CMOs blamed first when companies miss growth goals

A new study suggests a lack of understanding between the CEO and marketing is putting CMOs in the firing line.


CMOs are the first to get fired if a business fails to hit its growth targets, according to a new study.

The report from Accenture Strategy found that 50% of CEOs see CMOs as the primary driver of disruptive growth in a company. But if a company does not achieve that growth, 37% of CEOs said the CMO would be first in the firing line. Chief sales officers at 34% and chief strategy officers at 29% were next in line.

The study, which questioned 535 CEOs and 847 CMOs at global organisations, also found that 37% of CMOs believe disruptive growth is driving companies a “great deal”, while 58% said it is driving it “somewhat”. Some 96% of CMOs recognise the importance of disruptive growth to revenue potential, while 75% believe they have a great deal of control over the disruptive growth in their company.

“A lack of clarity is what creates a real issue today. CMOs have to understand what the expectations are.”

Robert Wollan, senior managing director of advanced customer strategy, Accenture Strategy

However, despite the fact both CEOs and CMOs believe disruptive growth is crucial for a company’s growth, CMOs only spend 37% of their time on innovation. In addition, while 60% is spend on traditional marketing approaches.

Due to this, more than half (54%) of CMOs feel a large portion of their marketing budget is being wasted and not delivering the results the business expects, while only 30% of CMOs believe they are cutting-edge marketing innovators.

Robert Wollan, senior managing director leading advanced customer strategy at Accenture Strategy, believes the reason for this comes down to the CEO and CMO not understanding each others’ expectations.

“A lack of clarity is what creates a real issue today. CMOs have to really understand what their CEO’s expectations are. They have to understand how they are being measured at a particular organisation,” Wollan told Marketing Week.

Wollan also believes that CMOs are first in the firing line due to the “age of acquisition and retention”, something he said is “harder and harder for the CMO to control”.


Wollan’s advice to CMOs is to take a “greater role” by actively driving the disruptive growth agenda and generating new value for the business.

“Such initiatives include developing ecosystems with non-traditional players, launching platforms that elevate current products into expanded service models for customers, and increasing revenue through next generation connected data monetisation – all of which CMOs are well positioned to do,” he explains.