CMO or COO. What’s the difference?

In a previous role as a Chief Marketing Officer, imagine my surprise when one day the Finance Director told me that he didn’t think I was a CMO. Having spent my whole career building towards being a CMO, and definitely seeing myself as a marketer through and through, I have to admit to an initial disappointment – I felt I’d failed.  But this was a peer who I respected immensely, and knew he rated what I contributed to our organisation. So I took a gulp of my mojito (it was a team building afternoon, honest) and thought I’d listen to what he had to say.

His rationale was simple. Every day he watched me work right across the organisation, getting involved with every team.  I would try to influence, and measure what the other teams were doing – which looked every bit like operational governance and made me, in his eyes, a COO.

To me, I was simply trying to join the dots that impacted the customer experience – which is what I think a CMO should do.  I’ve always believed that great brands are consistent, and to be consistent, they need to think ‘joined up’.  Every touch point should give the same feeling of who you are, and convey another thread of the same message.

Of course, to do that you need to know first who you are and what you do really well.  If your ‘story’ is real, your people can tell it consistently because they’re not having to remember the ‘party line’.  I believe that part of the CMOs role is to orchestrate that experience across the organisation, or their value proposition and brand position will not live.  Strategy is only as good as its execution.