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Australian CEOs don’t think CMOs can drive disruptive growth – here’s how to change their mind

Technology & Data

Australian CEOs don’t think CMOs can drive disruptive growth – here’s how to change their mind


Most CEOs in Australia don’t consider CMOs among the best-placed C-suite leaders to drive disruptive business growth. It’s time for CMOs to make it clear what they can bring to the table, write Luca Martini and Marc Bender.

Luca MartiniFrom established organisations to digital start-ups, organisations Australia-wide seem to be working to tackle the challenges of digital disruption and digital transformation. In the current disrupted market, the challenge of increasingly elusive revenue sources is posing a major risk to the success of an organisation.

Traditionally, CEOs have played an instrumental role in chasing new revenue sources, revising their organisation’s growth strategy by leveraging ‘disruptive growth’ opportunities that push beyond today’s boundaries.

Today, CEOs are looking to other C-suite level executives for expertise and guidance, such as chief marketing officers (CMOs), chief sales officers and chief strategy officers, to assist with driving the disruptive growth agenda in the digital era.

Accenture-Marc-Bender-HeadshotAccording to Accenture’s annual ‘CMO Insights Report’ released last month, 90% of companies globally have three or more leaders at the C-suite level accountable for disruptive growth. Interestingly, the research revealed that despite the convergence of a range of C-suite leaders working in collaboration to drive growth, no single position is being held accountable for achieving success.

What’s more, in the fractured environment, Australian CEOs do not consider CMOs among the top C-suite leaders best placed to drive disruptive business growth. The report discovered that although CMOs are confident in their ability to leverage and control disruptive growth levers (80% believe they are cutting-edge marketing innovators), they still have some catching up to do to earn the same level of respect as other C-suite leaders responsible for revenue growth.

The results revealed that CMOs are in a unique position, given they are in the direct line of customers, prospects and the wider market. Yet, the majority of Australian CEOs put the responsibility on the chief sales officer as the primary driver of disruptive business growth.

When it comes to spending time and resources on disruptive growth opportunities that will be the key sources of revenue and innovation in the future, Australian CMOs are lagging behind their global counterparts. Furthermore, while the majority of Australian CMOs (58%) spend the vast majority of their time on traditional growth (compared to 48% globally), there still remains room for CEOs to better leverage the skills and experience of CMOs.

CMOs seeking to become more effective growth change agents should look to adopt a similar approach to leaders, and consider the following key initiatives:

  • Accept clear responsibility for disruptive growth by establishing an office of disruptive growth,
  • optimise the digital levers to move their companies in the directions most suited to their customer demands.
  • prioritise ‘customer experience innovation’ – evolving the way organisations interact and engage with customers including new channels and new marketing technologies,
  • look at platform opportunities in conjunction with new, perhaps untraditional, business partners to create new platforms that cater to customers in entirely novel ways, thus generating innovative business value, and
  • develop ecosystems with non-traditional players that elevate current products into expanded service models for customers and increase revenue through next-generation, digital solutions.


Savvy CMOs are already making the most of all the digital levers at their disposal in order to steer their companies in new directions that correspond with customer demands. Take global powerhouse McDonalds, for example. Australia is the lead market for McDonald’s McCafe, as well as the ‘Loaded Fries’ and ‘Create Your Taste’ campaigns.

Led by the company’s CMO, the internal marketing team facilitated the reform of the brand’s current state of play in Australia, which involved rethinking its products and communications activities to meet evolving changes in customer needs.

While 90% of CMOs believe their marketing teams are equipped to deliver superior customer service, 67% of CMOs believe ‘better skilled people’ would help to make them feel even more prepared. What’s more, although some collaborative partnerships are successful, marketing teams operate largely independently of IT and technology teams.

Internal collaborations within the organisation – particularly between sales and service, and marketing and sales – are fundamental to effectively create revenue growth.

There are several tell-tale signs that CMOs are on the right path to growth. In general, leading CMOs are taking the following actions to control disruptive growth levers:

  • Spending equal or more time on disruptive initiatives, compared to the traditional growth agenda,
  • understanding customers’ objectives for their products and services,
  • embedding themselves into the C-suite and moving at pace (or ahead) of CEOs with respect to disruptive growth,
  • ensuring they have a clear customer strategy established, reaching across both digital and physical channels,
  • ensuring they are digitally experienced, and thus able to clearly understand how new technologies impact existing technologies (for example, being familiar with design thinking and having a working knowledge of blockchain),
  • implementing at least two initiatives with non-traditional partners to seek new revenue sources,
  • working alongside other agencies/partners that can talk both ‘technology’ and ‘creative’, and
  • constantly shift gears – owning digital is key to growth now, but other levers will crop up in the future. A chief growth officer anticipates them and acts early.


Those CMOs that are able to translate marketing skills to growth, take charge of the change agenda and harness disruptive growth, will be those that make their mark and move up the ranks to the role of chief growth officer, thus allowing them to take greater control.

The current chief growth officer at Kellogg’s in the US, for instance, was once previously the CMO at Kimberly-Clark. Similarly, the chief growth officer at Aramark (leading provider of food, facilities, and uniform services) was once head of marketing and sales at Aramark Health.

As these examples show, CMOs are well positioned to transition towards becoming chief growth officers, and in Australia, the position is ripe for the taking. With the right skills and approach, CMOs can capitalise on their window of opportunity.


Luca Martini is managing director of strategy in ANZ at Accenture.

Marc Bender is the advanced customer strategy lead in ANZ at Accenture.

Image copyright: rawpixel / 123RF Stock Photo


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