alone, 23 of those 100 companies (1 in 4, then) had a CMO opening. That means 1 in 4 of the largest companies are changing marketing leadership every year? What the hell? (The number was actually much higher in previous years.)

Those numbers are kind of insane to me.

First of all, by some measures losing a senior-level employee (like a CMO) can cost you 400% of their salary in an attempt to replace them. So if CMOs are leaving or switching gigs at this rate, that’s a whole lot of money companies are paying to find new CMOs. Weird.

Probably more importantly than that is this stat, right? When you lose/switch a CMO, that means (a) you gotta pay to find a new one or get one in-house (above), but (b) the tone of the marketing department is going to shift because there’s a new top leader. Shifting every four years isn’t bad (that’s probably longer than most divisions go between a big shift in management ideas), but companies love to outsource their C-Suite roles, so you probably got someone new coming in. (Oftentimes.) This means he/she needs to spend months (a whole year?) getting up to speed before he/she can even start getting the right changes in place — and then he/she is gone in another 36 months?

Feels like churn could be an issue in the marketing leadership world, no? (Here’s a similar philosophy as to that.)

Sometimes I wonder if marketing department churn has something to do with the marketing hiring model that tends to focus on extroverts — that could lead to (a) driving away introverts and (b) making those hired extroverts want to chase other opportunities, because they’re spending all their time fighting with like-minded extroverts to speak in meetings.

Sometimes I do wonder about that, but then I read quotes like this from the article linked at the top and want to punch myself in the fucking face instead:

“For me, it was an exciting opportunity to develop my general-management skills beyond just marketing, to start thinking more holistically at the enterprise level about how all our various initiatives come together.”

I honestly know what all those words mean, but I have absolutely no idea what they mean when put together.


Ted Bauer