Two different chief marketing officers (CMOs) worked for the same Fortune 100 retailer at two different points in time. In separate interviews, the CMOs relayed very different stories about their scope of responsibility, their status in the company and their ability to have a positive impact on firm performance. What differed? They worked for different CEOs.

In collaboration with, one of the largest CMO-focused media companies, I conducted the second CMO Impact Study designed to understand how the CEO affects the CMO’s ability to deliver business results.

The outcome from the study suggests that there are five important signs that marketers can use to determine if their CEOs take marketing seriously. These include:

  1. The degree to which CMOs are included in company-level strategy meetings
  2. The importance the CEO places on marketing relative to other functions
  3. The degree of turnover in the CMO position (in an interview with one CMO, his company had had six different CMOs over a six year period)
  4. The CEO’s background is marketing/sales or finance/accounting
  5. The CEO holds the CMO accountable for appropriate measures

Ideas to Action — What This Means for CMOs:

First, prior to accepting a job at a new firm, CMOs should find the answers to the above questions to determine if the firm and CEO prioritize marketing. If not, they should consider: 1) negotiating with the CEO on the role design (e.g., when the CMO should be included in board meetings and other key strategy-setting meetings), 2) rejecting the offer or 3) negotiating a significant severance package to protect themselves from the revolving door syndrome.

Second, if currently in a CMO position, CMOs can use these questions to audit the degree of support they are receiving. They can then use the insight to have a discussion with the CEO regarding the firm’s prioritization of marketing and how this can impact the CMO’s ability to achieve results. This is a tricky discussion requiring finesse, but for many CMOs, it may be worth it.

For more detail on the survey and in-depth discussion of the results, read about Professor Kimberly A. Whitler’s 2015 CMO Impact Study in “Six Signs That Your CEO Is Taking Marketing Seriously: Insight From the CMO Impact Study” on and “Study: CEOs Who ‘Get’ Marketing a Boon to CMO and the Business” on Click here for a link to the infographic.

About the Expert

Kimberly A. Whitler

Assistant Professor of Business Administration

Whitler is an authority on marketing, with expertise in marketing strategy, brand management, and marketing performance. Her research centers on understanding how a firm’s marketing performance is affected by its C-suite and board.

A prolific writer as well as researcher, Whitler has authored nearly 100 articles related to C-level marketing management challenges and is a contributor for Forbes and Social Media Marketing Magazine named her one of the Top 100 Marketing Professors on Twitter.

Whitler has held leadership roles, including GM and CMO positions, within the consumer packaged goods and retailing industries, including Procter & Gamble, David’s Bridal and PetSmart. She has helped build $1B+ brands, including Tide, Bounce, Downy and Zest.

B.A., Eureka College; MBA, University of Arizona Eller School of Business; M.S., Ph.D., Indiana University Kelley School of Business