CMO Job Changes Up 15% Despite COVID-19

ConsumerMarketing, Sales, and StrategyExecutive Search
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九月 02, 2020
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ConsumerMarketing, Sales, and StrategyExecutive Search
The reduction of marketing spending during the early part of the pandemic did not result in a reduction of marketing leadership positions.


The Forbes article, “CMO Job Changes Up 15% Despite COVID-19,” was written by Russell Reynolds Associates Consultant Norm Yustin on the finding th​at COVID-19 has had a positive impact on CMO moves. The article is excerpted below.​ 


The past six months have been a trying time for many, but not for marketers looking to take on a new role. Russell Reynolds Associates has been tracking publicly disclosed Chief Marketin​g Officer appointments for seven years, and our most recent analysis shows that CMO job shifts in the first six mon​​ths of 2020 is both higher than the same period last year and in the second half of 2019–when the economy was booming. Are you surprised that COVID-19 has had a positive impact on marketing moves? 


COVID-19 initially presented major challenges to marketers, such as massive uncertainty, economic slowdowns, and public health concerns. The initial wa​ve of the pandemic caused a number of companies to slash their marketing spend, due to store closures, and live TV and outdoor advertising grinding to a halt. Across the globe, marketing teams were reduced in size, and the big question on everyone’s lips was: Where is the future of marketing heading?​ 


However, the reduction in marketing spend during the height of the lock-down did not translate into a reduction in executive marketing leadership moves. In fact, between January and June 2020, we have seen a 15 percent increase in marketing moves at the senior-most level versu​s the same period a year ago. 




S​​​ummary of Key Findings 

  • ​More marketers have​ moved jobs during this crisis. The first half of 2020 saw a record number of marketing moves. In total, there were 243 pu​blicly announced executive moves, up from 214 in the second half of 2019 and marking a continued climb since 2018. 
  • Tech is wher​​e it’s ​​at. Not surprisingly, this pandemic has given the technology sector a boost, accounting for more than a quarter of all marketing moves in the first six months of 2020, with 65 new marketers hired into technology companies in the past 6 months. The percent of tec​​h marketing moves versus all other moves has more than doubled, from 13 percent of all moves in H1 2019 to 27 percent of all moves in H1 2020. 
  • Gender di​​​versity tips female. Continuing the trend we had seen in H2 2019 –  where 51 percent of marketing moves were female – the first half of ​2020 saw 53 percent of marketing appointments go to female candidates. This is a five percentage point increase from the same period last year. 
  • ​​​Even in a crisis, CMO appointments remain predominantly external. Seventy-five percent of publicly reported chief marketing officer appointments​​ in H1 2020 were external hires, a slight decrease over the same period last year. However, at the height of the pandemic, between April and June this year, that number jumped to 80 percent, as more companies looked externally for new skills to adapt to rapidly-changing consumer behavior.​ 


Industry Bre​​akdown of Marketing Moves 

Consumer hires in freefall: ​​The consumer industry accounted for 41 percent of the marketing leadership turnover in the first half of 2020, an 11-percentage point decrease from the same time period in 2019, where more than half of all marketing moves came from the consumer industry. Shelter-in-place and working from home has had a significant impact on consumer companies, which has negatively impacted consumer CMO opportunities.​ 


Technology hires driving the market: Technology companies have been crucial in coronavirus responses, as they partner with retailers and first​​​​ responders to help streamline supply chains and increase data and analytics processes. In turn, the technology sector saw a 9-percentage point increase in marketing appointments from H1 2019 to H1 2020, the highest by far of any sector or industry and maintaining momentum from the previous quarter.​ 


Financial services and retail need a comeback: In contrast, the number of financial services moves decreased a full 7 percentage points, and the number of retail moves decreased by 5 percentage points from H1 2019 to H1 2020. This demonstrates the increased volatility in the financial services and retail sectors over the past few months as leaders seek to adjust to the current economic downturn and syst​emic changes prompted by the pandemic. Leaders across these industries are trying to get their bearings and maintain their balance sheet, leaving marketing as a second thought. We can expect that as we emerge from the crisis, and the business landscape looks brighter, that retail and financial services companies will place a refocused lens on the marketing function in this new context.​ 


Internal vs. External Appointments 

The CMO succession crisis remains a major issue for marketers across all industries, yet H1 2020 showed a slight improvement for internal candidates. While external hires are still 75 percent of all marketing placements, this is down from 80-plus percent in the previous 18 months. Due to the uncertainty permeating the market and unpredictable hiring freezes, we find more executives are looking inside their organizations for step-up candidates and high potential marketers.​ 


As ​​​​digital transformation becomes a top priority for organizations, leaders are forced to not only have front-end capabilities but also the ability to understand data, analytics, and back-end systems more fluently. With a unique perspective on customer demands and behaviors, marketers must act as the cross-functional “glue” and lead customer experience initiatives across the broader organization. This has broadened the talent pool, but additionally, it has been a key factor in the volatility of the role.​ 

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