Over one in five B2C CMOs in role for a year or less

The average tenure for a CMO at the US’s top 100 advertisers fell again in 2023 to 3.1 years, or 37 months.

Career ladder longevityMore than one in five CMOs in consumer-facing businesses were in role for a year or less in 2023, according to annual research from leadership advisory firm Spencer Stuart.

Indeed 22% of CMOs at B2C Fortune 500 companies held their position for 12 months or less in 2023. This is more than double the figure for top marketers in B2B businesses, where 11% of CMOs had done a year or less.

The report finds the average CMO tenure across Fortune 500 companies in 2023 was 4.2 years, or 50 months. This figure is unchanged from 2022 levels.

Again, there is a gap between B2C and B2B CMOs when it comes to average tenure. The average time in post for a top B2B marketer in 2023 was four and a half years, whereas, for B2C marketers, it was four years.

CMOs have a reputation for short tenures, and with a fifth of those in consumer-facing businesses having been in post for a year or less that’s perhaps unsurprising. However, the research suggests that the average tenure of 50 months for CMOs in the Fortune 500 is only slightly under that of the C-suite as a whole. The average Fortune 500 C-suite tenure in 2023 was 55 months, the data suggests.

Are we witnessing the end of the CMO? No, and stop asking

Interestingly, it is the top 100 US advertisers, many of whom are large consumer businesses famed for their marketing, that had the shortest CMO tenures. The average tenure for a top marketer in these businesses was just 3.1 years, or 37 months.

This figure is even lower than the 3.2 years recorded in 2022, meaning average tenure among CMOs at the UK’s top advertisers is shorter than it’s been in over a decade.

The research from Spencer Stuart also charts CMOs’ paths to becoming the top marketer at their organisation. Almost three in five (58%) top marketers were promoted from within their business, a figure that’s four percentage points higher than in 2022.

It was more common to promote internally for CMOs at B2B companies, with almost two-thirds (63%) of marketing leads at these businesses having been promoted from within.

Around three-quarters (74%) of CMOs at the 100 biggest advertisers in the US were first-timers in the top marketer role. This is the highest proportion of first-time CMOs recorded by Spencer Stuart since it started tracking in 2016.

Across Fortune 500 companies, 71% of CMOs had never held a corporate-level CMO role.

Gender parity for CMOs

The data also reveals a milestone for women, with half of all Fortune 500 CMO roles being held by women in 2023. This is up from 47% in 2022.

While there was progress on gender parity, the data presented a slight backslide for racial diversity among CMOs. The proportion of CMOs from historically underrepresented racial and ethnic groups in Fortune 500 companies decreased from 14% in 2022 to 12% in 2023.

Among the top 100 US advertisers, 52% of CMOs were women, a slight decrease from 53% in 2022, and just under a fifth (19%) of CMOs were from underrepresented racial and ethnic groups, a small increase from 18% in 2022.