The Role CMOs Should Play

Overview At CES® 2020, I had the honor of moderating a panel with Jenifer Berman, CMO of Insider; Diana O’Brien, global CMO of Deloitte; and Deborah Wahl, global CMO of General Motors.

These dynamic leaders from world-renowned organizations are driving the business agenda and shaping the way their companies learn, grow and ultimately influence the world around them.

We delved into the role that the CMO is and should be playing in the C-suite — and the organization. As we all return from CES, I’m excited to take these lessons back to my team, and share with other CMOs the ways we can inspire our organizations.


It’s not about being chief. It’s about being a collaborator and contributor.

As Deborah pointed out, the acronym of CMO doesn’t just stand for “chief marketing officer;” it should stand for “contributing marketing officer.”

You are part of a team, a team that is responsible for all the different facets of the business. Though leading and uncovering marketing insights is a vital piece of the role, we as CMOs must consider the ways we collaborate with other C-suite members and decision makers to drive impact across the business, not just within the marketing silo.

Jenifer shared with us a story of how Insider was separated into hyper-focused groups, and though specific goals were reached because of the dedicated focus, the organization was missing a core mission and teams didn’t know what other teams were working on. Only by breaking down silos with others in the C-suite and defining their goals together were they able to feel like a team knit together.

The acronym of CMO doesn’t just stand for "chief marketing officer;" it should stand for "contributing marketing officer."

Deborah Wahl
Global CMO of General Motors.


Beyond just the activity and campaign, it’s about the change you are making.

I like to tell my team that they can be working on as many interesting campaigns as they want, but it only matters when those activities have an effect on the business. I asked the other CMOs how they train and encourage their teams to think about their stories and activities in terms of results.

What they shared was that teams need to have that mindset built into their DNA. Jenifer explained that with every campaign they produce, people have to be prepared to be measured. When teams are mindful of performance metrics, the goal changes from simply doing something cool to making measurable and concrete steps that drive business growth.

It’s also important to consider the ways we can make a larger social impact. Beyond results for the business, CMOs should be — and are — thinking about the potential of the way they’re changing the social landscape. From technology changing vehicle safety to improving smart cities, the panel discussed how we can use tech for good and address society’s biggest challenges.


CMOs lead the way in navigating change.

Beyond a marketing role, CMOs are really growth officers. As Diana pointed out, in many organizations, the CEO relies on and turns to the CMO because CMOs tend to be able to connect the dots to drive change.

The role for CMOs has become solving fundamental problems and strategies. And within the technology space, it’s about leading the C-suite and the whole organization to identify the technologies that are going to affect businesses.

CMOs are the ones who are able to see the connections with consumers and navigate change, both internally and externally. More importantly, CMOs play a vital role in the culture of the company and building the mindset to welcome change.

Like Deborah highlighted, it is the marketing team that always figures out where we can tell the story. We’re the ones who identify the technology that is human-centric.

To be a few steps ahead is the role of the marketer, and that is what is exciting.


Watch the full “Putting the ‘C’ in CMO” panel, and also see my segment in the C Space Studio to hear more about the future of CTA and CES and our brands.

You May Also Be Interested In ...

Lessons From the World’s Most Influential CMOs

Read more arrow-black

The Female Quotient Is Working to Transform Corporate Culture

Read more arrow-black
CTATECH-PROD2