Marketing has always been an important function in the corporate landscape, but as digital media plays an increasingly prominent role in everyday life, marketing has undergone a major transformation. As a result, the role of marketing in overall business operations has grown increasingly prominent. It’s not surprising, then, that marketers have landed a spot in the C-suite; in fact, the Chief Marketing Officer is now one of the most standard executive roles in organizations today.
As the CMO role is still in infancy relative to the long-standing CEOs, COOs, and CFOs (IBM just named its first CMO in late 2016, for instance), there’s no single path of education and experience that leads one to the top position in the marketing executive ladder. Today’s CMOs hail from a variety of backgrounds and have skillsets that, while they share a few essential traits and areas of expertise, run the gamut from the marketing technology geniuses to the storytelling wizards – increasingly, a powerful blend of technology, art, and science.
We took a deep dive into the role of the Chief Marketing Officer to find out what sets a great CMO apart from the average, what paths today’s most successful CMOs tend to take to the top, what today’s CMOs are earning, and other insights to create a portrait of an exceptional CMO.
In this guide, we’ll examine:
Read on to find out what we discovered about the skills, educational background, and experiences of the world’s most accomplished CMOs, where top CMOs got their education (and what they studied), the top companies for CMOs, earnings potential for Chief Marketing Officers, and more.
A 2014 article from Harvard Business Review (HBR) points out that the CMO role was undergoing a period of renaissance at that time, driven largely by digital disruption that “altered what and how a business sells, flipped the tables on the typical customer relationship, introduced a glut of new channels and competitors, and made it harder for organizations to break through the ‘noise.'” The digital shift both elevated and complicated the role of the Chief Marketing Officer, with an increasing focus on aspects such as differentiating the customer experience and fostering stronger, more loyal customer relationships, much of which is built on the underlying foundation of connecting marketing with the organization as a whole, rather than maintaining marketing as a stand-alone, isolated function.
HBR identifies three activities now required of all CMOs, including:
This final point is one echoed by a multitude of other analyses on the shifting role of the CMO. Tasked with leading an evolving, yet increasingly important corporate function, CMOs are more frequently finding themselves as drivers of change and leaders of innovation, with more influence than ever before over the broader company vision, direction, goals, and strategy. Indeed, CMOs are now the wearers of many hats. But these same factors are also driving another outcome: a splintering of the CMO role, with marketers of various specialty subsets emerging as CMO material, with a unique combination of skills that tend to fall across five critical axes, as defined by EgonZehnder in its CMO Redefined report, updated in 2016:
Screenshot via EgonZehnder
Each corporation, the report explains, requires a CMO who fills a specific combination of these distinct roles. That specific blend of proficiencies is influenced by the corporate strategy, market and industry demands, and sometimes, recognized gaps in existing senior marketing leadership. Therefore, CMOs at two different corporations – even two competitors in the same industry – may have drastically varied backgrounds and skills. The role of the CMO today is situational and multidimensional, resulting in a large, varied swath of educational paths and background experiences that have the potential to advance a professional to this coveted C-suite position.
The other impact of this phenomenon is that a senior-level marketing executive with a particular blend of proficiencies may have slim chances of advancing to the CMO position if his skills don’t match up with the company’s needs, yet the same professional might be the dream CMO for another company. All of this makes for an intriguing case study in examining the roles today’s dynamic CMOs play, the body of skills and abilities they possess, and the educational backgrounds and professional experiences that pave one of many roads to becoming a CMO.
According to Indeed.com, there are a few common background requirements for CMOs:
Florida Tech suggests that marketing and business professionals interested in advancing their career prospects should consider enrolling in an MBA program with a marketing specialization, an option available through many such programs. While an MBA will certainly increase any professional’s prospects of landing a CMO position, some corporations will consider candidates with Bachelor’s degrees, particularly when the candidate’s work experience and real-world expertise is impressive. Study.com points out that some CMOs hold degrees in journalism, communications, advertising, or public relations, which serve professionals well in meeting the communication demands of the CMO role. A Bachelor’s degree in a business-related subject is often a minimum requirement, and in some cases, an MBA or other Master’s-level degree is required.
