Why CMOs have ‘very little time’ to do marketing

Top marketers say they are too busy running a business to spend their whole time on communications.

Former Homebase CMO, Jo Kendrick tells the audience at IAB Engage there is little time to do actual marketing
Former Homebase CMO, Jo Kendrick tells the audience at IAB Engage there is little time to do actual marketing

As marketers rise through the ranks to become chief marketing officers they stop doing marketing, according to the former CMO at Homebase Jo Kendrick.

Speaking at IAB’s Engage conference in London today (13 October) Kendrick told delegates that throughout their careers marketers spend time learning how to be better at marketing, try to understand channels and the development of digital but once at the top of the marketing team they “stop doing marketing”.

She said: “We do have a day job as a CMO but I’m afraid to tell you that it isn’t comms.”

The former marketing chief recalled her tenure at the home improvement brand and told the audience that the majority of that time was spent trying to run a business.

As one of six on the board at Homebase, Kendrick was “running a business employing 17,000 people, with margins and profit that were paper thin” and therefore the senior marketer spent a lot of her time in meetings “trying to figure out how to balance the books to make some money”.

She said: “There is very little time left and in small fractions of moments we get to be the CMO.”

Kendrick, who is currently the chairman of Global Radio’s Make Some Noise charity, was joined on stage by Amanda Metcalfe, marketing and customer experience director at serviced apartments brand Go Native to present a talk about the top things clients won’t tell agencies.

Metcalfe echoed the view that although CMOs are at “the top of the tree in the marketing organisation” they are actually “doing very little marketing”. She said: “We’d love to [do more marketing] but actually we are busy running the business.”

Her advice to agencies was to acknowledge the fact that the CMO role is not just communications and that understanding the business will help them to work better with brand leaders. “Recognise that that is what our life is like and acknowledge it and you will be half way there,” said Metcalfe.

The CEO doesn’t see agencies as the solution to the problem

At the same time as CMOs having less time to concentrate on working with agencies on communications, Kendrick highlighted another issue that clients don’t admit to – that CEO’s don’t look to agencies to solve business problems.

CEOs do, however, look to analysts such as PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC), Bain, McKinsey and management consultants who are paid “an enormous amount of money”, according to Kendrick.

She said: “I know a number of digital shops doing some very clever forward-facing stuff in data, producing answers that are broad business solutions, but the CEO is just not seeing it that way.”

Whether it’s a perception issue or reality “the fact is that [agencies] are not getting to the most senior leaders in companies”, she added.

Metcalfe waded in with advice for agencies while criticising the use of analysts. She said: “The reality is the PwC, McKinsey’s and the Bain’s come at business issue with logic rather than creative thinking. They don’t get the customer and they don’t get human motivations.”

She told the agencies in the audience to partner with these companies to get into the board room and added that as CMO’s they “hate it when our CEO brings in PwC to sort out our data and analytics [when agencies] know more about that then PwC do”.

The advice was to “come in on the back of their coattails and partner with them, and solve problems for us together”.