If your company is like most organizations, there’s a disconnect brewing. Between what the CEO wants and what everyone else wants. And, according to new research, especially between what the CEO wants and what the CMO wants.

As the head of the company, the CEO’s job is to grow the organization. Increase revenue. To do this, many top executives are focused on “disruptive growth” – they want their top leaders to find ways to catapult the company forward. To do this, they’re relying on their team to have that same growth mindset.

But according to a report from Accenture, for which they interviewed hundreds of CEOs and CMOs, the CMO is decidedly not focused on disruptive growth. Just 37 percent of CMOs surveyed by Accenture considered disruptive growth “very important,” compared to 44 percent of CEOs.


The Accenture authors suggest that having control of an organization’s digital assets is the key to being able to drive disruptive growth, and that 75 percent of CMOs say they have this level of control. The problem is that too many CMOs are thinking small. Their marketing department spend too much of its time (60 percent!) focused on old school tactics and following the same old muscle memory, even though they’re getting very little ROI. As the report authors wrote:

“Disruptive growth has nothing to do with entering yet another traditional sales agreement in a traditional outlet that has historically seen good sales figures.”

In other words, if your marketing team is focused on launching yet another advertising campaign that’s focused on getting in front of a bunch of eyeballs – eyeballs that are “owned” by whatever media outlet they’re advertising with – then they’re not going to create the exponential growth the CEO wants. Unless you’re literally spending hundreds of millions of dollars like Geico or Coke or GM, traditional advertising is only going to produce incremental improvement – if you’re lucky. I’d consider that a waste; wouldn’t you?

So, as the CEO, if your marketing team is coming to you this budgeting season saying they need more money to advertise, you need to question whether you have the right marketing team. It isn’t about their skills or their experience; it’s about their mindset. Too many CMOs are focused on providing service to the rest of the company rather than driving outcomes.

Of course, that also demands that the CEO encourages the CMO to take chances, to risk failure. This requires patience and faith, which doesn’t always happen. For a lot of CEOs, the stuff that’s going on in the marketing department is a bit mysterious. Frequently, the organization’s leader has come up through sales, and while sales and marketing are aligned, they are very different. Typically, the relationship has consisted of the sales department complaining that the marketing department isn’t providing them enough leads, and the marketing department responding, “Oh yes we are.” That’s an adversarial relationship, and it isn’t helpful.

If you, as CEO, are going to demand a new approach to drive disruptive growth, you need to provide cover for the new way of doing things. In other words, when the VP of Sales complains that MQLs are down in the first quarter, the CEO needs to have the marketing team’s back and explain that there’s a new approach.

That frees up the CMO to innovate. Unfortunately, the evidence suggests that most CMOs don’t have the right mindset to drive disruptive growth, but if you give them the chance, at least you’ll know whether you have the right person leading marketing.