By far, the most common educational background suggested for anyone with CMO aspirations is an undergraduate degree in marketing coupled with an MBA with a marketing specialization. However, a look through LinkedIn profiles of professionals holding a CMO title reveals that many of today’s CMOs come from varied backgrounds – some with Bachelor’s degrees in psychology or sociology, graphic design, and even technical fields such as engineering. Many CMOs on LinkedIn have MBAs, but some do not.
According to LinkedIn’s data, the top universities attended by CMOs on LinkedIn include:
Here’s a look at some of the most common fields of study pursued by today’s top CMOs and some of the leading educational institutions with top-notch programs in those areas. You’ll notice some overlap between the areas of study, as many undergraduate programs in areas such as marketing and advertising are offered through schools of business, and some fall under business administration programs with an option to specialize in a marketing-related area.
Marketing is one of the most obvious areas of study that can give professionals a leg up in advancing on the career ladder. These programs cover marketing fundamentals at the undergraduate level, and the best undergraduate marketing programs offer opportunities for students to land competitive internships, engage in research and idea development, participate in competitions, and connect with mentors. Opportunities to study marketing are offered by many institutions at the undergraduate and graduate level. Some universities offer marketing as an area of focus within their business schools, while others offer undergraduate programs in business with opportunities for graduate-level, marketing-focused study. Some of the leading educational institutions for marketing include:
Some CMOs began their education with advertising-related studies at the undergraduate level. These programs are sometimes framed as media and communications studies, and like marketing, some programs are offered under the umbrella of business studies or business administration programs with specialization options. Some educational institutions pair marketing and advertising studies in a single, comprehensive program of study, sometimes under the communications umbrella. A few educational institutions offering options for studying advertising include:
Journalism, public relations and mass communications studies are another area of overlap in the educational options for students and professionals with CMO aspirations. Public relations studies are often paired with advertising, with marketing, or within broader communications studies. Journalism programs are most often offered alongside communications studies. A few educational institutions offering journalism, public relations, and communications programs include:
Business administration is a common area of study at both the undergraduate and graduate levels among CMOs. These programs provide a solid foundation in business concepts that serve CMOs well in the modern landscape, in which CMOs play an increasing role in strategic business decisions. Many business administration programs offer specialization options, such as marketing or communications, that enable students to emphasize these interests, and these programs are increasingly offered in online format. Because of the range of career opportunities graduates with degrees in business administration can pursue, it’s a popular undergraduate major, and one that you’ll find at just about any undergraduate institution, such as:
Because some companies require that candidates have a graduate-level degree, many aspiring CMOs pursue an MBA. An MBA is particularly useful for professionals who have undergraduate degrees in marketing or advertising-related fields, complementing their existing education with more robust expertise in business. MBAs from esteemed institutions such as Stanford and Harvard are well-known, but many other higher learning institutions are now offering MBAs as well. A few examples of universities offering MBA studies include:
Like most C-suite roles, the career prospects for CMOs span every industry; even small and mid-sized corporations are adding the CMO role to the C-suite today, thanks to the prominence of marketing in overall business strategy. In smaller corporations, there may be a single CMO overseeing company-wide marketing operations, but in major corporations, it’s not uncommon to find several CMOs overseeing various business units.
LinkedIn breaks down the top 10 industries where Chief Marketing Officers work (based on LinkedIn member data), including:
Additionally, LinkedIn identifies the top companies for CMOs based on where members work. The top 10 employers for CMOs include:
Here’s a look at a few of these and other industries that hire CMOs and some of the major players within each.
The banking and financial industry is highly competitive, meaning companies in the financial sector often look for top CMOs as a competitive advantage. There is no shortage of opportunities for aspiring CMOs who want to work in the banking and financial services sector. A few of the biggest names in the financial industry include:
“We offer a variety of roles around the world. Join us as we help our clients and customers find the right financial solutions and assist them with what matters most.”
JP Morgan Chase & Co.
“Here, you’ll feel welcomed and valued. Our clients, transactions, deals and projects are global so we work hard to create diverse, inclusive teams that support our business and each other – it’s good for business and it makes sense.”
