At last, CMO’s dominate the news, but it’s the wrong C-Word…

As you well-know dear reader the marketing industry loves its flashy job titles. Though when I first started working in marketing, the most senior roles were Marketing Director, National Marketing Manager, VP Marketing, or a mashup depending upon geography. For example, APAC Regional Marketing Director.

But we’re a funny lot we marketers. We weren’t happy because we believed we weren’t taken seriously at Board level. We took umbrage that very few Board Directors were marketers. Boards generally included finance and general management, HR, but rarely were there any marketing honchos.

So, to alleviate this perceived problem of status, we created a new marketing job title. One that reflected how we saw ourselves – one that elevated us to the C-Suite (wherever that is located). We became Chief Marketing Officers.

With a C-Word title, we had to get a seat on the Board – after all, we were now “Chiefs” just like the CEO, CFO, CIO etc. I declare a hand here. I’ve been a National Marketing Manager, Marketing Director and a Chief Marketing Officer among other titles – all ordained, not designed.

But even with the C-Word title, marketers are still thin on the ground in Boardrooms. So I was surprised recently when I was reviewing the popular media, because right there in headlines around the world were CMO’s.

CMO’s are all over the media…

Everywhere I looked; “The UK CMO says…” or “Deputy CMO states…How important are CMOs now – they even have a deputy? The acronym CMO appears constantly on the ticker tape across the bottom of news screens – CMO has almost entered the vernacular.

There are now Deputy CMO’s…

But there’s a small problem. In marketing parlance, the CMO being referred to is the wrong C-Word. In the current COVID-Crisis, CMO stands for Chief Medical Officer, not Chief Marketing Officer.

They can even point to charts like Chief Marketing Officers can…

“Holy Handles Batman what will they call themselves now?” I hear you ask. Years of lobbying to be taken seriously and the most senior marketing job title has been usurped by the medical fraternity.

Damn and blast – we’ll have to design a new descriptor for our fabulousness. Something that describes our importance to society and businesses at large. But what will we use?

It needs to reflect the humble nature of our industry, titles like:

  • BCMO – Big Chief Marketing Officer?
  • CML – Chief Marketing Legend?
  • SCMO – Super-Chief Marketing Officer?
  • DDMAO – Data Driven Marketing & Advertising Officer?
  • DDCEDNEMG – Data-Driven Customer Experience Digitally Native Engagement Marketing God?
  • DFM – Damn-Fine Marketer?
  • LCP – Lords of the Coloured Pencils
  • TMB – That Marketing Bloke  (maybe that’s not politically correct).

But what is clear, is we can no longer be called CMO’s. It’s too confusing, as people naturally assume CMO describes a medical title.

This is not unusual for acronyms to create confusion among the executive ranks. I was asked to pitch for a major tourism account and to provide examples of my direct marketing expertise in the category. I presented a direct response TVC for a 5-star resort, direct response press ads and inserts for hotels and destinations, then was promptly asked by the CMO to stop my presentation.

The CMO said he wanted me to present Direct Mail (which I had yet to get to). I explained that mail was but one media in which you conduct direct marketing. His staff asked me to step outside, while they ‘discussed’ the definition of direct marketing with the hapless CMO. I returned to complete my presentation and was eventually awarded the business.

My mate Drayton Bird once got caught up in the acronym problem. He flew from London to NY to talk to Board members about CRM (not sure if a CMO was there). He was stopped 20 minutes into his presentation and asked what the hell he was talking about. He said Customer Relationship Management. They said they wanted a presentation about Cause Related Marketing. Go figure?

This is a weighty topic folks, and given that our very own C-Word now risks getting lost in translation – your suggestions are welcome please…


  1. C-Suite….Chief Wanking Officers, I think Drayton used to call them! That always put a smile on my face. Something else that puts a smile on my face is casting my eyes over the self-congratulatory job titles people award themselves these days on LinkedIn….wankers, the lot of them.

    • Yes Fransisco he has called them a few things in his time. Job titles are an endless fascination for me. People try to use them to differentiate themselves, as if it matters…

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