The Modern CMO

The Modern CMO

Think With Google’s most recent podcast, “Episode No. 5: The Modern CMO”, brought up some interesting concepts about CMOs and the marketing industry. This is our favorite podcast thus far and are looking forward to what is coming next from this series. Here’s the link to check it out more:

We’ve outlined some of our biggest takeaways and responses on topics brought up in the show.

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80% of CEOs Don’t Trust Marketers

Statistic according to a Fournaise study from 2012. We’re looking forward to some more up-to-date stats on this.

When it comes down to it, CEOs often feel like they speak a different business language from marketers. “Results”, “ROI”, “performance” are terms that business owners think marketers use incorrectly.* 


We’ve seen this first hand many times. There is a very big difference between marketing ROI and overall business ROI. Marketers often put ROI in terms of the results from their efforts of spend, whereas CEOs might be including factors like infrastructure costs, agency fees, and more into their own calculation. Additionally, it’s important to differentiate between ROI (return on investment) and ROAS (return on ad spend). Some marketers use these two terms interchangeably, but this just adds to the confusion. ROAS can be looked at by the narrow lens of a single channel or for all paid marketing efforts together. The latter is closer to how marketers might calculate overall “marketing ROI” but it still only includes cost resulting from ad spend. It’s therefore important that CMOs & professional marketers explain how they’re calculating ROI and why they are doing it that way. 

Calculating ROI, depending on all the variables involved, isn’t always as straightforward as you would think. This may be why there’s such a disconnect with other arms of the business. The “total cost” part is easy, but when it comes to attributable “total revenue,” that’s where things get interesting. A good marketer should be utilizing an extended funnel approach, not just a single campaign type or platform. This inevitably means that attribution for sales and revenue does not always come back to a particular campaign or advertising medium (we’ll leave the attribution modeling discussion for another time). Additionally, the revenue impact of campaigns is not always instantaneous, some methods take weeks, months, or even years to create the return a marketer is looking for. 

Throughout the last 100 years, marketers have had this compelling need to tilt the scales from art toward science. We have longed for business laws that, if obeyed, would guarantee success.” – Robert Rose, From The Content Marketing Institute’s Article “Will the Real ROI In Content Please Stand Up.

Because marketing is an artform, when looking at marketing performance, ROI by itself is a gross oversimplification of results achieved by the marketing efforts. The revenue generated by marketing efforts is not the only valuable outcome of running a successful marketing campaign. Here are a few additional things to keep in mind when analyzing your marketing spend:

Lifetime Value Of Customers

ROI is a finite number and to determine it, you need to have a set time range. If this is too short, you may be missing out on the true lifetime value of your customers in respect to the marketing campaign/strategy that they came from.

Audience List Growth

This can be owned lists like email lists or platform aggregate lists like Google Analytics audiences or Facebook audiences. List growth allows you to capitalize on previous marketing investments that didn’t generate revenue already or compound on the lifetime value of previous customers through reactivation. Your audience lists are an extremely valuable asset for your business because they not only allow you to promote yourself, but can also build your credibility so you can function as an affiliate as well.


Perfect marketing campaigns don’t exist. Every business, industry, consumer profile, and marketing landscape is different. Couple these variables with current economic conditions, competitive changes, and other unknown factors and you’re left with a dynamic marketing mix. So, when you invest in marketing, you don’t only invest in results, you are also investing in data. Every marketer and marketing campaign needs data to perform better. Take for example, the learning phase for new campaigns as a requisite for algorithmic learning to kick in and assist in campaign optimization.

Brand Presence

Referenceable existence nowadays is a big deal. If your business has no brand presence online, you’re missing a huge factor in building up consumer trust and developing your referral network. Any marketing effort should be building into your brand recognition and credibility.


Combine all of the above with feedback directly from your customers or lack thereof and you get actionable insights on improving your business and your brand. If you’re not visible and learning from how people interact with your online or traditional advertising presence, then you’re falling behind your competition and potentially not serving your customers’ needs.

The CMOs Responsibilities Are Becoming Ineffable

Forbes’ Alisha Lyndon reports “CMOs are expected to become accountable for much more than brand — everything from communications, sales enablement, martech selection and the customer experience, while influencing innovation and employee experience to drive a customer-obsessed culture.” The list of CMO responsibilities keeps growing and it must consistently be tied in with brand directives, finance, and product development.

Today’s Marketers Need To Be Involved In Product Development

With this notion, we 100% agree. When a marketer isn’t involved in concepting and rolling out a new product, the marketing strategy can become much more reactive rather than proactive. A new product must seamlessly be layered into the marketing strategy from remarketing campaigns, email launches, website upsells and more. If this push isn’t consistent, a perfectly good product can fall flat. Tools like Klaviyo and the data provided by CMS platforms like Shopify is making integrating your launches and basing it off of consumer data easier and easier.  

“Content Is King”

The age old marketing adage that requires careful interpretation before taking it as gospel. Because the CMO role is changing so quickly and frequently, the lens in which this concept is applied and overseen is also tumultuous. Marketing nowadays is more about brand building and storytelling than anything. Attention spans are different, the pure level of daily ads users see is different, and how consumers value trust and transparency on top of entertainment is also rapidly evolving. 

The truth of “content is king” today comes from visual storytelling. From Sumo, “You can’t establish an engaged community without using your brand story to attract an audience.” Brands must break through the monotony of choice and ad saturation, visual storytelling allows them to do so. In order to visually storytell, a marketer must learn to coordinate content teams, video teams, social media managers, developers, and more. After all of this, that content then needs to be pushed out, analyzed, optimized, and reported on. And of course, that’s not all, based on performance a marketer must then decide to scrap a campaign, pursue it further, fold it into a new effort, or break it into component parts and push all over again. 

The need for the CMO role isn’t disappearing, it’s just becoming so complex that it’s hard to ascribe it to a single person. 

CMOs Don’t Feel They’re Maximizing Their Business Impact

The CMO role has the highest turnover in the CSuite and some companies are doing away with it altogether. It’s no wonder that CMOs feel left out of the conversation. Without being as directly involved in business and growth decisions, businesses aren’t leveraging the CMO position nearly as much as they can be. This along with everything we’ve talked about above puts the CMO in a position of both being an indispensable jack of all trades, but in the eyes of their peers, a master of none.

It’s a professional marketer’s job to not only define the scope of what’s considered good performance, but to also align expectations and goals with that of other relevant decision makers in the organization. It’s all too easy to take the knowledge of the marketing art form for granted and not map out the game plan and strategy in a way that can put others at ease. One of the worst things a business can do is abandon a marketing strategy before its time or jump from one strategy to the next like hot cakes. Marketing unquestionably takes time, and there’s no one better suited to understanding that than the marketer themself. 

So, long story short, strategic business decision makers must all work together to define success and strategize for future business development. Marketing is one of the most fundamental and important arms of a business and relying on luck over skill because of quabbles on semantics or role complexities is a surefire way to halt momentum and impede progress.

*Episode No. 5: The Modern CMO


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