If You Think “Pimpin’ Ain’t Easy,” Try Being a CMO.

pimpin ain't easyImagine you are planning a road trip from Boston to Los Angeles and the best your GPS can do is give you some general guidance on how to get there: Head West at the nearest entrance to a highway.

Now imagine there is no navigational system at all. Welcome to the world of marketing. No standard approaches, no proven processes, no perfect systems. And yes, we have dozens of professional organizations to give general guidance, but CMOs are on their own for every decision they make, which may explain why the average high profile CMO can barely hold down a job for more than 18 months.

It’s not the pressure or even the ridiculous expectations. It is the total lack of science behind everything they have to do, from strategic planning without clear goals from executive management (what are my priorities?) through the implementation of dozens of integrated marketing tactics, and the measurement and analysis of every single result, and the management of outsourced services and the management of budgets overall.

Clearly there is no shortage of industry experts who will tell you they have a digital secret or an inbound solution or a scientifically proven analytic, blah, blah, blah. But they are either liars or delusional. You are on your own.

CMOs, who are increasingly short on money and staff, are responsible for planning, budgeting, creative, personnel hiring and managing, agency selection and supervising, technology utilization, platform selection and management, results tracking, measurement and analysis, and a thousand other things. And they are on their own with each and every process. Even as large organizations shift dollars from traditional to digital marketing platforms, NONE of them can tell you with any certainty what is the best path and how it will all work out. It is all a risk (calculated or otherwise).

Take the right risk and you could win the brass ring. Take the wrong risk and you will be wishing you had a golden parachute.

Like I said, marketing ain’t easy. But in the words of Hyman Roth, “this is the business we’ve chosen.” So no one should feel too sorry for themselves. However, we should start talking honestly about what we know and don’t know, about what is truth and what is embellishment, about what works and what doesn’t work,  and about how we can work together to make this a better industry.


Jim Sweeney


Jim is a veteran of the agency industry and the founder of Sweeney. He is uncommonly passionate about the idea of creating and implementing insanely great marketing campaigns that achieve insanely great results. He pioneered the full-service, full-circle agency model and continues to forge new ideas in an ever-changing industry. And he is accessible to everyone about anything, seemingly all the time, serving as a mentor to all agency personnel and clients.