Who Is the Super-CMO and Why You May Need One

Who Is the Super-CMO and Why You May Need One

The role of the CMO has experienced significant changes within just the past few years thanks to the rise of technology and digital.

In an article published in 2004, Gail McGovern and John A. Quelch introduced the idea of the super-CMO and the evolution of the CMO role well ahead of their time. We are now seeing the emergence of the super-CMO in today’s marketing landscape; particularly in organizations that are reaching notable success in a rapidly-evolving digital space.

Who Is the Super-CMO and Why You May Need One (or Need to Become One)

The Emergence of the Super-CMO: What CMO Executive Recruiters Look for

Too many companies today are still looking at the role through the lens they did ten years ago – only 10% of the CMOs that exist today truly fit the super-CMO title.

According to McGovern and Quelch, the super-CMO is described as one who’s able to attract and retain top marketing talent, excellent at both left-brain and right brain marketing, a change agent with strong convictions, and well-respected and trusted by the CEO and peers. 

The digital transformation that has taken place drives the need for an even more innovative type of leader. The super-CMO today inherits all of the traits McGovern and Quelch describe, plus the capabilities to propel their organizations forward in a digital world.

Below are the key differences that create the need for a new kind of CMO executive search, and why organizations pursuing dynamic growth amidst the rapid digital revolution need a super-CMO.

Seamless Integration Across All Channels

Not every CMO can truly drive an effective integrated marketing strategy across all channels. The super-CMO, however, is able to drive a cohesive strategy through digital and traditional channels. From mass media, to social, to communications, to traditional advertising, these CMOs are able to properly manage offline and online media channels.

They are the voice of the customer and have a deep understanding of the customer and their needs. This is what allows the CMO to deliver seamless and relevant customer experiences across all channels.

In addition to successfully merging the worlds of traditional and digital marketing together, they are able to leverage analytics and data to attribute the marketing spend. This helps them clearly understand the channels that are delivering the best ROI.

Exceptional Leadership

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Super-CMOs don’t only know how to do marketing, but know how to lead it in a forceful way. This means building up the right team, and guiding the entire organization toward a digital mindset. Truthfully, even the most skilled and sharp CMOs cannot drive maximum impact without the proper support.

Exceptional CMOs possess sophisticated interpersonal skills to be a great marketing leader that help their junior- and mid-level marketers drive strategy and growth. They don’t feel the need to control everything but are efficiently-capable of supporting their team and peers, and are open to learn when necessary. However, to do so a true super-CMO will also need to have the emotional maturity to realize it’s okay for one of the younger members of their team to know more in a certain area than they do.

Growth Catalyst

Super-CMOs are ones who drive significant growth. They’re able to use innovative tactics to identify trends and developments to stimulate and maintain growth within their organizations.

Innovation should be at the core of a marketing strategy when it comes to the people, products, and services. From analytics, to digital to e-commerce, these are all areas where businesses are leading or falling behind.

A top-performing super-CMO is able to lead their company forward to grow at the maximum pace. Frankly, all CMOs today need to be able to do so and be the champion of profitable growth.

Streamlined Management Across the Organization

Instead of managing bits and pieces, super-CMOs are ones who are able to manage enterprise-wide marketing strategy across the entire organization. According to McGovern and Quelch, they manage company and business strategy, and usually have authority over the company’s marketing budget. They have ventured outside of the traditional marketing silos and have a broad sense of how to get results based on vast business experience.

This type of experience allows them to handle a wide range of tasks and responsibilities efficiently and effectively. From leading digital transformation, analytics, to attracting and retaining top marketing talent, these leaders have a hands-on approach in driving company-wide change.

Super-CMOs successfully remove silos across key functions in marketing, sales and technology to more seamlessly reach customers. They’re able to influence and persuade their C-level counterparts and management to further enhance their efforts and leadership.


We expect to see an emergence of the super-CMO simply because the world of marketing is now demanding of that. The future for the CMO is hard to predict, but it is certainly set to continually evolve and transform. As the role continues to change in parallel to the digital marketing landscape, it’s necessary for marketing executives today to proactively keep ahead and accept the changes. Equally it is important for corporations to understand than only ten percent of CMO’s fit the super-CMO profile and you will want one before your competition gets one.

As CMO executive recruiters, we daily witness that organizations need more than a classic CMO if they truly want to get ahead in the digital world and drive success. Senior level marketers need to step up and become lifelong learners to pursue the path of the super-CMO, as the demand for such exceptional marketing leaders is going to exponentially grow.

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