Skip to Main Content

Chief Marketing Officer Average Tenure Increases to 44 Months

CMO tenure rises following drop the previous year
March 2018

CHICAGO — The average tenure for chief marketing officers of leading U.S. consumer brand companies increased to 44 months from 42 months, according to the 14th annual CMO tenure study by leadership consulting firm Spencer Stuart.

Average CMO Tenure Through the Years

As in the previous two years, the study also looked at median tenure. Similar to the average tenure, median tenure increased from 27 months in 2016 to 31 months in 2017. The median gives 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 most-advertised U.S. brands as of December 31, 2017.

Months in CMO Role

Despite a 31% jump in the number of first-year CMOs — from 16 in 2016 to 21 in 2017 — fewer CMOs have been in the role for two years or less, 35% versus 48% in 2016. The number of CMOs who have been in the role for three or more years increased to 42% in 2017, up from 34% in 2016.

“The increase in CMO turnover underscores the continued volatility in the CMO role. More than 20% of CMOs have been appointed in the past year and more than half of the new CMOs are first-timers, ” said Greg Welch, a consultant in the Spencer Stuart Marketing Officer Practice who initiated the firm’s tenure study in 2004. “Despite what appears to be a stabilization of the market, it is clear that aligning expectations between CEOs and CMOs is still very much a hot topic. We are working diligently with clients to ensure the mission of the marketing function is clear up front — and that the new executive brings the hard skills, the experience set and, importantly, is a great cultural fit.”

Experience Matters in 2017

While a significant number of companies selected yet-unproven marketers for the top marketing job, we saw an increase in the number of companies selecting experienced CMOs in 2017. Nine of 21 new CMOs (43%) had prior CMO experience, compared with 37% in 2016. Half of the new CMOs were promoted from within, compared with 69% in 2016. New CMOs in 2017 are more likely to be female than the previous year (38% compared with 31%). Six of the new CMOs (29%) are minorities, which represents a significant increase from 2016, when only one of the new class of CMOs was diverse (6%).

Looking at the profiles of all CMOs in the study, 61% were promoted into their current roles. Only 11% of all CMOs are minorities and 28% are women.

The New CMOs

“While there are encouraging signs in this year’s tenure study regarding gender and ethnic diversity, a closer look at our data indicates much still needs to happen to improve these numbers among the CMO ranks,” Welch said. “The positive news is that the increase in gender and diversity in our new class of CMOs supports our belief that the best companies are genuinely committed to further developing the next generation of marketers who truly reflect today’s diverse business environment.”

About Spencer Stuart

At Spencer Stuart, we know how much leadership matters. We are trusted by organizations around the world to help them make the senior-level leadership decisions that have a lasting impact on their enterprises. Through our executive search, board and leadership advisory services, we help build and enhance high-performing teams for select clients ranging from major multinationals to emerging companies to nonprofit institutions.

Privately held since 1956, we focus on delivering knowledge, insight and results through the collaborative efforts of a team of experts -- now spanning 57 offices, 30 countries and more than 50 practice specialties. Boards and leaders consistently turn to Spencer Stuart to help address their evolving leadership needs in areas such as senior-level executive search, board recruitment, board effectiveness, succession planning, in-depth senior management assessment and many other facets of organizational effectiveness. For more information on Spencer Stuart, please visit