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.



There are 2 comments at the moment, we would love to hear your opinion too.

  1. Garrett Johnston 2 Mar 2017

    An awful lot depends on what we actually define marketing to be. If it is defined as a lead-generation/conversion and promotional function comprising brand communications PR advertising etc. Then it is more likely to be viewed as a dispensable cost center. If on the other hand marketing is viewed as the owner of the entire customer experience covering products, product roadmap, distribution, sales and service channels, pricing and consumer financing, customer facing people standards and qualifications, and so on across the entire customer lifecycle starting with segmentation / Target audience definition and finishing up with lifetime advocacy and loyalty, then it’s totally different story. What we really need are chief customer officers running the entire front office with finance HR IT and all the other support functions relegated to a back office whose job it is to support the front office in driving customer and market success. Then it becomes the job of the back office support functions, including finance, to speak the language of the customer and of the market, and not for marketers to speak the language of the support function. Otherwise we have a situation where the tail is wagging the dog. At the end of the day enterprise value equals customer lifetime value and there’s no two ways about it.

  2. Pietro Leone 14 Aug 2017

    As GM’s CMO Linda Boff puts it – Brand Owners need growth hunters in the role of CMOs – I believe Linda is right, yet on top of what she states in the following article (, what is needed is the understanding that the traditional models of pushing down products and innovations expecting shoppers will buy and buy, is no longer valid. The traditional communication models based on 360 communication have been replaced by the attempt to follow consumers in their online/offline journeys, unfortunately either those models are time and capital consuming activities that have a relative effect if not designed to bridge the GAP between the company offering and shopper’s readiness to buy.

    In my view, what is needed is to finally  recognising:

    1)  that shoppers are in control and that the offering reaching them needs to be aligned to their expectations (familiarity), what is more than ensuring the offering is insight driven. #align2grow

    2) that the traditional way to segment audiences is not valid anymore and that there are consulting tools that can help segmenting based on behavioural journeys rather than on traditional segmentation models, those can deliver more efficiency in the way marketing budgets are spent and more effectiveness through a bottom up informed messaging strategy. #journeymarketing

    3) that innovation needs to be at the forefront of the business strategy, this having as purpose aligning the product portfolio strategy to the identified strategic behavioural journeys.

    4) that the different functions within the brand owner organization need to synchronize their activities to “fill the gap”. #align2grow
    in essence, the way CMOs can go back to “hunt growth” is not only by driving digital transformation, but it is rather sizing the gap between the offering and shopper’s readiness to buy, aligning the offering via change management and deliver that offering in mind blowing ways, whatever the channels to be used.
    Not an easy task:  but by understanding the challenge at hand, by leveraging modern consulting tools with rigor and discipline with a growth -hunter attitude – magic is possible.

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