Yet another C-level role has risen to the top of hot job titles. This time, it’s the Chief Growth Officer (CGO). Massive global brands, including Coca-Cola, have started replacing their Chief Marketing Officers with CGOs.

So, what gives for the recent shift? We looked into the latest stats and information and analyzed our latest executive-level placements for insights on the CMO vs. CGO debate, so you don’t have to. Here’s what we found.

The Return of the CGO

The Chief Growth Officer title is nothing new; we saw demand for the role within our own placements back in 2004 when the title reached peak Google popularity. But it reemerged in late 2015 along with a handful of “new” C-level titles that have businesses like yours wondering if any of these roles are truly required to the continued or future success of your company. It turns out, the CGO title might just be the one you really do need.

Unlike other C-level roles, a Chief Growth Officer can work across key areas that drive growth, which includes marketing, sales, research & development, finance, or more depending on the organization, to create and implement a longer term vision and enterprise-wide execution of growth-generating strategies. To do so, this role often looks to challenge how things are typically done in the business, alter corporate culture, and drive innovation for best growth-based results.

The reason this role has regained popularity is because companies, especially CPGs, can no longer rely on “easy” growth in today’s highly competitive, digitally-driven marketplace. Traditional methods of incremental expansion and innovation no longer produce the growth necessary to maintain success, which is especially true for companies like yours operating in the Marketing and Tech industries.

CMO vs. CGO

Which brings us to the CMO vs. CGO debate. Coca-Cola was the latest business to scratch their CMO role in favor of adding a Chief Growth Officer following their dismal drop in revenue over the past four years. So, is the reemergence of the CGO title the death of the CMO role? Not entirely.

The rise of the Chief Growth Officer title and the preference for this new role over CMOs comes down to two key components. First, businesses are beginning to recognize the need for an executive-level role to focus exclusively on driving overall growth for best results. All C-level roles impact profits in their respective departments, but they often lack the varied skill sets or bandwidth necessary to drive overall growth effectively.

Second, companies and perhaps CMOs themselves are losing sight of the Chief Marketing Officer role as the key growth driver. For decades, companies like Coke have been able to rely almost exclusively on commercials, ads, and other marketing efforts to drive growth. Following their creative “Share a Coke” and “Taste the Feeling” campaigns, which were successful but not as successful as the global brand needed them to be, Coke realized marketing could no longer be their main avenue for growth generation.

For continued success in a marketplace now saturated with online marketing campaigns, they had to reevaluate their reliance on marketing and the aspects of their corporate structure resulting in limited growth. Implementing a Chief Growth Officer at Coke was a way to cut through the red tape between departments and direct all growth drivers to one skilled, innovative professional with the sole focus of driving overall growth.

While eliminating the CMO role for a CGO might work for Coke, we aren’t sold on it being the solution for all companies since most enterprise businesses we partner with have yet to request this title. If CMOs begin to realign themselves with the original purpose of the role, driving growth, and develop strategies solely around this business goal rather than the latest millennial trends or brand positioning, the boardroom might just have room for both CGO and CMO roles.

Does Your Business Need a CGO?

Here are a few questions to ask yourself to identify if a Chief Growth Officer would be beneficial for your business:

  • What industry are you in and how many employees do you have? There are 455 CGOs in the US, according to an infographic by Culture Amp, an employee engagement and analytics platform. A majority of these CGOs are employed at companies with fewer than 200 employees. Additionally, 133 CGOs are in Marketing & Advertising industries, and 109 are in IT Services & Software industries. These are the most competitive industries where growth must be a core focus for the business to survive. Having fewer employees also signifies that there is vast room to grow, which means a plethora of overlooked opportunities CGOs are skilled in identifying.
  • For those considering replacing a CMO with a CGO, is it the role or the talent that needs replacing? If a CMO isn't driving growth to the expected level, it's important to evaluate if the results are due to a lack of skill and expertise of the talent or if there are elements of the corporate structure that make it impossible for the CMO to generate the levels of growth expected of them. As we noted, the replacement of CMOs with CGOs can be tied to the fact that a Chief Growth Officer has less red tape and more cross-department capabilities that lead to more effective growth-generating strategies and results. If structural hierarchy, company politics, or other internal hurdles are hindering the CMO's efforts, hiring a CGO is necessary. If it's the talent that is the problem, look to hire a new CMO that defines themselves by their ability to innovate and drive growth rather than their advertising abilities.
  • What are your end goals? What goals do you envision for your company in the next two, five, and ten years? How much of that revolves around driving immediate and sustained growth? Understanding the urgency behind some of your long-term business goals will help identify the missing C-level roles and skill sets you need to hire for now as you work to grow your company.
Looking Ahead

Kellogg, Hershey, and Coca-Cola are just a few of the latest global brands to hire a Chief Growth Officer with some removing the CMO altogether to do so. While this is one way to accelerate growth efforts and bring focus and growth to your platforms, we don’t envision the CMO role being replaced entirely by the CGO across the board. Instead, businesses need to evaluate their long-term goals, corporate structure, and internal hurdles impeding growth to decide which role will generate the best results for their business.

If you’re missing the growth drivers you need at the executive-level, contact Mondo today. We have the skilled executive talent you need now.