Chief marketing officers are supposed to be concerned with finding and serving their companies’ target audiences. But with Spencer Stuart putting the average tenure of a CMO at just a little more than two years—compared to nearly four years for CEOs—many have got to be sweating about the imaginary bull’s-eyes on their backsides.
A recent article in Investor’s Business Daily noted these stats and ventured a couple of theories as to why CMOs end up on the chopping block so quickly, including a poorly defined role, ignorance of new media and outdated skill sets in today’s digital world. Meanwhile, their employers want to see ROI, pronto.
But those quick wins are pretty impossible to get on your own when you have little direct marketing experience. Furthermore, as those of us with more than a passing acquaintance with direct marketing know, this business practice is an iterative process that builds long-term gain as you learn more and more about what works with your customer base. So, CEOs and presidents who have unrealistic expectations of what direct marketing can do—and how fast—will set their new CMOs up for failure.
Reading this news story made me think of Jon Roska’s book from a few years back, “Ducks in the Henhouse.” Roska, head of the direct response advertising agency Roska Direct Advertising, explains that direct marketers are ducks and brand-oriented ad men are chickens—and that both have a hard time living in the other’s section of the farm. The merger of their strengths, however, creates an unbeatable marketing team.
Is it possible then for CMOs to become “duckens,” two-thirds of football legend John Madden’s Thanksgiving “turducken” creation (a chicken stuffed into a duck, that’s then stuffed into a turkey)? This metamorphosis surely won’t happen overnight. CMOs who have spent much of their careers in the hen house and want to survive their companies’ 26-month itches should consider hiring an agency of ducks to help them learn how to swim in the waters of measurable marketing.