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PMAR 2018: Are we asking too much of our CMOs? asks D Shivakumar, President, Aditya Birla Group

16-February-2018
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PMAR 2018: Are we asking too much of our CMOs? asks D Shivakumar, President, Aditya Birla Group

D Shivakumar, President Aditya Birla Group, delivered a keynote address at the launch of the 16th Pitch Madison Advertising Report on 'Chief Marketing Officer or Chief Growth Officer - Old wine in new bottle?'

Observing that a CMO is associated with a whole basket of capabilities, Shivakumar wondered, "Are we expecting too much from our CMOs? CMOs are expected to be data, tech and business savvy." This cannot happen overnight, he noted. "I do agree that we need a completely new skill-set but it will take time," he said.

He felt that the digital era has turned the tables on the CMO who is always lagging behind the consumer. "Digital has had an impact on business models in every Industry. The days of independent growth is over. This is an era of dependent growth and that lesson needs to come through to marketers," he said.

He wondered if the CGO was a restaging or relaunch of the CMO. He equated restaging to mere repackaging and relaunch to a complete makeover. Whatever it may be, the bigger question is why is this change taking place at all?

Shivakumar attributed this to a few reasons. "Marketing is not getting the company enough growth, marketing protecting its own turf, profile of the CEO is driving the CMO to redesigned. He found that CMOs are often associated to technology and digital predominantly, with some extent of accountability and hardly any mention of consumer or brand. Chief Growth Officers, though not debated extensively, are associated with business, growth etc. While the CGO's role is recognised, it is not a part of many conversations yet," he noted.

Studying the backgrounds of CEOs globally could throw some light on why there is the emergence of CGOs. In Europe, one fourth of CEOs have PhDs and one third of Chinese CEOs have a PhD too. In comparison, maximum number of CEOs have master's degrees in India. "A lot of CEOs in other geographies have varied backgrounds and functions and therefore they need more focus on business and growth rather than marketing. This is unlike what happens in India," he observed.

Looking at other title changes, Shivakumar noted that a change in the title has not necessarily improved the function and results in that area.

However making the CMO the CGO does have some benefits, he said. Business goals and outcomes can be better aligned and a multi-product company could also benefit with a CGO who can tie the entire business together.

He concluded that growth is everyone's responsibility. "It is not about the title but the skills needed, and the skills needed are very different today. I believe that titles and job descriptions are excess for the purpose. If you take it too far and for too long, put in a word and expect the whole department, individual and company to grow just because you designated marketing as growth, that's very wishful thinking."

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