Gone are the days when CMOs were merely responsible for implementing a marketing strategy, allocating a budget, and managing a team of people.

Digital transformation, data, and analytics have changed that marketing game forever.

Today’s CMO can’t solely implement a strategy.

No, they’re expected to continuously shape and drive a strategy that is …

  • Centered on customer experience
  • Guarantees sustainable, profitable growth
  • Can quickly adapt to new market opportunities

Today’s CMO can’t just slice up a budget and allocate it to teams the same way each time. No, they must now question every dollar spent and make ruthless decisions to stay lean and create cost efficiencies.

Today’s CMO can’t just sit back and manage a group of people, giving occasional direction when needed. No, they must passionately lead, empower, and motivate high-performing, purpose-driven teams through a constantly changing landscape, without losing sight of big-picture goals and perspectives.

There’s a lot resting on modern-day CMOs’ shoulders these days.

They’re no longer finger-in-the-air marketers who sit in big offices, twiddling their thumbs, and making decisions with no cause or effect, as people, perhaps, once thought.

“In the pre-digital world, it was nearly impossible to give evidence that marketing was actually effective.” – Rethinking The CMO Role, Carla Johnson

CMOs are almost entirely responsible for the success or failure of a business.

However, given the level of monumental responsibility and pressure they now bear, research shows that many CMOs lack support and respect from their C-suite counterparts.

For instance:

  • Only 26% of CMOs get invited to regular board meetings.
  • Merely 17% of C-suite execs proactively collaborate with CMOs.
  • Only 50% of CEOs think their CMO is truly effective.

That’s shocking.

CMOs must, therefore, work hard to transform their reputation, and earn the respect, trust, and support of their fellow C-suiters. They need to be seen for what they truly are: key drivers of growth and prosperity. No longer should they be perceived as uninformed, ineffective, box tickers.

How do they do this?

Through innovation and agility.

“To succeed, the modern CMO must be adaptable, innovative, and agile—getting this right spells business growth, and missing the mark spells sales stagnation.” – The Modern CMO: Adaptable, Innovative, Agile, Future Research

Why The Modern-Day CMO Must Embrace Agility & Innovation

Fortune magazine states that CMOs should be “growth- and market-driven brand experts with an external lens” who can “react quickly to changing market and customer expectations.”

As initiatives fail, markets change, customers move, organizational structures shift, and technologies develop, CMOs are constantly trying to battle against endless waves of disruptive change.

To stay afloat in this sea of constant change, they need to rely upon innovation and agility.

Let’s look at the key changes that require an innovative and agile approach, in more detail.

Customer changes

Customers can now research, browse, and buy anything they want, from anywhere in the world, anytime they like. This makes the consumer market a buyer one, not a seller one, which, therefore, makes the job of a CMO much harder.

Customers are no longer loyal to one company and their buying habits are no longer linear. This renders our old, tried-and-tested marketing models and funnels useless.

A siloed and one-dimensional approach to customers no longer works.

CMOs are under continuous pressure to find new and innovative ways to create consistent omnichannel customer experiences, draw fickle customers in and keep them close, and quickly respond to what the market wants, even if it was something completely different a week ago.

Being a CMO is about finding new ways to open up two-way conversations and develop deep and meaningful relationships. It’s about having the guts to pivot on a whim and take chances on new ideas. And it’s about creating consistent and seamless communication patterns across every channel.

Exceptional CMOs will see constant changes in consumer behavior as opportunities for growth: new products, features, or updates could come from close, two-way, equal relationships with customers, for instance.

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Strategic changes

Opportunities to change how we market our products and services come from ever-changing consumer buying habits, new marketing channels, pressure to create cost efficiencies, and the need to prove the ROI for every dollar spent.

For instance, social media and communities are now in, and the more traditional billboards and TV ads are (on their way) out. That is largely because social media and communities are more cost-effective and allow for two-way, real-time customer conversations. Considering that the consumer is king, this should be at the core of any decent marketing strategy. Word of mouth is no longer driven by the brand; it’s driven by the customers.

Take care of your community.

Plus, with a channel like social media, which is fast-paced and dynamic, we can rapidly change direction, try new ideas out, and adopt a see-if-it-sticks approach, which is essential for survival in this crazy, agile world we live in.

Technology changes

Advances in technology are completely to blame for the disruptive customer and strategic changes that we’re all trying to navigate.

“Customers expect us to meet them where they are, anticipate (or predict) their needs and deliver a superior experience, no matter where they are. We are ushering in digital transformation, creating all-new digital touchpoints in how we engage and serve our global audiences.” – Three Ways the Role of The CMO Has Evolved to Drive Innovation and Growth, ZDNet

But these technological advances are also giving us more opportunities to innovate and are allowing us to respond to changes quicker than ever before.

Even with the impending removal of third-party cookies, we still have access to reams and reams of data.

We’ve never been more informed about who our customers are. Making quick decisions, pivoting our strategy, and completely changing direction becomes much easier (and safer) when you have cold hard data to back it up.

“But to unlock that true/increased value, you need platforms and systems, analytic skills, and a customer-centric culture so that data can be turned into actionable intelligence and insight.” – CMOs Weigh In On Innovation And Disruption, Forbes

How to Bring Out Your Agile and Innovative Side: Key Takeaways

“Great CMOs don’t shy away from change, aren’t afraid to challenge the norm, and they don’t get defensive easily. In addition, they take time to reflect and learn from their experiences and they put themselves in challenging situations.” – The Modern CMO: Adaptable, Innovative, Agile, Future Research

Pull together and head up a transformation team

To keep yourself visible to the board and to put innovation and change firmly on the agenda, build and lead a marketing transformation team. It’ll keep everyone in the loop, allow them to clearly see the value you’re bringing to the table. It’ll also hold you accountable for the decisions you make. That will earn you respect and support from others.

Proactively collaborate with C-suiters

The CMO and the CPO should always work closely together. So should the CMO and the CMI.

But they often don’t.

Why not take the initiative? Be the one to openly collaborate with other departments and work together to achieve the same great outcomes. Share insights and align strategies to improve decision-making and customer experiences.

Try new things and encourage your team to do the same

Seek opportunities to learn, grow, and experience new things, all the time. Not only will this strengthen your and your team’s skill set and knowledge base, but you’ll all get familiar with the feeling of being taken outside of your comfort zone. That is exactly what innovation and agile action do. Maybe take up a new language, learn the art of data collection, or even volunteer, as a team, at your local animal shelter.

Build relationships with data and analytics teams

You need access to quality data to be able to truly understand and respond to your ever-changing customers. So, it pays to work closely with your data and analytics teams. You can leverage data to draw conclusions, make decisions, and pivot in an instant as and when you need to.

Don’t overthink

It takes up too much time and it overcomplicates everything.

People often think that innovation means creating something wonderfully complex. But actually, the simpler something is, the more innovative it is. Your consumers are more likely to understand a simple concept over a complex one. So, they’ll be more likely to buy into it.


The modern CMO is expected to stay one step ahead of advancing technology, new trends, and changing consumer expectations.

“Customers matter more than ever, and since you’re responsible for them, your role should matter more than ever too. “- Rethinking The CMO Role, Carla Johnson

Innovation and agile thinking are the way to keep up.

The Modern-Day CMO\'s Role in Innovation and Agility