Marketing in the C-Suite: A Study of Chief Marketing Officer Power in Firms’ Top Management Teams

Some chief marketing officers (CMOs) are more powerful than others. The authors investigate the drivers and outcomes of this phenomenon using a hierarchical measure of power for the CMO in the top management team (TMT), or corporate executive suite (C-suite). Theory suggests that CMO power in the TMT should increase with (1) the CMO’s control over resources required by other executives in the C-suite, (2) the criticality and (3) effective provision of these resources, and (4) the nonsubstitutability and (5) centrality of the CMO. The authors use these rationales to identify factors that affect CMO power in public U.S. firms with the CMO position for at least two of the five observed years. The findings show that CMO power increases when the CMO has the additional responsibility of sales, as TMT marketing experience decreases, and as firms with low levels of TMT marketing experience pursue innovation. Furthermore, CMO power in highly divisionalized TMTs and the CMO’s additional responsibility of sales improve sales growth, but CMO power in firms that are unrelated diversifiers reduces profitability. The authors discuss the theoretical and practical implications of these results for marketing’s influence in the C-suite and the firm, the integration of marketing and sales, and market orientation.

Keywords: chief marketing officer, top management team, hierarchy, influence, decision, control, resource, sales, integration


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