CMOs have the shortest tenure in the c-suite

New research shows that CMOs last an average of just 4.1 years in their roles as businesses “fail to align” behind the change marketers are leading.

cmo tenure

CMOs have the shortest tenure of any member of the c-suite, according to new research.

The report, by recruiters Korn Ferry, found that the average CMO in the US stays in the job for just 4.1 years, behind the average for the c-suite of 5.3 years. That is half the average tenure for a CEO at eight years, and less than CFO, CIO and chief HR officer (CHRO).

Part of the reason for this is down to the “exceptionally complex” nature of the CMO role, says the research.

“Today’s customer-centric CMO role requires the right balance of left as well as right brain skills and, very importantly, a differentiated set of leadership competencies,” says Caren Fleit, senior client partner and leader of Korn Ferry’s Marketing Centre of Expertise.

“CMOs with this unique profile are in high demand and are often recruited to lead the next transformation. Also, in some cases, short tenure can be attributed to the organisation not being well aligned behind the change that the CMO is tasked with leading.”

C-suite position Average tenure Average age
CEO 8 years 58
CFO 5.1 years 53
CMO 4.1 years 52
CHRO 5 years 55
CIO 4.3 years 51

CMO tenure has been falling for some time. According to a separate study by Spencer Stuart, the average for US consumer brands’ CMOs fell from 48 months to 44 months between 2014 and 2015, the first drop in a decade.

And the Marketing Week Salary Survey highlighted the extent of job churn among UK marketers, with 82% planning to leave their posts in the next three years and 41% aiming to exit in the next 12 months.

READ MORE: Salary Survey 2017 – Marketing is still misunderstood by businesses

The Korn Ferry study found that CMOs in the financial services industry lasted the longest, at 5.1 years, while life sciences CMOs stayed in their roles for just 3.1 years. The average CMO in the consumer industry had a tenure of 3.6 years.

CMOs are also among the youngest in the c-suite, with an average age of 52. By comparison, the average CEO is 58, for a CFO that figure is 53 and for the CHRO  is 55. Only the CIO is younger, at 51.

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