3 Key Questions Driving Marketing’s Evolving Enterprise Role in 2022

January 18, 2022

Contributor: Ewan McIntyre

Are marketing, CX and sales amalgamating? Is marketing’s role as a driver of enterprise digital transformation diminishing? Will emerging roles usurp the CMO?

Just as day follows night, the turn of the year brings a slew of articles pontificating on the forces that will shape marketing in the year ahead. So here’s my take.

Gartner identifies four overarching themes driving marketing strategies in 2022: marketing’s shifting role in the enterprise, customer journey orchestration, strategic brand management, and change and volatility management. Today I’m zooming in on the first theme by examining three key questions.

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The Four Themes Driving Marketing Strategies in 2022

Question No. 1: Are marketing, CX and sales amalgamating?

Back in December 2020, I boldly predicted that, by 2023, 25% of organizations would collapse marketing, sales and CX into a single function. I will now boldly assert that this prediction appears to have been overstated — or at least premature.

During the last 12 months, I’ve worked with lots of clients to help them address organizational challenges. I’ve come across very few instances where there’s been a formal convergence of functions with sales, marketing and CX folding in under a single leader. While there are instances where organizations have adopted emerging leadership roles, such as the chief revenue officer (CRO) or chief growth officer (CGO), adoption of these roles remains limited.

Although there’s been no huge shift toward formal organizational amalgamation over the last year, savvy marketing leaders have always understood that aligning more closely with sales, CX and other functions is a smart thing to do. Reducing organizational friction, increasing collaboration and sharing goals across the enterprise is a resolution all CMOs should adopt in 2022. In some instances this may be through the adoption of RevOps, but in many more cases, this collaboration will be less formal. Either way, deeper enterprise connections drive better customer outcomes and support profitable growth.

Read more: What Is Digital Marketing Strategy — And What Are the Keys to Its Success?

Question No. 2: Is marketing’s role as driver of enterprise digital transformation diminishing? 

In Gartner’s 2021 CMO Spend Survey, I wrote about how CMOs are ceding accountability for enterprise digitization to other roles, such as the chief digital officer (CDO). I based this assertion on Gartner survey data that indicates CEOs consider growth their top strategic business priority for the next two years, and their sights are fixed on digital business as a path to get there. However, CMOs are not necessarily CEOs' go-to when it comes to leading digital growth initiatives.

In organizations where marketing has previously been at the forefront of transformation, this can be a painful experience. However, while CMOs may move from being the “A” (accountable) to “R” (responsible) on the RACI matrix, they must maintain a powerful voice around the decision-making table. To do this, CMOs need to play to marketing’s unique value proposition as the voice of the customer in the enterprise. Digital growth only makes sense when digital experiences and solutions are focused on addressing real customer needs. 

Question No. 3: Will emerging roles usurp the CMO?

Returning briefly to the topic of organizational design, what about all of those shiny new C-suite roles snapping at the heels of the CMO? In recent years, there’s been much discussion of how the CGO (at consumer goods companies) and CRO (at tech companies) pose an existential threat to the role of the CMO.

Let’s be clear: In limited and specific circumstances, it may make sense for enterprises to shift accountability around the C-suite. This can create greater cross-functional cohesion or cement a sense of shared vision across commercial functions within organizations. And while this may mean that the senior-most person in the organization accountable for marketing is not solely focused on marketing (e.g., Unilever’s Conny Braams, who was appointed Chief Digital & Marketing Officer in 2020), leaders still need teams that deliver the specific capabilities and value that marketing does.

Marketing is marketing, no matter what you may choose to call it or, for that matter, where it reports up to. To confuse marketing with other functions or to degrade the strategic importance of marketing capabilities in securing customer-orientated growth is folly. Furthermore, things are always evolving. Think of the Coca-Cola Company, which shifted from a CMO to CGO, then transitioned back to a more traditional CMO role in 2019.

So, is marketing’s role in the enterprise shifting in 2022?

The short answer is yes. In some respects, this shift represents a marketing success story. Marketing has sold to the rest of the enterprise the importance of the customer, digitally focused customer value and meaningful brands.

Like any change, this creates both opportunities and threats for the marketing function. Loss of sole accountability for core programs may be followed by continued budget challenges. Diluted accountability may exacerbate existing issues around the perceived value of marketing. However, no function has the unique connection with the customer that marketing does. The challenge and opportunity in the year ahead is to focus on cementing its position as an essential component and the core driver of customer-oriented growth.

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