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Chief Marketing Officer Average Tenure Drops to 42 Months

Staying power of CMOs down six months in two-year period
March 2017

The average tenure for chief marketing officers of leading U.S. consumer brand companies dropped from 44 months to 42 months, according to the 13th annual CMO tenure study by leadership consulting firm Spencer Stuart. This represents a two-year decline of six months, or 13%, over the last two years.

The study also looked at median tenure, which unlike like the “average” tenure saw a very slight uptick from 26.5 months in 2015 to 27 for 2016. The median is provided to give a different perspective on the central tendency of the data, a perspective that is impacted very little by “outliers.” The CMO tenure data set is based on an analysis of the tenures of CMOs from 100 of the top U.S. most advertised brands as of December 31, 2016.

Nearly half (48%) of CMOs have been in the role for two years or less, consistent with 2015. However, we have seen a decline in the number of CMOs who have been in the role for three or more years, 34% in 2016 versus 41% in 2015 and 49% in 2014.

“This year’s tenure data reflects what my colleagues and I are seeing every day. CMOs continue to be under pressure to deliver quick results, and even the new breed of marketers must step up to provide immediate leadership,” said Greg Welch, a consultant in the Spencer Stuart Marketing Officer Practice who initiated the firm’s tenure study in 2004. “Learning to be an innovative and confident leader is a must, but CMOs also need to provide organizations with a mature and calming voice regardless of how long they have been in the role. The most successful CMOs quickly establish credibility and get others to believe … and then follow.”

Who Are The New CMOs?

The 16 CMOs comprising the “freshman class” for 2016 are somewhat less likely to be a first-time CMO or diverse than last year, but more likely to be female or promoted from within than the overall group of 98 sitting CMOs. Ten of new CMOs (63%) moved into the top marketing job for the first time versus 70% of the overall CMO group. Only one of the new CMOs (6%) represents a diverse background, compared with 9% of all CMOs included in the study. By contrast, five of the new CMOs (31%) are female, compared with 23% of all CMOs. Eleven (69%) of the new CMOs were promoted from within, versus 61% of all CMOs.

“Gender and diversity are areas where considerable work needs to be done when it comes to recruiting top marketers,” said Welch. “The good news is that the best companies recognize this, with many of them putting appropriate structures in place to further develop the next generation of marketers who truly reflect today’s diverse marketplace. Simply put, we continue to believe that diverse teams yield better results. It is our hope that new appointments in the upcoming year are more promising on this front.”