Who is the Chief Growth Officer? The Chief Marketing and Chief Brand Officer rolled into one. 

Susan Avarde / Marketing Strategy & Customer Experience



Who is the Chief Growth Officer, the CMO or the CBO?

This question is hovering in the professional ecosystem because there is frequently confusion regarding the expertise that the various skills of Chief Marketing Officer and Chief Brand Officer bring to the table. The combined talent of marketing and brand on a management team, or at the holding company level in any corporation is vital, because companies need both the long-term strategic outcomes based on vision and the short-term revenue growth that results from marketing. Various companies take differing approaches to who holds the key leadership role and what it is named, but moving forward we will see more corporations embrace the combined skills of a CMO and CBO in one individual who is responsible for an integrated marketing and brand strategy. This combined role, which I’m calling a Chief Growth Officer, is necessary at the highest management level because only when sitting in the most senior role can an Executive lead a holistic strategy. To develop a growth orientated strategy one must have a line of sight into a far-reaching megatrend that is redefining the market. From this vantage point a future orientated platform can be developed which positively impacts all aspects of any business and its growth.

What activities differentiate a CMO from a CBO when it comes to growth?

The answer regarding “What’s the difference?” is often muddled because even those in the function are unclear on the difference because titles are misused or responsibilities assigned arbitrarily. Many companies do not have CBOs, or a marketing role is split between corporate and a line of business, and the result is often conflict and lack of alignment. One way to think about the separation in responsibilities is that CMOs mostly act as the voice of the customer driving product engagement. They have a wide set of responsibilities running the gamut from customer experience, segmentation, product pricing, analytics, sales promotion & communication. By contrast a CBO is usually responsible for forging ahead breaking new ground and providing Brand leadership. Their leadership drives innovation, research, sponsorships, advertising, design, social media and employee culture. A CBO works making the connections between business strategy, internal cultural values and the external expression. Their vision will sum up what’s unique about the corporation and set it apart from the competition, delivering medium and long-term value. However, for the strongest growth to result activities led by the CMO and CBO need to be combined into one role, ensuring absolute alignment and maximum effectiveness. Once combined there is a single voice to forge ahead and partner with other key functions leaders also reporting to the CEO.


What’s the difference between brand, marketing and communication?

Simply put, brand is who you are, marketing is what you do and communications is what you say. A brand strategy will identify a relevant idea that aligns with the macro business strategy, propelling the business, ensuring the company is “future fit” in the changing marketplace. Brand plays offense and is focused on longer-term value. In parallel marketing governs the acts of promoting and selling products and services on tighter iterative timelines, delivering immediate topline revenue. It too plays offense; it’s just a shorter-term game. Corporate communications meanwhile often provides defense, dealing with daily, weekly and quarterly issues. As a function it has a strong strategic role but generally is responsible for troubleshooting and distribution of responsive messages at scale, rather than setting the goal posts on a broader approach.

A message multiplied will drive growth.

To drive growth the overarching message and customer experience needs to be singular, thereby enjoying a multiplier effect. While the singular approach is positive when it comes to effectively managing media budgets and mindsets, unfortunately it still proves elusive. The hyper-speed economy will leave large companies behind if they do not adapt more quickly and efficiently. Waste is not easily forgiven. Often messages are diluted because they are not linked to one overarching theme due to the marketing team sending different messages to customers from the brand team. Confusion and waste ensues. Audiences do not “connect the dots” to a broader picture when the theme is not singular. This weakens the internal culture and the external customer experience. Additionally, message fragmentation plays havoc with the ability to lay down robust metrics and measure impact on sales. The CBO and CMO must work together to create ideas that gel and resonate with all audiences. Constant reinforcement of the same story is imperative to grow reputation and loyalty. If there is an authentic brand idea which works for all, customer experiences and product innovations can be aligned across multiple channels and expediential growth results.

Does Human Resources work in partnership with the CMO and CBO?

Alignment between a CMO and CBO is not the only challenge. Other functions on the management team need to collaborate. Positive cultural outcomes require a strong partnership with human resources. H.R. is undergoing a revolution and employee bloggers will soon have substantial voices in corporations because technology is making this change possible. Many employees are active on social media as individuals and soon they will become internal influencers because their voices resonate and are credible. H.R. will have an exciting collaboration role with the Chief Growth Officer, co-creating a brand platform to motivate the workforce and revitalize the culture. Marketers used to track “NPS” with a passion and H.R. measured employee sentiment, but a better predictor of sales growth is “eNPS” (employee net promoter score), if employees have a propensity to recommend their company to others then there is a strong line which can be drawn to potential sales.

network-marketing-training-personal-growth-and-development-300x300How can a Chief Growth Officer work better with the Chief Financial Officer?

Moving forward there will be a better way to size the potential of a business. Chief Growth Officers will generate dialogues about the useful role brand valuation (also know as goodwill) can play when it comes to forecasting growth and evaluating strength. Brand as an intangible asset does not currently sit on U.S. balance sheets, but this will change. In the future the Chief Growth Officer is the best partner to work with the CFO and the finance team structuring the analytics around ongoing brand tracking and valuation. This work cannot be undertaken by a CMO or a CBO in isolation because value must be mapped and measured at the highest level across all units. Currently the world’s largest brands are valued and ranked annually by external firms using publically available data. While generally useful to identify category trends, such league tables create vulnerability each year for those ranked, sometimes requiring investor relations to publically defend a Brand’s performance. Much of the data used by ranking firms is too broad to be truly useful to measure success or steer growth internally. Moving forward it will be better to garner your own trusted company data to inform robust course correction and revenue forecasting. Boards will also begin to request a stronger framework to evaluate value especially during times of divestiture and acquisition. When the call comes from the boardroom to the CFO he or she will turn to the marketing and brand leader for a framework which will deliver the requisite year-on-year report to better inform the price of a divestiture or the return on investments.

A new century leader: The Chief Growth Officer

The world is transforming, millennials and the digerati have led change worldwide. Transparency is a way of doing business and corporations are under pressure to ensure they have a purposeful place in the world. Businesses long-ago embraced the shift from a sales promotion “push” to the imperative of delivering the “holistic pull” of a world-class customer experience, but understanding the vital role brand building plays in that mix is still gathering speed. Companies have stalled often lacking the required talent for a role such as a Chief Growth Officer. A CGO can add real value if they are part of shaping business strategy at inception, because not only do they have the collaborative skills to work with their Executive peers they also have the influencing skills to spearhead the execution across multiple business divisions. A CGO will bring the broadest suite of marketing skills and an innovative voice to the debate but most importantly they will have a powerful forward focus ensuring their organization can truly deliver growth…and shape the market.