How the CMO Role Has Changed Over the Past 10 Years

How the CMO Role Has Changed Over the Past 10 Years

The transformation of the “modern” Chief Marketing Officer has certainly not gone unnoticed over the past ten years, as the role of the CMO has considerably evolved alongside the transformation of marketing in the digital age.

From the developments in martech to the rise of social media to the amount of data at everyone’s fingertips, the role of today’s CMO has never been more complex or more important.

Related Video: The Evolving Role of the CMO

Video by EY Global

The New Age and a Different Kind of CMO Executive Search

As a CMO executive search firm, we recognize that the role of the CMO has always been vital to the success of an organization. However, today’s CMO is now more accountable than ever in driving ROI and continually improving how companies connect with their customers. This is a big challenge as their org chart and who they have on their team is very different than ten years ago.

We were able to discuss this topic with Chief Marketing Officer of American Family Care, William Koleszar, to get his unique insights on the major developments and changes in the marketing space that contribute to the evolving role of the CMO.

Evolution of the Mobile Device

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It’s no secret that the rise of mobile has tremendously impacted the way brands reach their audience and has forced CMOs to tailor their marketing strategy to focus on this channel.

Koleszar says that “the rise of mobile devices and smartphones has been dramatic and changed the way we create and deliver marketing messages. This includes everything from simple ads delivered on a mobile device to social media.”

Mobile technology wasn’t as advanced or sophisticated ten years ago as it is now, and it certainly wasn’t regarded as an important channel for marketers. However we’re now in the mobile-first world, and it’s a completely different story – CMOs must ensure their teams are fully equipped to effectively target and engage with their audience through this channel.

Richness of Data and Analytics

The amount of data and analytics CMOs have at their fingertips is significantly different than the amount (and quality) of data they had access to even just a few years ago. With the amount of data – big data in particular – that’s available, the need for CMOs to leverage it to improve the accuracy of their marketing efforts is pivotal to their success.

According to Koleszar, the increased amount of data “trickles down to measurement and analytics, and how we’re measuring the impact of what we do.” He believes the richness and vast amount of data available gives CMOs and their teams the ability to target in ways they may have not been able to do before.

Ultimately, the modern CMO must not only be able to effectively manage data and analytics, but have a team in place to translate data into valuable insights. Having data-focused capabilities within a marketing department allows the CMO to truly understand his or her customers.

The Rise of the Millennials

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When building teams that are capable of supporting digital transformation, CMOs must understand the behaviors of Millennials to successfully attract and recruit this generation for cutting-edge marketing talent.

Koleszar states, “Millennials have a different perspective on work, different expectations of employers and different ideas on how they want their careers to evolve. Understanding their perspectives and their generation is an important aspect of being a good leader. Having an appreciation for the new generation to help them evolve and achieve their personal and professional goals, while also accomplishing the goals of the organization is something that’s garnered my attention.”

He considers “digital natives” an important part of his team and a way to gain a fresh perspective into the world of marketing. “Millennials, like every generation, are slightly different than the one before it. People want to have an important role and make a contribution to the team, and want to be compensated fairly. They want their leaders to take a personal interest in them and watch out for their best interest – something that hasn’t really changed.”

“As a CMO, it’s important to understand that people are people, and to understand their strengths, weaknesses, hopes and desires, and to leverage them to accomplish the goals of the organization,” states Koleszar. Attracting, identifying, and recruiting millennials is something CMOs must know how to do to keep their teams in the best shape in a fast-paced industry.

Ever-Evolving Challenges

According to Koleszar, not all CMOs are created equal. “The Super-CMO has responsibilities that are often outside the realm of marketing in an organization. In the case of CMOs who are having to operate enterprise-wide and broad responsibilities – the challenge remains the same for the most part. For example, a CMO that has pricing strategy, advertising, and social media in their domain has a very broad set of employees and functional tasks that are being handled by the department. Pricing is analytical and left-brained, so the CMO needs to be deeply knowledgeable in order to effectively lead and oversee the pricing strategy. On the opposite end of the spectrum, creative development, advertising, and communications is very right-brained and creative. The ability of the CMO to span that spectrum of left and right brain has long been a challenge.”

The evolution of technology and digital has added more to the basket of responsibilities and the challenges today’s CMOs face. Koleszar says “for the Super-CMO that’s managing a broad marketing function across the enterprise – the challenge is the broad range of intellectual needs and capabilities. Marketing still to some degree suffers in their reputation more than other departments – there is an ongoing need of the CMO to manage relationships with peers across the C-suite and to engage in the ‘marketing of marketing.’ Helping those other executives understand and appreciate what marketing does, how they do it, and what the results are remains a professional challenge for everyone that’s in the seat.”

The (Improved) Voice of the Customer

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We’re in a customer-centric world, where CMOs must center every element of their marketing strategy around their consumer. In order to do so, marketing executives must be customer experts and have a deep understanding of their audience.

“Marketing has always been the voice of the customer,” says Koleszar. “I don’t think that in the past ten years, marketing’s role in the board room has changed in regards to being the voice of the customer. However, how we listen to the voice of the customer most accurately has changed dramatically. Meaning ten years ago, a CMO would think nothing of conducting a telephone survey in order to garner research on a new product or to get feedback on advertising. However, that is outdated now. Traditional market research has evolved dramatically and to truly understand the voice of the customer, it’s a much different effort than it used to be.”

Proactively Staying Ahead of the Curve

CMOs are central to the growth of organizations. However, CMOs today must prove their value beyond the marketing organization and attribute their value in terms of ROI. This means learning to adapt and proactively expanding their skill sets.

CMOs have to take an active approach in keeping up-to-date in today’s marketing landscape. Koleszar highly suggests reviewing a daily feed of articles that span a broad spectrum of current events and staying abreast of what’s going on in the CMO’s own industry and other industries. He states that it’s also important to “understand what’s going on in technology and innovation regardless of industry – AI, robotics, the use of data – these are things that are bigger than our companies and industries, but ultimately can be applied to our own companies and industries.”

According to Koleszar, knowing “what’s evolving in terms of human behaviors and overall societal trends is important. A huge percentage of news and information is no longer obtained through appointment viewing. More of the population is getting their information from phones rather than a TV set at an appointed time, so we’ve changed our approach to marketing as a result. That leads us to wonder what the next curve in the road is. Keeping an eye out for those curves is important.”

Koleszar also suggests regularly interacting with other marketing leaders to share ideas and trends. Additionally, getting involved in industry events and conferences is important in staying abreast of what’s going on in the realm of marketing.


In the rapidly evolving modern climate of today’s CMO, marketing executives must take full charge of their positions. This means actively staying ahead of the curve and building adept teams through effective modern marketing recruitment. As a CMO executive search firm, we know that no matter how skilled and cutting-edge a CMO is, they must have the right team in place to truly drive a difference in their organization.

How is your organization performing against the rapid pace of change in digital in today’s marketing world?

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