The average CMO tenure drops to 41 months

The average tenure of a chief marketing officer was 41 months in 2019, a slight dip from 43 months the year prior, according to the latest iteration of executive search and leadership advisory firm SpencerStuart’s annual CMO Tenure Study.

Now in its 16th year, the study examines trends in marketing leadership and their implications for organizations. The findings are based on analysis of the tenures of CMOs from the 100 most advertised U.S. brands as of Dec. 31.

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The study also examined the median tenure of CMOs, so as to reduce the impact of so-called “outliers.” It found that the median tenure increased slightly, to 30 months from 27.5 months in 2018.

The Chicago-based company also reported a significant increase in the number of female CMOs, as well as a “major uptick” in the number of CMOs hailing from ethnically and/or racially diverse backgrounds.

“It’s incredibly promising to see that the number of women in the CMO role continues to climb,” said Greg Welch, who leads SpencerStuart’s marketing, sales and communications office practice and who started the study in 2004.

“It’s also encouraging that companies hired a considerably more diverse class of CMOs. This positive trend needs to continue through the development of the next generation of marketers, which includes a robust number of minorities in marketing leadership roles.”

According to the report, 43% of the CMOs at the top 100 advertisers were women, up from 36% in 2018 and just 28% in 2017. Nearly half (48%) of CMOs who began their tenure in 2019 were women, up from 44% in 2018 and 38% in 2017. In addition, the study found that 14% of all CMOs came from diverse backgrounds, up from 10% in 2018.

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The CMO position is among the most volatile within these companies, however, with more than half (60%) holding the role for 36 months or less.

According to a report by The Wall St. Journal, the average tenure of CEOs at the same companies tracked by SpencerStuart was 76 months, while the median tenure was 53 months.

Welch stressed that the survey’s finding do not reflect this year, which saw the arrival of the COVID pandemic, leading to immense—and immediate—changes to the traditional CMO role.

“Traditional best practices do not apply in many cases, with some companies changing their business models and others simply fighting for survival,” he said. “Looking ahead to the coming weeks and months, CMOs will be tasked with balancing the demands of ‘now,’ with an eye toward sustaining longer-term viability.”

Photo by Damir Kopezhanov on Unsplash

Chris Powell