Today’s CMO: Relatively Young, With the Shortest Tenure in the C-Suite

February 27, 2017

This article is included in these additional categories:

Business of Marketing | CPG & FMCG | Financial Services | Pharma & Healthcare | Staffing | Technology

It may be the age of marketing, as leading marketers increasing influence product innovation and new business models, move away from a cost-center perception, and expand into strategic business leadership. But CMOs have less time to work their magic than other members of the C-suite, according to a Korn Ferry study.

Average Tenure: 4.1 Years

Korn Ferry’s analysis of the top 1,000 US companies by revenue revealed that the average tenure of a C-suite member is 5.3 years, with CEOs enjoying the longest tenures (of 8 years on average). CMOs, by contrast, have the shortest tenures of the C-suite members, staying only about half as long as CEOs, or 4.1 years on average.

In breaking down average tenure by industry and title, the study indicates that CMOs in some sectors enjoy longer periods at the helm than others. Indeed, CMOs in the financial services industry average a full 2 years longer than those in the life sciences sector.

In order of longest to shortest tenures, the results for CMOs broke out as follows:

  • Financial Services: 5.1 years (2nd shortest in this sector behind CIOs – 4.1);
  • Energy: 4.6 years (2nd shortest behind CIOs – 4.5);
  • Technology: 4.3 years (shortest);
  • Industrials: 4.1 years (2nd shortest behind CIOs – 4.0);
  • Professional Services: 4.1 years (shortest);
  • Consumer: 3.6 years (shortest);
  • Life Sciences: 3.1 years (shortest).

The results from Korn Ferry’s analysis are quite close to figures released each year from Spencer Stuart, which likewise measure trends in CMO tenure. In the latest such analysis released last year, CMO tenure was found to average 44 months (3.67 years). Interestingly, that figure for 2015 represented the first year-over-year drop in average tenure in a decade, having risen from roughly 23 months in 2006. (Spencer Stuart derives its figures from a review of the tenure of chief marketers at 100 of the top US advertised brands.)

Average Age: 52

On average, CMOs – with an average age of 52 – are a couple of years younger than the C-suite average. CEOs are the oldest – with an average age of 58 – while CIOs get their start the earliest (51).

There’s not much variance in average age for CMOs across industries, ranging from 53-54 in almost all of those analyzed. The only “outlier” is the consumer sector, where CMOs are 50 years old, on average. That’s also the sector where CIOs are the youngest, with an average age of 47.

One thing seems clear: the new crop of CMOs will be tasked with complementing their strategic thinking with greater technological know-how and data analysis skills.

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