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Is The Chief Data Officer The CMO of the Future?

With almost every CMO brief I now take, there is an emphasis on data literacy. That doesn’t mean the shortlist should be full of data scientists, but companies are increasingly looking for senior marketing executives who can have a foot in the brand and communications camp as well as that of data.

We’re therefore seeing something on an evolution of the CMO role and certainly a convergence of marketing, data and technology. After all, as technology develops, other jobs that utilise it must evolve.

However, I have seen some companies making the more radical claim that the CMO of the future is about performance and automated marketing.

On the one hand, there is of course validity that marketing needs to be increasingly analytical since so much business is being transacted online. But that doesn’t mean the death knell of the more creative aspects of marketing.

So called ‘pandemic stocks’ have seen a correction as consumers reject the notion that we are going to remain in a digital or virtual ecosystem which would significantly influence the future shape of CMO. Peloton is a good example and also a great case study of where brand still plays an enormous part in company fortunes [characters from TV shows, Sex in the City and Billions both had unfortunate consequences to their health from riding one of their bikes].

And herein lies the issue in my opinion: whilst the CDO is about taking control of marketing data and using it to derive actionable business insights, there is still so much emotion that remains in buying decisions and this can’t be overlooked.

How Should Data and Marketing Work Together?

My advice to CMOs is to broaden their skill set and embrace data as part of their remit, employing experts beneath you and being comfortable with the daily language including data. Some might say there is no more marketing without data as spend is now measured to the most granular level. But that doesn’t equate to the CMO becoming obsolete. Quite the opposite, it is evolving to become something bigger and better.

The Ultimate Mix - Senior Marketer Of The Future

The visual above perhaps best represents where the modern CMO needs to be at. CMOs who have previously focused on (and been rewarded for) creating great marketing campaigns will need to adapt and develop to fit the changing marketplace. Companies have growth mandates and are dealing with changing customer expectations and buying journeys including an increasingly mobile-first experience. Most are also grappling with some form of digital transformation

High quality data and insights combined with a curious and data-literate CMO make for a powerful combination. Greater amounts of data make for more deeply searching questions contributing to increased differentiation. But as one marketing industry leader put it: “Creativity without data is just art. But data without creativity is neglect.”

This reinforces the need for the future CMO to be data-literate and in larger organisations collaborate and co-exist with the Chief Data Officer. Companies need people who understand data just as much as they need people who know about brand, strategy and the customer journey.


About BartonRock: We are the executive search partner for companies where data-driven digital leadership is intrinsic to growth.

We manage the careers of leaders whose know-how and commercial acumen within digital steers the strategic direction and future survival of companies.

Our assignments search for executives who understand how to implement and lead data-centric digital agendas.

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