“At GE we realize it is not about your career…it is not about your job title…it is about who you are…it is about your purpose. It is about the impact you are going to make on the world.”
“Your journey with Citi begins here. Get involved in Progress and build lasting professional relationships across businesses and geographies with Citi’s powerful network.”
“We play an important role in the financial marketplace and describe ourselves as the Investments Company for the World. Our mission is to help people realize their full potential by leveraging our distinctive expertise to power investment success.”
“At Fidelity Investments, you’ll discover challenges that excite you as you develop professionally and explore many career paths based on your interests and abilities. We reward ambitious, talented individuals with a work environment that fosters teamwork and collaboration while encouraging innovative ideas and fresh thinking.”
“Are you looking for unlimited opportunities to develop and succeed? We offer work that challenges and makes a difference within a flexible and supportive environment, so you can help our customers achieve their dreams and aspirations.”
“UBS fosters a development and learning culture that creates opportunities for every employee to grow as an individual and provides a platform to empower them professionally. Despite the size and scope of the organization, you’ll see that you work for a firm that values you as an individual.”
“At Capital One, we dare to dream, disrupt and deliver a better way. Our goal is simple – bring ingenuity, simplicity, and humanity to an industry ripe for change. Founder-led, Capital One is on a mission to change banking for good and to help people live their best lives. Together, we will build one of America’s leading information-based technology companies. Join us.”
“We consistently focus on the unexpected. That’s why we’ve never been afraid to reinvent ourselves. We’re a company that embraces change — our success is the product of our talented employees taking big risks. What has stayed the same for the last 160 years, is our dedication to outstanding customer service and the values on which American Express was built: trust, security, integrity, quality, respect and customer commitment.”
Many of the world’s largest consumer brands are in the telecommunications and technology industry, from mobile companies like Verizon and AT&T to internet and cable organizations such as Comcast and major technology players such as Apple and Microsoft. CMOs in this space fill some of the most challenging roles in the corporate world, creating and overseeing a larger company vision designed to engage today’s busy consumers. Here are a few of the biggest and best-known companies in the telecommunications and technology space.
“Why do people join, stay and thrive? We ask our employees what matters most. They tell us it’s better here because they make an impact, have the opportunity to work differently, enjoy great pay and benefits, love the people they work with and learn and grow.”
“As we shape the future of media + technology, our employees strive to earn the respect and trust of our customers, our shareholders, and members of the communities we serve.”
“At AT&T, we’re connecting the world like never before. Ready to get in on the action? Together we’ll do great things.”
“The people here at Apple don’t just create products — they create the kind of wonder that’s revolutionized entire industries. It’s the diversity of those people and their ideas that inspires the innovation that runs through everything we do, from amazing technology to industry-leading environmental efforts. Join Apple, and help us leave the world better than we found it.”
“We foster our pipeline of future leaders with 47 employee networks and 7 global employee resource groups, servicing an active community of thousands across Microsoft.”
“There’s no one kind of Googler, so we’re always looking for people who can bring new perspectives and life experiences to our teams. If you’re looking for a place that values your curiosity, passion, and desire to learn, if you’re seeking colleagues who are big thinkers eager to take on fresh challenges as a team, then you’re a future Googler.”
“People are at the heart of every connection we build. We design products and deliver services that create a more human world — one connection at a time.”
Companies in the retail and consumer goods industries rely heavily on marketing to capture the attention of shoppers through a variety of digital and real-world channels. CMOs working in these verticals have challenging and exciting roles. Some of the most prominent retail and consumer goods corporations include:
“We’re a company of pioneers. It’s our job to make bold bets, and we get our energy from inventing on behalf of customers. Success is measured against the possible, not the probable. For today’s pioneers, that’s exactly why there’s no place on Earth they’d rather build than Amazon.”
“Innovative thinking. Leadership through service. And above all, an unwavering commitment to saving people money. It’s what makes us the business we are today, and shapes the company we will be tomorrow. As the largest retailer in the world, our 2.3 million associates meet the needs of more than 260 million customers every week. And we do it wherever they shop – in our stores, online, or through their mobile devices. Sound like a lot of work? We’re just getting started.”
