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This month, Adobe’s CMO, Ann Lewnes, announced her retirement after 16 years with the brand.
So what? Like the Liz Truss lettuce, Lewnes outlasted the average CMO’s expected tenure before hanging up the pitch deck; in 2020 and 2021, CMOs working at leading consumer brand companies stayed in their roles for an average of about three and a half years, the lowest level in more than a decade, according to research compiled by executive search and consulting firm Spencer Stuart last year.
Adobe declined to make Lewnes, who was also the company’s EVP of corporate strategy and development, available for an interview, but Marketing Brew wishes her the best in retirement.
Big picture: Being a CMO is a tough job, and “winning today is really, really hard,” Greg Welch, a partner at Spencer Stuart, explained. Modern marketers are juggling decaying identifiers, new and often less effective advertising tools, and a more complex regulatory environment with regards to consumer privacy. Oh, and their budgets are often one of the first things cut in a recession.
Sally Witzky, senior director and analyst at Gartner, told us that “marketing is becoming more complex than ever” as CMOs juggle different tasks, like growing revenue “through unexpected market volatility and constant change” and reducing “operational friction that prevents the marketing organization from adapting to the business’s ebbs and flows.” As a result, she said, “CMOs must be tough enough to manage it all simultaneously.”
Looking ahead: So far, some companies have responded by shifting their hiring strategies, looking for CMOs with a background in performance marketing—experience in the math and sciences of the profession in addition to the arts and magic, the Wall Street Journal reported last week.
“It’s going to be an uphill battle, I think, for our industry for the next couple of years, which means we’ll probably stay tethered to the performance side,” Welch told us. “Today, CEOs need an instant return.”—RB
Minda Smiley contributed to this story.