How does the CMO role look different in the US when compared to the UK?

How does the CMO role look different in the US when compared to the UK?

What’s it take to become a CMO and what does this coveted role demand – both in the US and in the UK? Take a look at our research to reveal the answers.
Article Outline

Analysis of CMOs from FTSE 100 companies and the Inc. 5000 list found that a typical UK CMO is male, British and 44 years old, while US research suggests the typical US CMO is an American born female having just turned 40

In the UK and US, the path to becoming the Chief Marketing Officer in a company is often seen as a long one. But what is it really that this coveted role demands? What stories can we tell from the statistics available to us? To find out, we set about analysing those who hold that title – or equivalent – across FTSE 100 companies, as well as the Inc. 5000 list of fastest-growing mid-size companies. Below are the results and key trends that emerged: – in short, what it takes to become CMO supreme in both the UK and America.

Here were the five biggest takeaways from our research:

  • Success is a Waiting Game. Our research showed that on average, FTSE 100 CMOs had served their companies for around 8-9 years in total – having worked at least three other companies prior, and spending around 5-6 years at each job prior to becoming CMO. In contrast, marketers in the US moved around fairly often, usually working at four or so companies for an average of 5 years, and typically serving in a company for around 5 years by the time they become CMO; a much shorter tenure than in the UK.This taught us two things: first, that a diverse resume or portfolio – proven experience across a range of titles and jobs – can go a long way in distinguishing CMO candidates, in the US especially; second, that it pays to stick around for longer in the UK, as that special promotion really could be just around the corner. It could be argued, of course, that things might move slightly faster in the job market in the US, which is why the CMO role is awarded to people earlier in their careers. In the UK, marketers will often have to wait until their 44th birthday to become CMO – whereas the big promotion will come to those around their 40th birthday in the US.However, as has been shown by Korn Ferry’s research, it is of concern to a number of US firms that the CMO position has the highest turnover in the C-suite. They stay in office for 4.1 years on average, whereas CEOs average 8 years; CFOs, 5.1 years; CHROs, 5; and CIOs, 4.3 years. On top of this, HBR found that 57% of CMOs in the US have been in their position for three years or less. It’s a disparity that raises important questions about how CMOs in the US are nurtured, enabled, and supported in their roles; if, for instance, tenure should be the thing that’s prioritized in hiring CMOs (experience with the business), or longevity generally (a record of leadership roles longer than the 5-year average).
  • The Gender Gap – or lack of it: While the majority of CMOs in the UK FTSE 100 were men (60%), 56% of the companies analysed in the Inc. 5000 were led by female CMOs. It’s a difference that suggests, at least on its face, that US companies are perhaps going farther in employing women in leadership roles; further research found that only 7% of the FTSE 100’s companies are led by a female CEO. But it’s worth remembering the historical trends that have made this possible – the number of women that have come to fill marketing and advertising roles in general (holding 60% of all positions at professional agencies) as these fields have naturally diversified.Also important to remember: per a 2016 report in Forbes, white women specifically are by and large in the majority. US firms might have further still to go. But all the same! It’s worth wondering just how long before UK companies bring down the male-female ratio to the evens, given, certainly, the very clear business benefits: diversity in the boardroom, it has been shown, usually results in “increased value for shareholders.”
  • Home Grown Talent – on both sides of the pond: In the UK 60% of the CMOs researched were British, with 16% of these from a European background. In North America, all 70 CMOs that were analysed were born in the US. This tells us that both countries are keen to invest in local talent, and that the barriers to entry for outside contenders – executives born or educated outside the UK and US – are likely higher as a result; an important consideration for international companies looking to establish and grow a presence in either country.
  • Education: Is Oxbridge Irrelevant for the UK? In the UK, only 9% of the CMOs analysed as part of our research were Oxbridge educated. In fact, more CMOs studied in Ireland (10%) or at a major university in the North of England (15%) than at the two best universities in the country – suggesting, perhaps, that the prestige of Oxbridge has worn somewhat thin in recent decades. One could argue, in fact, that universities in the South of England (41%) or overseas (34%) were more reliable incubators for CMOs.Overall, the number of CMOs with advanced degrees (master’s certifications and higher) was about the same between the two countries – 27% of CMOs in the US, 30% of CMOs in the UK. These are figures that speak in part to larger trends in education; per the most recent US Census, more young adults than ever are pursuing postgraduate studies (9.3 percent, a steady increase in the last decade). But they may also reflect the specific advantages of a master’s for the modern marketer looking to distinguish themselves and remain competitive. A 2014 report by the U.S Department of Education, for instance, found that the wide popularity of the MBA in particular could be explained by a perceived “return on investment”; a sense among potential employers that the degree translated directly to a job candidate’s success.
  • In-house is the way forward: A huge majority (86%) of UK CMOs move up in the company, rather than coming across from working in an agency – while in the US, 89% are not from an agency. Our assumption might be to expect some of those who head the marketing division at companies will have worked for ‘the dark side’, and therefore know how to work with these agencies to really get the best from them. However, it would appear that for the majority of these CMOs this is not the case.

Despite the research, we all know that everyone’s path to success is different. But our analysis into the British and American CMO has introduced some interesting facts that we’d be keen to keep an eye on in future – particularly in the UK. Will more women be introduced into the CMO role – and across the C-suite board in general? Will Brexit and EU negotiations signal a change in where the CMO is sourced? We’ll have to wait and see.

Check out our infographic for the full results and global comparisons.

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