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Starbucks is the latest company to cull the CMO role

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Starbucks is the latest company to cull the CMO role

Starbucks shopfront

Starbucks is the latest company to cull its chief marketing officer (CMO) role after promoting CMO Brady Brewer to chief executive officer (CEO). The announcement came alongside a corporate restructure in which regional marketers will now take on key responsibilities underneath regional CEOs.

“We are making strong progress against our Triple Shot with Two Pumps Reinvention plan,” said Starbucks chief executive officer Laxman Narasimhan, in a company meeting (and shared on the brand’s website). “To further accelerate progress, consistent with our ambitions, we are realigning the organisation to balance clear geographical focus with investing in functional capabilities to scale around the world, generating productivity and reinvigorating our partner culture.”

In the new role, Brewer will oversee teams across Asia Pacific, Europe, The Middle East, Africa, Japan and Latin America, including the company’s internationally licensed partners. The statement confirmed that Brewer’s role would not be replaced and included a positive view of the future from Narasimhan. “Throughout our history, we have continued to reinvent not who we are or what we stand for, but what we do and how we connect with our customers and deliver our long-term aspirations,” said Narasimhan. “Because of our partners, and with our strategic plan and world class-leadership team, the best days of Starbucks are ahead of us.”

Death to the CMO?

While not quite a death knell to the CMO role, this latest restructuring from Starbucks follows a global trend of eliminating the executive role. In 2022, Forbes published an article titled ‘The CMO Role Isn’t Dying, It’s Just Going Through A Metamorphosis’. In it, the author claims that the role isn’t on its way out and is instead “changing dramatically”. Other Fortune 500 companies that have recently ditched their CMO roles include United Postal Service, Etsy and Uber.

One company that removed and then reinstated its CMO role was Coca-Cola. In 2017, CMO Marcos de Quinto retired from the role after a 28-year stint with the company. Coke then eliminated the role altogether and replaced it with a chief growth officer (CGO) role instead. However, in 2019 the company backflipped on this decision and announced that Manolo Arroyo would fill the CMO role.

“We know consumer needs are changing faster and faster, and it is critical for the company to be agile in how it responds and adapts,” said Coca-Cola global CEO James Quincey of the decision. “[Arroyo’s] dual leadership over operations and marketing is a new structure for us, and we anticipate that it will evolve in the months ahead. [Arroyo’s] focus will range from developing work that can be used around the globe to supporting local campaigns.”

In 2022, Australian CMOs told AdNews that the death of the CMO was “more clickbait than forecast”. However, recent global decisions to drop the role can’t be ignored. Data from recruitment firm Spencer Stuart showed that only 36 percent of Fortune 500 companies have a CMO position. It would be remiss not to acknowledge that rather than disappearing, at many companies the role is just being renamed. For some companies, the role becomes chief growth officer, for others, it’s a chief customer officer. In a fast-paced digital world, one in which consumer needs are rapidly changing, it will be worth keeping an eye on the evolution of this particular C-suite role.

Also, read about Coca Cola reviving their CMO role.

Photography by TR on Unsplash.


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January Jones

January Jones is a freelance writer.

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