A century ago, companies had frustratingly few channels through which they could reach their consumer audience. Thus, business leaders had little use for high-level marketing experts; with merely a creative team, they could effectively advertise their products and build name recognition amongst their target consumers.
Today, digital technology has allowed media to diversify to a dizzying degree, and there are almost uncountable ways for businesses to engage consumers. As a result, experienced marketers must be essential members of decision-making teams. In other words, today, businesses need CMOs.
The history of the c-suite marketing officer is interesting in just how closely it is tied to the rise of complex and advanced communications technology. Read on to learn more about how the role of CMO emerged alongside digital technologies that are prominent today.
Marketing Before Television
The origins of marketing are tied to the origins of trade. Anthropologists have found evidence of Ancient Mesopotamian merchants using logos to differentiate their products from others in the marketplace, and in Ancient China, merchants played recognizable tunes on bamboo flutes to attract customers. However, for centuries, marketing efforts were incredibly limited; only in the marketplace or on the products themselves could merchants be certain that their marketing would have an effect.
Marketing remained a minor concern for business — until the invention of the printing press. Revolutionary in so many ways, the printing press allowed business owners to advertise their brand and products outside the marketplace, using descriptive words in books, pamphlets, posters and papers that could be distributed far and wide to spread the message of a merchant’s unique offerings.
Through the end of the Renaissance and throughout the Enlightenment Era, business marketing practices began to diversify. As use of the printing press increased amongst businesses, business leaders became interested in additional opportunities to share information with as many people as possible. As American metropolitan areas began to explode in population during the 19th century, entrepreneurs began erecting billboards along busy roads and rail routes.
With the introduction of another medium, radio, in the early 20th century, many businesses were recognizing the power and burden of marketing without high-level expertise. As a result, the largest global companies, consisting mostly of the consumer goods and automotive industries, hired the first marketing executives.
The Diversification of Marketing
Television (TV) was invented in the 1920s, and by the 1950s, millions of homes across the United States had TV sets in their living rooms. By this time, thanks to rampant radio and print advertisements, the American consumer had become accustomed to the exaggerated messages that had dominated marketing efforts for centuries. Businesses needed more creative and nuanced approaches to marketing, especially if they wanted to capture attention through TV. As a result, more companies began leaning heavily on marketing experts in the development of unique advertising campaigns.
Through the 1970s and 1980s, marketers began using analytics to gain insights into consumer behavior and increase the effectiveness of their campaigns. In addition to developing the creative components of advertising, marketing departments assumed responsibility for product management, pricing and distribution. It was at this point that almost every business needed high-level marketing leaders on staff to guide branding initiatives and track sales performance.
The first use of the title Chief Marketing Officer (CMO) occurs in the 1990s, amidst outstanding growth in the marketing field. Organizations were struggling to understand the role of marketing executives — as strategic or tactical leaders — and marketing departments were growing at a breakneck pace. Then, to catapult marketing even further, digital technology emerged.
The Digital Marketing Revolution
While the past introduced a single new marketing channel every few decades, the digital revolution suddenly presented businesses with dozens of new opportunities to reach consumers — directly. Digital technology fundamentally altered how consumers relate to companies. Social media allows brands to interact with consumers, and it also allows consumers to quickly and easily spread information about brands and products independently. To understand and control the new world of digital marketing, more and more companies are inviting marketers into the c-suite.
Marketing is more complex than ever before, so it makes sense that more businesses are in desperate need of strategic business partners with marketing expertise. Marketers interested in functioning effectively in the CMO position should continue to educate themselves on the ever-evolving digital landscape through digital marketing online courses.