CEOs and CMOs Are Butting Heads at More Companies Than We Know — and It's Been Going on for Some Time A recent report found a growing disconnect between the two C-suite positions.

By Madeline Garfinkle

Key Takeaways

  • The report found that only 22% of CMOs feel their jobs are well-understood by other executives.
  • The lack of understanding could, in part, be attributed to the disconnect between jargon and data points used by marketing professionals.

Many chief executive officers (CEOs) and chief marketing officers (CMOs) have different perspectives on the role of marketing, and that disconnect is hindering growth, a McKinsey survey found.

McKinsey found that companies led by CEOs who value marketing and branding as top growth drivers are more likely to experience significant revenue growth. Specifically, B2C firms prioritizing marketing are three times more likely to achieve over 5% revenue growth than those who don't prioritize it, and B2B companies prioritizing marketing are more than twice as likely to exceed this threshold.

But the report also found that only 22% of CMOs feel their jobs are well-understood by other executives, a decline from 31% in 2019.

The disparity is often rooted in communication or lack thereof.

"Many times, CEOs turn to strategy or operational leaders versus the CMO for growth strategies," said a CMO surveyed by McKinsey in the report. "As a result, strategies can be more financially and analytically driven versus consumer-led."

The disconnect is further highlighted by a Forrester report, per The Wall Street Journal, which found that 90% of CEOs claim their strategies are customer-driven — a belief that only 58% of CMOs also possess.

Nicholas Caffentzis, a senior fellow and adjunct professor of marketing at Northwestern University's Kellogg School of Management, told the WSJ that the lack of communication and understanding could in part be attributed to the disconnect between jargon and data points coveted by marketing professionals (for example, "bounce" and "conversion" rates) but may have little significance to a CEO.

"As a former CMO, I can tell you I rarely talked to our CEO about what our [email] open rate was," Caffentzis said.

Related: CEOs Are Tricking Employees Into Spending More Time In The Office — But Here's Why They're Only Fooling Themselves.

Rob Lynch, president and CEO of Papa John's, emphasized to the WSJ the responsibility of CMOs to convey the value of their work to other C-suite members, given their close proximity to customers, adding that CEOs "don't necessarily have their finger on the pulse of the customer and where the revenue comes from."

In turn, CEOs should clearly define the scope of the marketing function and its alignment with long-term strategies, ensuring clarity in roles and responsibilities, McKinsey notes in the report, adding that "underestimating the power of marketing" can prove to be a "costly mistake."

Related: Condado Tacos CMO Sara Kear on Creating a Strategic Digital Footprint

Madeline Garfinkle

Entrepreneur Staff

News Writer

Madeline Garfinkle is a News Writer at She is a graduate from Syracuse University, and received an MFA from Columbia University. 

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