CMO tenure falls to lowest level in more than a decade

CMOs at B2B businesses have a longer tenure than their B2C counterparts, new research shows.

Leadership change in directionThe average tenure for a CMO continues to fall. On average, CMOs working at the top 100 advertisers in the US had been in role for just 39 months, or 3.3 years, in 2022, according to the annual study by leadership advisory firm Spencer Stuart.

This is the lowest level in more than a decade and a drop from an average length of service of 40 months in 2021.

For the first time the study has included the average tenure of CMOs working at Fortune 500 companies, which paints a slightly different picture.

The average tenure for Fortune 500 CMOs in 2022 was 51 months (4.3 years) in 2022, a drop from 54 months (4.5 years) in 2021.

Spencer Stuart notes the Fortune 500 companies are evenly split between B2C and B2B businesses, compared with the top 100 advertisers, which consists only of B2C companies.

The average tenure for CMOs at B2B businesses is greater than their B2C counterparts, with the former being in role for 53 months (4.4 years), compared with B2C’s 49 months (4.1 years).

Meet the marketers ‘unlocking growth’ through long tenuresCMOs typically have a reputation for faster turnover than other C-suite leaders. However, the average tenure of Fortune 500 CMOs in 2022 was just two months less than the C-suite average.

The average tenure for CEOs at Fortune 500 companies is 6.7 years, followed by general counsel (5.5 years) and chief communications officer (4.7 years).

The roles with a shorter tenure than CMOs include chief sustainability officer (3.4 years), chief operating officer (2.9 years) and chief inclusion and diversity officer (2.7 years).

The research warns that CMOs’ shorter tenure isn’t necessarily a negative thing, though, with Spencer Stuart highlighting it often comes as a result of elevation to other roles. Data from October 2022 highlights 77% of CMOs leaving the US’s most-advertised brands go on to “bigger and better” roles, such as general management and similar roles at bigger businesses.

Comparatively, working as a CMO at a Fortune 500 brand is often the final destination of a marketer’s career.

In 2022, almost half (47%) of CMOs at Fortune 500 companies were woman, a slight increase from 44% in 2021. Meanwhile, 14% were from historically underrepresented racial or ethnic groups, again a slight increase from 2021’s 12%.

Marketers, like chancellors, need time in the job to succeedLikewise, the number of female CMOs at the top 100 advertisers also increased, from 50% to 53%. Almost a fifth (18%) of CMOs in 2022 were from underrepresented racial and ethnical groups, up from 15%.

Taking a look at CMOs in post for less than a year in 2022, 49% were women while 25% came from underrepresented racial and ethnic backgrounds. For the leading advertisers, 46% of newly appointed CMOs were women and 32% from underrepresented backgrounds.

In terms of career progression, more than half (54%) of Fortune 500 CMOs gained promotion internally, a slight decrease from 56% in 2021. Meanwhile, 29% had previous experience in the CMO position. More than a third (37%) of CMOs hired from outside their current business came from a different industry.

At the leading advertisers, 54% found promotion within, and of the 40% external hires, 28% had experience as a CMO.