“Costco Wholesale is a multi-billion dollar global retailer with warehouse club operations in eight countries. We are the recognized leader in our field, dedicated to quality in every area of our business and respected for our outstanding business ethics. Despite our large size and explosive international expansion, we continue to provide a family atmosphere in which our employees thrive and succeed. We are proud to have been named by Washington CEO Magazine as one of the top three companies to work for in the state of Washington.”
“When people say they love Target, they’re usually talking about visiting one of our 1,700+ stores. That positive and welcoming in-store experience is one of the things that sets our brand apart. And it’s made possible by the people in our stores who create amazing experiences for our guests every day.”
“Kroger Family of Companies employs nearly 443,000 associates who serve customers in 2,796 retail food stores under a variety of local banner names in 35 states and the District of Columbia. Kroger and its subsidiaries operate an expanding ClickList offering – a personalized, order online, pick up at the store service – in addition to 2,253 pharmacies, 787 convenience stores, 324 fine jewelry stores, 1,439 supermarket fuel centers and 38 food production plants in the United States. Kroger is recognized as one of America’s most generous companies for its support of more than 100 Feeding America food bank partners, breast cancer research and awareness, the military and their families, and more than 145,000 community organizations including schools.”
Working in the C-suite at a hospital or healthcare corporation is a challenging role requiring a strategic mindset, the ability to balance your vision with regulatory guidelines, and keen insights for developing the right messaging to engage today’s healthcare consumers. There are many corporations in this industry, from major hospital systems to pharmaceutical companies, providing abundant opportunities for CMOs.
“You’re a visionary. And CVS Health is committed to hiring great people to help us transform pharmacy into a more powerful part of our customers’ health care journey.”
“At Pfizer, we’re driven to discover the cure—driven to significantly improve the lives of everyone…everywhere. If you’re similarly driven, you’ll find there’s no better place to begin—and continue—your career than at Pfizer.”
“At Merck, we seek to discover and champion the latest, most promising advancements against the world’s greatest health challenges. To accomplish this, we are willing to invest in solutions that take us in directions we’ve never explored before. Because we’re on a relentless quest for cures. And we’ll be known differently in our industry because of it.”
“It takes a vast range of strengths to keep us on the leading edge of health. As a medical group, health plan, and care delivery system, we offer a wide range of career areas—from finance to radiology, nursing to sales and marketing, IT to pharmacy, and more. Come flex your skills with us.”
“Working at Mayo Clinic is making a difference. It’s providing the highest quality patient care by placing the needs of patients first. At Mayo Clinic, you’ll discover a culture of teamwork, professionalism and mutual respect — and most importantly, a life-changing career.”
“Be part of a team that is making a difference. At Cancer Treatment Centers of America® (CTCA), we are all passionate about what we do and have compassion for our patients. We know that the only way we are going to be successful is to work together as one, just like family.”
The insurance industry is broad, spanning life, health, auto, home, and other types of insurance that everyday people need to protect their interests. CMOs working in the insurance industry are working in a competitive field requiring visionary leadership to set their companies apart from the competition. Here’s a look at a few of the biggest corporations in the insurance industry.
“We believe that loving your job is an important step in living a good life. So, whether you’re an intern just starting out or a lawyer, marketing manager, customer service specialist, or software engineer looking to grow your career, we’ll help make your dream job a reality—all while you do meaningful work that makes a real difference for Allstate customers and our communities.”
“This is the perfect place to evolve your career and push yourself to new heights.”
“Working at State Farm, you’re part of our neighborhood; a passionate group of individuals driven to create possibilities and provide solutions for all of life’s moments. Take a look at all the different ways we work. Then, apply to be part of our community and help life go right every day.”
“Each individual is valued at BHHC. We understand that attracting and retaining high-quality talent is essential to the success of our company. We offer a unique environment in which employees have the opportunity to contribute in many facets of our organization. Each division provides hands-on training and maintains a small-company atmosphere allowing for a broad business experience in which ‘team players’ thrive.”
“From claims to customer service to finance to marketing to information technology, an insurance company requires a host of careers to support the needs of the sizable customers and communities we serve. Farmers Insurance Group of Companies is the nation’s third-largest Personal Lines Property and Casualty insurance group. Founded in 1928 and still headquartered in Los Angeles after expanding to 41 states, Farmers provides home, auto, business, life and financial services to more than 10 million households.”
