ZEITGUIDE TO THE C-SUITE BUBBLE
It’s the age of the Chief ____ Officer. As companies struggle to keep pace with rapid changes in business, culture and consumers, they’re appointing more and more “chiefs” to cover what they might be missing.
Suffered a nasty data breach? Time to appoint a Chief Privacy Officer. In 2018, PwC’s Global State of Information Security survey found that 79 percent of companies worth over $10 billion have appointed a privacy executive head.
Customer experience not up to snuff? Time for a Chief Customer Officer or Chief Experience Officer—a role that is sometimes a rebrand of the Chief Marketing Officer, but with more focus on customer outcomes to accompany the traditional marketing and brand building responsibilities.
Overall, it’s the CMO role that has seen the most tinkering—with Chief Brand Officer being another popular substitute—which is not surprising given how tenuous the job is. Executive-search and leadership-consulting firm Spencer Stuart found CMOs average a scant 44 months on the job, the highest turnover of all C-suite executives.
One change we’ve noted is the effort to tie marketing to growth by blending the CMO role with the responsibilities of the Chief Revenue Officer to give rise to another hybrid title: the Chief Growth Officer. This executive might work hand in hand with the Chief Commercial Officer who oversees a company’s sales. (Are you taking notes on all of this?)
Our own Chief Executive Officer Brad Grossman suggests CMOs think of growth not just in building a direct line to the consumer (DTC), but also use that knowledge for internal growth, what you might call direct-to-company (the other DTC), thus assuming the mantle of Chief Visionary Officer.
Boosting a company’s internal smarts is a job we’ve also seen assigned to the Chief Learning Officer. In AdAge, Drew Neisser suggested another title for this cross-functional, communicative role: Chief Synthesis Officer.
There’s competition for the CSO title, with AdAge’s Simon Dumenco suggesting companies hire a Chief Sanity Officer, a role that balances the need to innovate against the risk that new innovations may drive away existing customers.
Feeling overwhelmed by all these new titles? Perhaps you should check in with your company’s Chief Mindfulness Officer, a function now found at SAP, Google, Aetna and IBM.
Creating these roles provides a snazzy sounding press release for companies, and an incentive for promising execs to stay on, but keeping track of them all can cause a real headache. Often, there is already an existing role within companies sharing the responsibilities of these new chiefs. The privacy officer is really just a goosed up Chief Technology Officer. Employee mindfulness can fall under the Chief Human Resources Officer (and what some now call a Chief People Officer). Improved collaboration between CEOs, CFOs and CMOs would make the titles of CGOs, CVOs or CSOs superfluous.
At the end of the day, if everyone is a chief, doesn’t that mean nobody is?
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