Sprechen Sie Wall Street? (the CMO-CEO-STREET divide)

by Kurt on December 9, 2011

I was at a CMO COUNCIL (@CMO_Council) conference here in Dubai last week, where we were talking about the clash of the [boardroom] titans: CMOCFOCEO. The subject at hand was: what’s the role of the CMO, and what’s his relationship to the CEO and CFO these days? Various opinions arose. And most companies seem to be struggling with this, in one way or another. But one thing we could all agree upon: these 3 critical functions in the company all seem to be looking for different things, all seem to be speaking a different language, internally and externally, in & about marketing, strategy, etc.

In this note, I want to take it one step further, and bring Wall Street into the picture; knowing that “the Street” pretty much “dictates” what happens in Wall Street Listed Corporations.







Here are the different “languages” we all speak:

Marketing(*) speaks about:

  • Engagement
  • Brand Equity
  • Programs
  • The consumer dialog
  • Innovation

The CEO(#) speaks about:

  • Profit
  • Share of market
  • Asset utilization
  • ROI
  • Innovation

Wall Street($) speaks about:

  • Stock
  • EPS
  • Debt
  • Innovation, new value creation
  • Corporate governance & trust
  • Company values

Legend: (*) or: marketing VP, marketing director, head of marketing (#) 0r: regional president, country head ($) 0r: analysts, investors, VCs


A few observations:

1- The above shows a MASSIVE gap between “functions”

2- Innovation is a common thread. At least that’s something 😉 Apart from that, it is clear from the above list that major clashes might occur, frequently. If you’re in marketing, only having the voice of the consumer in mind and building cool, fun, great brand platforms you WILL strand somewhere, quickly. Going to your CEO with a commercial consumers “like” isn’t going to cut it. Marketers who don’t realize that will never be able to (1) do their job properly, (2) come very far in their career.

3- If you would throw in that mix the language that an advertising agency speaks, imagine the “clash” between that level  of creativity and CEO. That just points out how much “filtering” work the marketing department needs to do before creative ideas get to a very senior management level.

4- The gap is probably widening, with us marketers talking more and more about difficult to measure things in the social media sphere! Only few CEOs find social media important and have a “decent” understanding of it.


Why is all of this happening?

1- Few CEOs are marketers. A lot of engineers and CFOs “graduate” to leading the company.

2- Marketers haven’t put enough effort into making the impact of their work concrete, in talking “metrics”, “statistics”, “financial impact”, “ROI” of their marketing investments.

3- The academic world hasn’t prepared marketing students enough to tackle point 2. Marketing education is very much focused on creativity, innovation, branding only.







4 things to do based on the above:

1- Know what language you need to speak in different situations. Yes, the marketing role is to safeguard the “voice of the consumer” throughout the company. But marketers need to go beyond that and be able to speak all topics to make sure that that consumer voice gets heard! And with the overload of data these days, selecting the “right” data that brings the right story across fast is crucial.

2- Work the p&l, on every level of the organization. In the end, unless you are a non-profit organization, your profit picture is key. For a marketer, that means: put some time and effort in “studying” finance. Spend time enough with your finance counterparts to dig a bit deeper in the financial systems of the company.

3- Follow what analysts say about your company, brands. It’s good to know “where the wind comes from”. Your CEO knows and that might influence or drive some “unusual” decisions.

4- As a CMO, “educating” the CEO on consumer desires, habits, decision processes is and should remain to be a constant agenda point.

Net, CMO – CEO – STREET need to come “closer” together.


In the following video you’ll hear CMO’s amongst others talk about the need to demonstrate the results of marketing efforts:


So, should the CMO change from a Chief Marketing Officer to a Chief Metrics Officer?


Here’s a super article on what’s on the CMO plate these days.

Read here about the rise and fall of the CMO. And here on how to lay the foundations for CMO success.

For those who are really up to it, here is a great report on how to transition from CMO to CEO, with testimonials from those who did it.


Thank you for reading this blog post! If you enjoyed it, check out my other posts and do subscribe to my newsletter (in the right-hand sidebar)

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{ 8 comments… read them below or add one }

Social Steve December 9, 2011 at 5:42 pm

Sharp insights Kurt! And thanks for the reference.

Social Steve


Kurt December 12, 2011 at 5:39 pm

Many thanks!
Stay in touch.


Fiona Friesen December 12, 2011 at 12:43 pm

It would be interesting to consider the COO in this as well (Chief Operating Officer) as their ideas of efficiency often counter the creative wandering of the CMO.


Kurt December 12, 2011 at 4:50 pm

that’s a great point!
thank you for that perspective.


Kurt January 27, 2012 at 1:20 pm
Kurt January 28, 2012 at 9:23 am
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