According to LinkedIn’s data, the average salary for a Chief Marketing Officer is $225,000 per year, ranging from $90,700 to $465,000 and a median of $186,000. Annual bonuses, stock options, and other forms of compensation are also offered to Chief Marketing Officers at some companies.
Glassdoor puts the national average salary for CMOs in the United States at $189,521. Payscale’s data puts the median CMO salary at $160,353, and also includes some useful information regarding bonuses, profit sharing, and commission, as illustrated in the graphic below. This information is based on reporting from 904 individuals who hold CMO positions.
Salaries for CMOs vary based on several factors, including location, years of experience, education level, company size, and others. CMO salaries can vary greatly from company to company. Larger corporations generally offer higher salaries, which is often true for other C-suite positions as well. Glassdoor provides salary data for CMO roles at specific companies, although because it’s generally a position that only one or a few professionals hold within a company at a given time, these salaries are often based on a single salary report. Nonetheless, here’s a look at a few of the salaries reported for specific companies on Glassdoor for CMOs:
Location is another major factor impacting CMO salaries. A Chief Marketing Officer in New York can expect to earn 38% more than the national average, for instance, while a CMO in Chicago will earn about 4% less than the national average. A CMO in Minneapolis will earn a salary just one percent lower than the national average, and a CMO in Dallas can expect to earn about four percent greater than the national average. Other salary differences by location are illustrated in the graphic below:
Finally, CMOs can earn substantially higher salaries if they have many more years of experience compared to their entry-level counterparts. Payscale breaks down average salaries for CMOs based on experience level:
Who are today’s most influential, innovative CMOs? We pulled a few intriguing profiles as examples from LinkedIn to highlight some of the common skills, background, and education that makes for career success as a Chief Marketing Officer.
Chief Marketing Officer at Workfront, Inc.
Joe Staples is “a senior B2B executive (CMO/SVP Marketing for 18 years) with primary emphasis in SaaS, MarTech, and customer experience sectors.” His primary strengths and experience include “fueling the growth of the revenue engine, brand-building, demand generation, PR/AR, and creative campaign development.” Joe prides himself in providing a good blend of strategy and execution. Joe studied Organizational Behavior at Brigham Young University from 1977-1982 and earned a Bachelor’s degree in Business Administration from the University of Phoenix in 1989.
Chief Marketing Officer, Global Consumer Bank at Citi
Leslie Gillin has served as the Chief Marketing Officer for the Global Consumer Bank at Citi since December 2014. She was previously the Managing Director, Head of Cards Sales at Marketing at Citi, and prior to that had worked as a Marketing Executive at Bank of America. From 2004 to 2007, she held a Chief Marketing Officer role at MBNA Europe. Leslie has a Bachelor of Arts degree in International Relations and Affairs from the University of Delaware.
Chief Marketing Officer at Fidelity Investments
James Burton is the Chief Marketing Officer, Personal Investing, at Fidelity Investments, a role he’s held since January 2013. Previously, he was the President of Fidelity Brokerage Services, and has worked in consulting and advising roles in the past. James has an MA in Literae Humaniores from the University of Oxford and an MBA from INSEAD with a focus on Finance, Strategy, and Marketing.
Chief Marketing Officer, JPMorgan Chase
Kristin Lemkau has been the Chief Marketing Officer for JP Morgan Chase for more than 18 years, first taking over the reins for the role in December 1998. Prior to joining JP Morgan Chase, she worked in media and communications roles. Kristin earned a Bachelor of Arts in English, Creative Writing, from Vanderbilt University in 1989.
Top Skills: Not available
Global CMO Manulife John Hancock
Gretch Garrigues is the Executive Vice President and Global Chief Marketing Officer for Manulife and John Hancock, where she’s responsible for global marketing and communications. Her focus is on global branding as well as ensuring that marketing strategies and the customer experience support global business growth. Previously, she served as Chief Marketing Officer for First Data Corporation, Senior Managing Director for GE Capital, and similar roles. She has a Bachelor’s degree from the University of Virginia in Political Science and Government and earned her MBA from the University of Wisconsin-Madison School of Business in 1997.
