Coca-Cola revives CMO role – a brave new world?

Following the controversial substitution of CMO for chief growth officer in 2017, the beverage conglomerate is reinstating the position in its global leadership team.

In March of 2017, Marcos de Quinto retired from his two-year tenure as Coca-Cola’s global chief marketing officer, after more than a 28 years with the company. Coke sparked controversy by eliminating the CMO role altogether, replacing it with the chief growth officer position, held by Francisco Crespo. Until today.

During the transition, Coke touted the move as one that would ‘broaden’ its global marketing approach. With Crespo’s retirement announced this week, however, the company announced it would be reinstating a CMO, with 24-year Coke veteran Manolo Arroyo assuming the role.

According to Coke, Arroyo will oversee teams handling creative, marketing operations and insights.

“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,” says Coca-Cola global CEO James Quincey. 

“[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.”

Several analysts have indicated that this could spark a global reprise of the role, just as Coke dropping the CMO in 2017 caused other global firms to reconsider the chief marketer function. 

In 2018 Forrester declared that the CMO role was “fighting for survival”.

“In many ways, the composition of the resurrected CMO role at Coke is similar to what we’ve come to have expected at traditional brands where marketing tactics, design, creative, and sometimes insights, reported up to a marketing officer,” Dipanjan Chatterjee, vice president and principal analyst at Forrester told The Drum.

When Marketing editor Ben Ice spoke to Hays’ global CMO Sholto Douglas-Home on MarCast, Douglas-Home explained that the strict title was somewhat superficial, and that the focus should remain on the function of that role and its representation in the organisation.

“Whether they are called chief growth officer or any other term, in my mind it’s slightly academic.” Douglas-Home told MarCast.

“The role of the CMO has to fit into an organisation the way a CEO wants it to,” he said. 

“While much is written about how the CMO’s responsibilities are changing and evolving, the only way a CMO can succeed is if they have the respect, support and very clear direction from their CEO.

“As an adjunct to that, if the CMO or marketing director doesn’t report to a CEO, and reports to another avenue, they’re more likely to be operating at the vagaries of the organisation and be faced with additional hurdles.

“Having said that, there’s no doubt that the responsibilities that logically fall under the CMO are expanding. I would hope… that would drive more organisations to recognise that marketing as a function should report directly to the CEO and be represented at the executive board level.”

Listen to our full conversation with Douglas-Home on MarCast today on Apple Podcasts, Spotify or Google Play.

Further Reading:

Image credit: The Coca-Cola Company

Josh Loh
BY Josh Loh ON 18 December 2019
Josh Loh is assistant editor at MarketingMag.com.au