We are 20 years into the digital era that transformed the CMO role from a long-term brand-building growth captain to a quarter-disciplined and data-focused operator. This transition has caused some of the world’s biggest brands to disrupt or wholly eliminate marketing’s most coveted title.

In 2018, we predicted this decline but not the extinction of the CMO role. Although the title is problematic — shaped by the reality that few CMOs have effectively navigated the transition — the responsibilities of the role have risen in importance. Chief among them: differentiating in the sea of sameness created by the commoditization of technology and absence of innovative strategies to stave off disruption. CMOs are being leveled up or out of the C-suite while their customers and new direct-to-consumer (DTC) concepts continue to write the new rules — ironically, based on a brand ethos.

CMOs will establish a span of control in the name of customer value.

Not all is lost, but 2020 marks the beginning of a final, desperate fight for CMO relevance. Otherwise, the title may disappear and the role may end up subsumed into something greater. Perhaps it’s time?

We predict that those chief marketers who do succeed will master these truths:

  • Elite CMOs will establish a span of control. The CMO must establish control that extends beyond marketing, because you simply can’t build, express, sell, communicate, connect, or service today’s brands without continuity in the budget or authority. That continuity is essential to ensuring that the company demonstrates its brand promise consistently. In 2020, one designated C-suite leader will be responsible for all that surrounds the customer, clarifying the role of marketing in a business environment obsessed with growth.
  • Brand is officially liberated from the confines of marketing. Counterintuitively, eliminating the CMO position has set the brand free from marketing, reuniting it with the business. Rules are being rewritten by direct-to-consumer strategies that use “the brand” as a tool for growth. This isn’t as intuitive for established firms, but they will learn fast, as this spirit will pervade 2020.
  • CX (customer experience) is essential to “the mix.” CMOs will become story makers, placing customers at the center of their company values, experiences, and processes. For instance, the Apple Watch allows consumers to contribute their critical data to health research; Apple, in return, gets credit for helping save lives. Businesses with any amount of disconnect or fragmentation in the brand will find growth elusive, feeling the brunt of disruption in this age of customer control.

Read our inaugural predictions report to learn more about how successful CMOs must become accountable for it all — the brand, communications, sales enablement, CX, and technology selection — while influencing the employee experience and driving the innovation and change that customer obsession requires.