“Loner, Unifier, Friend!” What Sort Of CMO Are You?

“Loner, Unifier, Friend!” What Sort Of CMO Are You?

A Cannes session today has learned that there’s three defined CMO personalities. And, before you say you can name at least six, apparently it’s all based on research.

In a session titled “What CEOs really think about marketing, creativity and growth”, new McKinsey research was presented by two speakers, Jason Heller and Aussie, Bijana Cvetanovski, who, yes, both happened to work for McKinsey.

Apparently the aim of the study was to identify different CMO “appetites” and how they worked with other members of the C-suite and, in particular, the CEO.

So what exactly are they? Well, according to McKinsey, CMOs fall into three seperate categories – unifier, friend and loner.


According to the study, only 24 per cent of CMOs are unifiers, making them the rarest of the CMOs.

“[The unifier] is famous for being able to reach out an influence across the C-suite,” said Cvetanovski. “They’re very good at bringing marketing invites and performance into the business. They’re all about the balance sheet, the P&L.

“They really focus on measurement, not just in marketing but across the broader initiatives of the organisation.

“What they also do is build key partnerships. They build share and vision and accountabilities for the rest of the C-suite and by doing that they create a virtuous cycle and create champions.”

And with all that, according to McKinsey, the “unifier” becomes one of the most respected members of the board room. And, better still, because of that, it’s the reason why the “unifier’s” budgets never get slashed (apparently).

Plus, if you want a stayer, stick with a “unifier” who “stay in their roles 50 per cent longer than their other CMO peers,” said Cvetanovski.


It would appear the “loner” CMO is the exact opposite to the “unifier”.

They’re known for thinking very short term and, what’s worse, are looked down upon by their other C-suitors.

Some 27 per cent of all CMOs are regarded as “loners”.

“They’re more fixated on advertising campaigns and social media,” is how Heller described the “loner”.

“They’re seen as executors of the brand, stewards of advertising and PR. They’re looked at for implementing strategies and not looked for enacting strategies. And that’s not productive for the growth of an organisation at all,” he said.

But it may not be all the “loners” fault! Often “loners” work for CEOs who don’t understand or trust marketing.

The other problem is “loners’ often don’t communicate well with other members of the C-suite and struggle to communicate marketing “speak” into P&L that the other members of the board – particularly the CFO – can understand.


Work in marketing? Then it’s most likely you’re the friend archetype, with 49 per cent of all CMOs identifying in the category.

Apparently, the “friend” is often best buddies with the CEO (read into that what you will) but will have a patchy relationship with the rest of the C-suite.

The “friend” is very customer focused and less interested in things like new technologies.

So, in quick conclusion, which CMO type is best?

“When you look at high growth companies, they often have seven times the likelihood of having a “unifier” CMO in the job,” said Heller.




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Cannes 2019 McKinsey

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