Chief Marketing Officer at Aetna
As Chief Marketing Officer at Aetna, David Edelman is responsible for the “research, design, strategy, and implementation of enterprise-wide marketing initiatives.” His focus is on “designing personalized experiences for customers and partners based on their lifetime health journey.” Previously, David worked in marketing roles for McKinsey & Company, Digitas, and The Boston Consulting Group. He has a BA in Economics from Harvard University and earned his MBA in Marketing from Harvard Business School in 1986.
Chief Marketing Officer of Merck Consumer Health Company
As the CMO for Merck Consumer Health Company, Atilla Cansun is “responsible for leading globally a brand portfolio worth 1 Billion $, consisting of 9 strategic brands in 6 different categories.” He oversees “ideation, design, delivery and in-market implementation as well as expertise centers such as market research, design, digitalization and professional brand building.” Atilla has a Bachelor of Arts in Business Economics and a Bachelor of Science in Electrical Engineering, both from Brown University. Prior to Merck, he worked in several marketing roles for Proctor & Gamble.
Chief Marketing Officer at Allstate
Prior to his role as Chief Marketing Officer for Allstate, Sanjay Gupta worked for Ally Financial, Inc., Bank of America, and other companies, including both management and executive roles. Sanjay has a BE in Electronics Engineering from the University of Mumbai and an MBA from the University of Texas at Austin, which he earned in 1992.
Top Skills: Not available
Chief Marketing Officer, Comcast Business
Denise Hasty has a 20-year track record of sales and marketing experience, and has served in her role as Chief Marketing Officer for Comcast Business since 2014. Her prior experience includes both sales and marketing roles at Comcast and CenturyLink. Denise has a Bachelor of Business Administration in Marketing and Management from Texas Christian University.
Global Chief Marketing Officer at Under Armour
As Global Chief Marketing Officer at Under Armour, Andrew Donkin is responsible for “leading global brand and messaging strategy and executing multi-channel marketing campaigns that effectively support UA products, technology, athletes and sports teams.” Previously, he served as the Head of Worldwide Brand and Mass Marketing at Amazon, and has also worked in various marketing leadership capacities for companies such as Ask.com, Travelocity, and other major brands. Andrew has an MS in Marketing from the University of Rhode Island and an MBA from Boston University.
What lands a marketing executive the coveted CMO role? Well, that depends. There’s no single educational path that will lead you to the CMO chair, but there are some common threads among the skills and characteristics shared by many CMOs. Payscale names a few of the most important skills for Chief Marketing Officers, including:
In reviewing LinkedIn members with the Chief Marketing Officer title, it’s clear that strategy is an important skill for today’s C-suite marketers. Indeed, as CMOs are playing a bigger role in overall strategic direction for the business at large, a strategic mindset is crucial for success. We also saw many members endorsed for marketing strategy and digital strategy, as well as strategic partnerships, management, customer experience, leadership, and sales-related skills. Other important skills and areas of expertise include marketing communications, public relations, business development, lead generation, and CRM. Now that we’re in the digital age and the marketing world is tied permanently to data, expertise in Big Data, marketing metrics and data analysis are also imperative. Finally, in some industries, CMOs need a strong foundation of knowledge about the industry, such as investments, financial management, healthcare policy, and the like.
For aspiring CMOs, there’s no shortage of options when it comes to educational opportunities and career opportunities, and with CMO positions spanning practically every vertical, CMOs are in a rather unique position to be able to put their expertise to use in a variety of settings and in line with their other interests. Those who aspire to become Chief Marketing Officers should work hard, consider pursuing an advanced degree such as an MBA in Marketing, and work their way up the ranks by gaining a breadth of experience in an array of marketing strategies and tactics while gaining some leadership expertise. The most successful CMOs are a unique blend of skill, charisma, and vision that enables them to lead their companies to standout success.
Finally, we’ve created an infographic to illustrate the most common skills shared among the world’s most successful CMOs. To get this info, we reviewed the profiles of the 60 most influential CMOs. Feel free to share it, but please credit NGDATA as the source.
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