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An exploration of how boards of directors impact chief marketing officer performance: Insights from the field

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Managerial research has suggested that Chief Marketing Officers (CMOs) are not living up to expectations. Such studies indicate that a high percentage of CEOs are not very impressed with their CMOs, believe they are disconnected from financial accountability, and in many cases, do not consider them highly effective. Such views may help explain why CMOs have the shortest tenure in the C-suite. Moreover, most CEOs believe that CMOs are to blame for the short tenure. What makes this belief interesting is that upper echelons theory suggests that CMOs should be impacted by those above them—the board of directors and CEO. Strategy is discussed and set at the board level and presumably, board decisions and interactions should impact a CMO’s ability to achieve performance objectives. Yet, there has been no investigation into how the board of directors may impact CMO performance. In this research, I conduct five depth interviews with board members, CMOs, and executive recruiters to explore the issue and generate new insight. The interviews reveal a new theory of CMO performance, one that is contingent on the beliefs and actions of the board. In addition to three key themes and portions of the interview transcripts, this research provides a table summarizing the actions that boards can take to amplify CMO performance by employment stage. As exploratory research, this provides a first step in generating more complete understanding of an important upper echelons issue.

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I wish to thank the over 500 chief marketing officers who have shared their perspective and insights over the years. I hope that this research provides new insight on how those above the CMO may impact CMO performance.

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Correspondence to Kimberly A. Whitler.

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Whitler, K.A. An exploration of how boards of directors impact chief marketing officer performance: Insights from the field. AMS Rev 12, 105–115 (2022).

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