4 reasons why “old” CMOs never die… if they don’t want to

There is nothing more humiliating for a director of marketing or CMO than to be called a “digital immigrant.” They might as well say, “You ought to pick another career. This stuff is so advanced, you’ll never really understand it.”

Some companies are now recruiting young people who have spent hundreds of hours navigating, exploring dozens of social networks and who truly have their finger on the pulse: “Seriously, you don’t know such and such social network?” “It’s awesome!” “Programmatic buying, RTB, re-targeting… that’s the future!”

Web Marketing Scrabble, by Rich Brooks
Web Marketing Scrabble, by Rich Brooks

After that, the 40-something marketing exec will either get up to speed ASAP or go home at the end of the day feeling defeated,  knowing his or her days are numbered. Some refuse to accept reality, maybe hiring young talent and relegating them to a remote corner of the office: “There you have the techies, Internet geeks,” they remark, as they cross days off their calendar.

Others, however, get on the ball and start reskilling, although they’re not aiming to be experts in all the latest digital resources. These execs have several advantages for companies:

  1. They understand the business, and important decisions are not made based on technical factors alone.
  2. Rarely is someone up on all of the digital trends. The field is so vast that many supposed young “experts” only have expertise in a few areas. The director of marketing should know enough about everything, and a lot about business.
  3. Knowing how to operate in a large organization is rather complicated. Only a select few will learn to do so over time. They have to know more than just marketing. They must know how to persuade the top executive, how to address the board of directors by speaking their language, how to lead teams; they must manage change and oftentimes be patient.
  4. If they are intelligent, humble and generous, they will learn from the younger generation about the things they’re unfamiliar with, and will know how to steer the top talent toward leadership roles.


About Julián Villanueva

Julián Villanueva is the Head of the Marketing Department at IESE Business School. He holds a Ph.D. in Management (Marketing) from UCLA, a MBA at IESE, and a B.A. in Economics (Universidad Complutense de Madrid).

One thought on “4 reasons why “old” CMOs never die… if they don’t want to

  1. i always tell all digital marketers that u still need to know the marketing fundamentals as they remain the same even in the age of digital marketing, the digital is just an additional channel for marketing , it does not redefine marketing

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