CMOs and the Latest Board Trends: What You Need to Know

Does your company have a chief marketing officer? If not, you’re not alone. Only about 71% of Fortune 500 companies have a CMO. When you expand the scope to include Fortune 1000 companies, that percentage goes down.

However, in a business landscape that seems to be growing more saturated by the minute, more executives and boards of directors are determining that it’s time to rethink their approach to branding and marketing. Here’s what you need to know.

Why Are Marketing and Branding Concerns More Relevant Than Ever?

A company’s board of directors has one primary purpose: to protect the interests of shareholders. The right marketing efforts can make a major impact on shareholder value, so having a marketing executive, a marketer on your board, or both might be a strategic move.

If your company is doing well and your shareholders are happy, it’s easy to take successful marketing efforts for granted. But if your business makes a marketing misstep — like Pepsi’s memorably disastrous 2017 commercial with Kendall Jenner — shareholder value can take a nosedive. 

If the problem is bad enough to cause serious public scrutiny, you might face ongoing revenue loss. When you welcome a seasoned marketing expert to your board, you’re also reducing the risk of PR and financial disasters.

The Impact of AI on Your Brand

Forward-thinking businesses are already aware of a change on the horizon that might shake up branding and marketing as they know it: artificial intelligence. While there’s no way to know exactly how AI will reshape the marketing world, experts expect the effects to be far-reaching:

  • AI can process enormous amounts of customer data, making hyper-personalized experiences and marketing campaigns possible
  • It can offer predictive analysis of various upcoming events (including marketing campaigns)
  • It can handle the time-consuming, tedious elements of marketing (like scheduling social media posts and drafting customer emails)
  • It can expand the analytics used to evaluate branding and marketing decisions

Marketers probably aren’t the first people you think of when you imagine incorporating AI into your existing operations. However, when it comes to identifying specific areas where the technology can sharpen your branding and marketing, having someone at your side who is well-versed in marketing can be crucial.

The Changing Role of the Board of Directors

Traditionally, boards of directors have been focused on the needs of shareholders. They still are. However, many boards have now expanded to address the needs of employees, customers, and even members of the surrounding community. 

These boards have to balance their obligations to shareholders with the concerns of other parties. And when it comes to reaching people and entities outside of your company, no one knows how to do that better than a skilled marketer.

How Common Are Board Opportunities for Marketers?

If you’re considering adding a marketing expert to your board of directors, there’s no time like the present. For marketers seeking seats on a board of directors, the opportunities are few and far between.

Part of that reality isn’t unique to marketers. There isn’t exactly a wealth of board opportunities available at any given time. The pool of available directorships stays reliably small — even before you take into account what companies traditionally look for when selecting board candidates.

For better or for worse, most boards of directors focus on two qualifications above all else: CEO experience and financial expertise. They also tend to look for directors who are versatile and who may be able to offer key input on a range of different issues.

That doesn’t necessarily eliminate marketers from consideration. However, most boards aren’t looking for directors with a narrow specialty, so they might overlook marketing experts and instead choose those with more traditional qualifications.

As more companies start to see the advantages of bringing skilled marketers on board, it’s possible that there may be competition over some of the strongest candidates. Because there are more qualified candidates than companies looking for them, you can likely find a highly qualified marketing director.

How Do You Decide Who to Add to Your Board?

If you’ve ever agonized over which candidate to choose for a spot on the board, you understand how challenging these decisions can be. That’s largely because if you want to pick the right board member, you have to look beyond the resume and get into the realm of the intangible.

Of course, you must first ensure that any candidate you’re considering has the skills and experience needed to handle the role. But just as you would when hiring an employee, you need to make sure that your potential board members will fit into your company culture and that they have the necessary interest and commitment. 

Here are some questions to ask when you’re considering any board candidate:

  • Will they be able to confidently speak up when they disagree with something?
  • Will they be able to communicate that disagreement with respect and keep the conversation productive?
  • Will they contribute new and valuable perspectives?
  • Will they be willing and able to engage in healthy debates with other board members?

Looking for a quick way to get a feel for a given candidate? Start by asking them a simple question: Why do you want to be on the board? The way a candidate answers will often help you determine whether they’re truly aligned with your company’s mission.

Is It Time to Expand Your Board?

There’s no rule that says you must immediately jump onto every business trend you hear about. However, when something is trending — like expanding your board of directors to include an experienced marketing professional — it’s often helpful to examine why. 

In this particular case, the growing list of parties that boards must answer to and the uncertainty over AI’s effects on marketing are two factors prompting some companies to bring a marketing director on board. And if you’re fortunate enough to find a savvy, leadership-minded marketer with a genuine passion for what your company does, you’ll likely find that your business changes for the better.