Survey Says: CMOs Don’t Make a Difference

August 14, 2007 | blog | By Mike Sullivan

Did you hear the one about the two academics who put their brains together and conducted a study that says CMOs have no impact on sales?

No, it’s not a joke.

The study will be published next month in The Journal of Marketing. And considering the torrent of criticism and scrutiny CMOs have been dealing with the last several years, the study struck me as piling on. Even worse, you wouldn’t be too far off base for accusing these professors of eating their own. They are professors of marketing, after all.

If CMOs have no impact on sales, perhaps we should look a little harder at the root cause and focus the same kind of scrutiny on university marketing curriculums. What are these people teaching our young marketing leaders of tomorrow, anyway?

I’ll admit the researchers did arrive at one conclusion that’s painfully obvious to those of us out here in the real world where sales performance is the only real metric that matters. “It seems that marketing experience is required in the top management team for a CMO’s role to be consistently appreciated,” the researchers said. Now that’s a no-brainer.

If the CEO and president aren’t marketers at heart, the CMO doesn’t stand a chance on mahogany row. I’ve seen great marketing initiatives fall on deaf ears in the C-suite many times in my career, and it can be truly disheartening. On the contrary, in companies where there is a serious marketing culture from the ground up, a study claiming CMOs have no impact on sales wouldn’t compute.

It seems CMOs are the punching bag du jour. They’re today’s Corporate Underdog. My advice: CMOs should go where they’re respected for their potential to contribute to the company’s top -line sales.

That’s the bottom line.


Mike Sullivan

President at LOOMIS, the country’s leading challenger brand advertising agency


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