Key takeaways

  • In the latest Digital IQ survey, CMOs were rated as less digitally savvy than every other C-suite member.
  • Execs rated chief marketing officers as having a digital IQ of 54… out of 100.
  • Claiming their true place at the table to drive business growth will require new traits for the modern CMO.

Marketing leaders today have more tools at their disposal than they can count. They’re tuned in to the world of smart devices and artificial intelligence and they’re curating and adopting the latest ways to reach people and make an impact.

So, surely CMOs should be ahead of their executive peers in digital know-how, right? Not necessarily. PwC’s latest Digital IQ survey reveals that CMOs are seen as less digitally savvy than nearly every one of their C-suite counterparts. Assessing 2,280 executives from a range of industries across 60 regions, CMOs were rated by their fellow execs to have a digital IQ of just 54 out of 100. Compare that with CEOs at 61 and CTOs at 65.

That’s no small disconnect. It shouldn’t be this way, and that gap presents a serious opportunity for CMOs to help drive change. In the past, digital was nearly solely the domain of marketing because it was largely considered to be “customer-centric.” Then digital became, well, everything.

Many CMOs recognise there are problems with the way their companies are embracing digital. Thirty-seven percent said outdated technologies sabotage the success of their digital initiatives, and 35 percent called out lack of collaboration between the business and IT as a stumbling block. These are similar shortcomings that CIOs see, but few CMOs said they had responsibility for digital and tech strategies.1

WiPro Digital’s annual study of the state of marketing technology echoed some of this.2 More than one-third of respondents claimed that their organisation adjusts the technology to fit into existing operating models rather than looking for new ways of operating. And 43 percent of respondents said that effectively integrating marketing with other technology systems is a major barrier to success.

CMOs should be power players who can help change this — they’re perfectly positioned to change the way people work, cultivate new mindsets, make smarter use of technology and cultivate more digital acumen that they can share with their fellow executives — if only they had the gumption to use it on a bigger scale.

Embracing a new way
of thinking

The real disconnect lies with CMOs who have yet to embrace what it means to be a modern marketing leader who acts as a true C-level partner with a voice — not just someone who supports the business with targeted campaigns that have data proving they work.

Instead, it’s important to bring insights that will help one’s company adopt a digital mindset. This means understanding and identifying business insights and opportunities, standing behind the right experiences required for employees and customers to deliver revenue growth or new business models and showing how various technologies can bring that vision to life (and not just tech for tech’s sake).

Here are some important traits of a modern CMO:

1. The modern CMO is a C-suite player

They act as a strategic partner with the CTO, CEO and others to drive digital, technology and key decisions that will chart the path of the business. They are always looking for ways to increase the efficiency and effectiveness of marketing efforts while responding faster to customer preferences, even helping to impact culture through their own behaviors.

By embracing the broadest and most encompassing definitions of digital — defining it not just as IT or one-off technology implementations but rather as reflecting a unified approach to customer and employee experience, technology and business performance — the modern CMO can help drive the rest of the company forward.

2. The modern CMO is a digital creative

A digitally savvy CMO is constantly evaluating and updating the marketing technology stack and making sure it is integrated with other systems the organisation uses to track and analyse business performance. They use data and analytics to not only inform their yearly planning but also to make real-time changes based on data that’s available to them now.

The modern CMO makes creativity part of the job description for themselves and the people on their team. They encourage curiosity, experimentation (even if it means failures along the way) and reassessment of conventional thinking day after day. That means trying new approaches, using new tools and embracing new ways of working and learning. If the modern CMO does their job successfully, others in the C-suite will find it easier to embrace that same mindset — and even a little discomfort.

3. The modern CMO knows their digital tools

The CMO and marketers need a CRM tool so they can immediately see how customers are responding to content, know whether they’re attending events and quickly determine what topics they’ve asked to be kept informed about. Add to that an email preference center model that allows them to give people who sign up to receive content when, where and how they want. The business gets to know its audience better and, in turn, make more accurate suggestions. Using technology to track audience preferences helps paint a clearer picture of their audience and customise offers, content and events to make the most of their marketing efforts.

what’s next?

Marketing leaders can make an impact if they both increase their own digital acumen where needed and claim a seat at the table when it comes to setting business strategy, creating product roadmaps and actively participating in product design. It should become natural for the modern CMO to actively share the latest data showing how customer preferences impact sales in both positive and negative directions, for instance.

If marketing leaders can use their digital know-how and analytics to, for example, direct operations to double down on Product A because it’s performing well and discount Product B, which isn’t, they can more than prove themselves as worthy partners. The PwC survey found that 77 percent of financially successful companies have the executives responsible for digital involved in high-level business strategy — there’s no reason the CMO shouldn’t be one of them.

The modern CMO’s ultimate goal is for marketing to become truly integrated into business strategy and growth. Those marketing leaders who have already begun behaving as partners and purveyors of digital knowledge will see their clout in the organisation rise.

A modified version of this article previously appeared on Forbes.


Digital Pulse: Matt Lieberman


Matthew Lieberman

Matt is the Chief Marketing Officer for PwC US and Mexico.

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