The COVID-19 pandemic may have wreaked havoc on marketing departments, but it did nothing to quell the hiring of chief marketing officers. If anything, it’s likely to have spurred job changes at the most senior marketing level.
A Forbes report tells us that in the first half of the year hiring of CMOs was up 15%. “Are you surprised,” asks writer Norm Yustin, “that COVID-19 has had a positive impact on marketing moves?”
Yustin doesn’t directly explain the reasons behind the hiring, but a surge in technology hires points the way. Technology CMO changes in the first half of the year doubled from the first half of 2019. Meanwhile, CMO turnover in the consumer industry – retail, consumer digital and media, consumer products and services and leisure and hospitality – tumbled 11 percentage points.
“Shelter-in-place and working from home has had a significant impact on consumer companies, which has negatively impacted consumer CMO opportunities,” Yustin says.
Both of those developments, however, had just the opposite effect on technology. Demand for high-speed internet soared, as did e-commerce, gaming and multiple other tech services. Where CMO tech industry changes hovered in the teens in 2018 and 2019, the first half of this year the sector accounted for 27% of all CMO hires.
Unlike financial services where an industry-high 58% of CMOs were outsiders, tech companies stuck with their own; only 19% of tech CMOs came from a different industry. At least since 2018, that’s been usual for tech firms.
Until the pandemic, other industries have been more willing, even eager to hire outsiders. In H1 2019, 57% of the marketing leadership among industrial and natural resources companies came from other industries. This year, 25% are outsiders. Healthcare went from 60% outsiders to 33% this year.
Yustin suggests that the changing consumer and customer demands that go back well before the pandemic, but which COVID accelerated, should have made companies more open to marketers with different perspectives. Instead, because of the volatility and uncertainty, he says, “Many organizations are playing it safe as opposed to being provocative and bringing on tenured leaders with a more diverse range of industry experiences.”
What hasn’t changed is the commitment to gender diversity. Across the board, 53% of CMO hires in H1 2020 were women, up 5 points from H1 2019. Some industries skew in one direction or another. 75% of CMO hires by non-profits and education were women in the first half of this year. For the same period last year, 57% were women. The industrial and natural resources industries went the other way, hiring male CMOs 61% of the time versus 46% the year before.
The pandemic and the changes it’s brought about in where and how we work and how we shop and how we spend our leisure time “has pushed the idea of customer-centricity to the forefront,” Yutsin writes.
“In turn, leadership capabilities must be realigned to meet the needs of today’s in-charge customer.”