CMO hires show focus on direct, digital ROI

A steady stream of CMO turnover stories is a long-established part of the marketing landscape. Yet an emphasis on customer retention and digital initiatives, as well as the stubborn economy, is resulting in more companies now filling the position with marketers with database and digital experience. 

Companies that recently have turned to direct and digital veterans to fill their CMO vacancies include Rodale, whose new marketing chief, Gregg Michaelson, began in the company’s direct response book business. When Tropicana Entertainment hired David Zamarin as CMO in December, company CEO Scott Butera noted in the announcement that he brings “a wealth of knowledge and experience in database marketing.” Theater chain AMC, meanwhile, hired Stephen Colanero, the developer of the Blockbuster Rewards loyalty program. For Rodale and AMC, the hires were the first time they dubbed an employee with the CMO title.

“Everybody’s seeing a huge move toward database-targeted, behaviorally driven, analytically based digital campaigns that are more accountable, more measurable and more quantifiable, so they’re looking for people with new capabilities,” says Donovan Neale-May, executive director of the CMO Council, an organization for marketing leaders. “Companies are looking for people to potentially implode the traditional structure of the marketing groups and go toward a more multichannel campaign-centric approach. It takes a new kind of leader for that.”

One of these recent appointments is Lee Nadler, who took over as CMO of music download service this month. A veteran of Digital Pulp and DoubleClick, Nadler stood out to the company due to his experience in “digital marketing, branding, e-commerce, Web development and direct marketing,” according to the company’s statement on his hire. Nadler also founded the company Sherpa Marketing, which made direct response a part of its capability set.

“EMusic has a number of different marketing programs, including a core effort around direct response mechanisms,” Nadler says. “Part of what I’m coming in to take to the next level is looking at the kind of value-added benefits that you can offer to members of a club.”

These new CMOs will be under increasing pressure to show ROI from new media channels. Nadler helped eMusic launch a Facebook campaign called “Embrace the Album.” It used the club’s Facebook page to encourage members to download entire albums, rather than just single songs.

Jerry Bernhart, principal and owner of Bernhart Associates Executive Search, a firm that recruits and places direct marketing talent, explains that the recent hires show companies want marketing heads who embrace accountability.

“If I were running a company and needed a CMO for the first time, I would want a guy who knows database and analytics, is good at engaging the customer and has multichannel experience,” Bernhart says. “These days, the CMO has to have a pretty broad skill set. This kind of guy’s going to help [marketers] move the needle.”

“When people go for a CMO, it’s because they want to put more juice into their marketing leadership, or they believe it’s a situation where the CMO can bring new value and insight,” Neale-May adds.

However, Nadler notes that the recent hires don’t mean companies are moving away from brand marketing. Instead, they’re balancing traditional brand marketing and the need for ROI, he explains.

“The most powerful companies going forward are going to invest in their brand with an eye on the short-term bottom line as well,” he says. “It’s a fine line to walk.” l

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