Average CMO Tenure Drops Again: Half at Top-Advertised US Brands Have Been in Position For <2 Years

April 14, 2017

This article is included in these additional categories:

Business of Marketing | Staffing | Women

After an almost decade-long climb that saw record tenures reached in 2014, the average tenure of CMOs at 100 of the most advertised brands in the US has now dropped for the second consecutive year. That’s according to the latest annual analysis from Spencer Stuart, which also notes that close to half of the CMOs have been in their current role for 2 years or less.

The average CMO tenure now sits at 42 months, down from 44 months in last year’s analysis (covering 2015) and 48 months the year prior. That’s still well above the 2004-2006 period, though, when CMO tenure averaged only about 2 years.

The median average, meanwhile, rests this year at 27 months, slightly above the 2015 level of 26.5 but down from the 33-36 range from a couple of years earlier.

A recent study from Korn Ferry revealed that CMOs have the shortest tenures in the C-suite. In that research, which analyzed the top 1,000 US companies by revenue, CMOs were found to have an average tenure about half that of CEOs (4.1 years and 8 years, respectively).

The latest drop in tenure shown in the Spencer Stuart study is based – not surprisingly – on a smaller share of longer-term CMOs. In this case, longer-term refers to those who have been in their role for at least 3 years: in 2016, only about one-third (34%) could lay claim to that level of longevity, down from 41% in 2015 and 49% in 2014.

Looking to nab a CMO position? It doesn’t seem like previous experience is a must: 7 in 10 CMOs at the brands analyzed by Spencer Stuart are first-timers. It also isn’t a necessity to climb the corporate ladder, although it does help: slightly more than 6 in 10 CMOs at these brands were internally promoted.

As for the 16 CMOs who comprise what Spencer Stuart calls this year’s “freshman class”? It’s a small sample set to derive many conclusions from, but compared to the overall sample they are: more likely to have been internally promoted; less likely to be first-timers; more likely to be female (31% vs. 23% for the overall set); and less likely to be diverse (6% vs. 9% for the overall set).

About the Data: The CMO tenure data is based on an analysis of the tenures of CMOS from 100 of the top US most advertised brands as of December 31, 2016.


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