What does the CMO role mean in 2021?

Who is CMO?

Nowadays in almost every organization or startup, you will find a person in charge of marketing. That person can bear different kinds of titles — Chief Marketing Officer, Head of Marketing, Marketing Manager. This is the person who keeps the company’s vision and executable tactics in check. Making sure that the company is moving forward in a well-managed and rational way.

In 1981 when somebody would ask “What is a marketing strategy?” the CMO would answer — ohh we are going to run a few print ads and if it makes sense we should go for radio. In 2021 it’s a totally different story and could go something on these lines:

Well first we need to totally rebuild the sales funnel, so we need a brand new lead magnet, and we will drive Facebook abstract traffic to it which will be built on a lookalike audience from our very best customers of course and then we gonna push them to marketing automation platform where they will get seven-part nurturing series leading into one time offer, three upsells and if they don’t convert as a buyer until then we going to basically target them for their whole life until they buy or unsubscribe.

Expansion of duties

As you can already tell then the role now has become far wider with a lot more balls to juggle. Not only is the CMO responsible for marketing vision but has to take part in product development and always should be considered in sales meetings. As for most of the brands, the button line always comes down to bring in more sales.

Far more often than not the marketers role is expanded to include customer service, sales management, new business development, distribution channel management, and even product development. Ensuring that businesses’ messages are distributed across all the channels.

Why don’t we take a look at the most influential CMO’s and their noteworthy accomplishments:

Former Apple CMO Phil Schiller

It’s because of Phil that now-iconic iPod got a click wheel. Before iPod most mp3 players wanted you to smash that next button to get to the next track. Schiller says he wanted a one-handed way to scroll quickly as you’re jogging, and he came up with the wheel.

Adobe CMO Ann Lewnes

Under Ann’s leadership, Adobe started to pioneer the switch to digital. Deploying a comprehensive set of digital marketing solutions, establishing an insight-driven culture, and setting a template for marketing’s strategic impact on business.

Microsoft CMO Chris Capossela

When pandemic struck Chris’s efforts to understand the customers and move away from trying to move away, from presenting to customers The Microsoft Solutions and instead go deep in discovery phase asking customers questions like — How are you trying to reinvent your company? And now with COVID, it’s: How are you responding? How are you recovering?

What is the unifying factor in all of these stories? None of them are direct classical CMO responsibility. Phil went deep in product development. Ann was leading the sales initiative, and Chris was in front rows of customer service and discovery.

So then, to answer the headline question — What does the CMO role mean in 2021?


It means to be omnipresent.

And probably the most versatile role in the whole organization.