CDO, CXO, XXO – The New C Suite | Winning the Lap or the Race?

Editor’s note: This article is republished with the permission of the author, Mayur Gupta, the Global Head of Marketing Technology & Innovation at Kimberly-Clark.

The last couple of years have seen tremendous proliferation of the C-XX titles within the world of marketing:

  • CDO – Chief Digital Officer
  • CDO – Chief Data Officer
  • CCO – Chief Consumer Officer or Chief Creative Officer
  • CXO – Chief Experience Officer
  • .. more

The CDOs and CXOs are probably the more common ones, the former picking up steam with some of the Fortune 500s hiring great talent to fill these roles. [Editor’s note: Check out our job board, which includes some of the most interesting senior digital job openings in the marketplace.]

While I have been highly supportive of the model, I have often questioned the approach and the problem some of these roles are trying to solve for a very simple reason – the roles make sense in the context of marketing, to enable the broader and holistic marketing strategies and connected seamless consumer experiences but they do not make sense when these are kept outside the context of marketing, which leads to further fragmentation of the existing silo model.

Let’s take the Chief Digital Officer (CDO) role for instance. There is a point of view that suggests that the CDO should operate independent of the CMO and report directly into the CEO, expanding digital capabilities by sitting alongside the CMO and not within the marketing organization. Mind you, this organizational model is only a reflection of the mindset and the culture around ‘digital’. This is not a bad model if you are an organization that still believes in the notion of digital marketing, where digital is a ‘thing’ out there, separate from the broader context of marketing.

A few simple questions can help determine your type of organization:

  1. Are you really putting the consumer at the center of your ecosystem?
  2. If yes, does your consumer see digital and physical as two isolated worlds?
  3. Does she expect a seamless connected experience across those worlds?
  4. Are you inadvertently becoming channel focused?
  5. Do you believe your consumer actually lives in a DIGITAL WORLD?

On the flip side though, when a CDO is part of the broader marketing organization and reports into the CMO, it strengthens the notion of Marketing in a Digital World, because you cannot take digital out of marketing and isolate the two anymore. It is a difference between being channel-focused that will deliver multi-channel broken experiences at best, versus consumer focused omni-channel experiences that are frictionless and seamless.

Having said this, I can understand that every organization brings its own unique challenges, priorities and models. In some cases – especially early on – it is definitely viable to put digital to the side, typically through a Center of Excellence model (DCOE), until some core competencies are built. However, while this separation can be good in the beginning, the end game has to be CONVERGENCE. When established in the context of unified marketing, with the consumer at the center instead of the channel, the model will succeed, but if created in isolation to the rest of marketing, it will only drive broken, isolated consumer experiences and results.

Now you need to decide if you want to win the lap or win the race.


For more information about Mayur Gupta, follow him on Twitter (@inspiremartech), or check him out on LinkedIn. 

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