CMOs Who Take Charge of Digital Make More Money

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Chief marketers who usurp the CDO role earn the board's respect, as well as base salaries of $500,000 and up, says a new study.

Only 4% of CMOs have base pay exceeding $500,000.
Only 4% of CMOs have base pay exceeding $500,000.

University of Virginia marketing professor Kimberly Whitler recently spoke with the CMO of a multi-billion dollar company who told her he reported to someone who reported to the CIO. The episode points up two of the key findings of a new compensation report that Whitler authored for the CMO Council: 1) CMOs can still be disrespected even at sophisticated enterprises; and 2) executives in charge of digital strategy can and do receive greater respect.

The median base salary of the 345 global CMOs surveyed for the report was $200,000. Only 4% of those polled reported bases of $500,000 and the top earners were more likely to focus on accomplishments that play well in corporate boardrooms: restructuring marketing to drive results, improving marketing yield, and building digital capabilities.

“Digital marketing makeover is the number one endeavor for CMOs in the coming 12 months,” says Donovan Neale-May, executive director of the CMO Council. “As digital marketing becomes more and more pervasive, it provides a wider platform for CMOs to play bigger roles in their organizations. In reality, the CMO should also be the chief digital officer and the chief customer experience officer.”

Crucial to ascending that platform is building alliances with other c-level officers with stakes in digitalization. Of CMOs earning between $200,000 and $349,000, 40% or more reported strong working relationships with CIOs, CFOs, and chief innovation officers.

Some 39% of survey respondents put themselves in that salary range, while an identical number reported earning bases of between $100,000 and $199,999. Six percent earned between $350,000 and $499,000, and 12% made under $100,000. Survey participants were asked to place themselves in a range, and did not divulge exact compensation numbers. Most, around 85%, received bonuses.

One scenario being played out in boardrooms that could be holding marketers back is the appointment of chief digital officers, says Whitler, who served as CMO of David's Bridal. “Boards are interested in companies leveraging digital, but appointing a CDO bifurcates the role. CMOs are in charge of commercialization and they are more likely to produce results and be recognized if they are in charge of digital, too.”

Apparently, they are taking charge no matter what their title is. This compensation report is a breakout from the CMO Council's State of Marketing report, which has yet to be released. But early results reveal them to be running with the digital ball. “What marketers are talking about as their major effort is re-realizing marketing to better source sales,” says Neale-May. “There's a lot of effort being invested in doing makeovers in people, process, and platforms.”

Titles apparently mean little when it comes to the numbers on the paychecks. More than a quarter of top earners in the $500,000-and-above class held titles of VP marketing and sales. Only 8% had “CMO” on their business cards.

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