9 stupid things a CMO did today

Ian Lurie Jul 21 2010

Chief Marketing Officers have an average tenure of about 6 months. In corporate terms, that’s somewhere between the duration of gnat’s belch and the time it takes my son to eat a slice of pizza. So they live under a lot of stress, and they’re constantly pushed to turn around flagging campaigns in days or weeks. It makes them do some, er, quirky things. For example, they will:

  • Spend a lot on PPC marketing, but ignore SEO. Never mind that they can get 8x more traffic from search engine optimization.
  • Spam the customers. Why send e-mail to 1,000 opt-ins if you can send to 1,000,000 opt-outs? Back in marketing school in, oh, 1989, they told us direct mail works. People are used to it. They won’t mind…
  • Ignore analytics. The IT department says we can only get our analytics reports once a month. Oh well…
  • Treat social media like direct marketing. Connect with 2,345,543 of their closest friends, then send them updates every 10 minutes reminding them they can still get 10% off.
  • Get defensive. Go ahead, snap at that disgruntled customer on Facebook. It worked for Nestle, right?
  • Thumb their nose at Google. Yeah, we’re offering people free nachos in exchange for a link. What’re you gonna do about it, Google? Huh? Wait, what happened to our visitors…
  • Treat their customers like they’re dumb. They’re not. They’re rushed, tired, hassled, suspicious, but not dumb.
  • Ignore content. Writers are too damned expensive. They want, like $18/hour!!! That’s almost as much as a janitor! Greedy bastards. We can just copy stuff and outsource the rewrites for $.05 a page. Our customers won’t notice, ’cause they’re dumb. See #7.
  • Think they’re above doing real marketing work. You want me to help you with a copywriting project? No can do. I’m busy strategizing, synergizing and printing my resume. I’ve been here almost 5 months, you know…

Yeah, this list is going to get me fired somewhere. But I can’t help it. The love just bubbles up.

Related, not related, and second cousins

tags : conversation marketing


  1. You forgot allowing them selves to be subjugated by the CEO who wants his picture on every thing but doesn’t budget any money to the marketing department. I saw that one very recently.
    Oh, by the way, who’s the CMO of Portent? (j/k, j/k, j/k)

  2. Ian


    @Charles Oh, I fire the CMO every 6 months…

  3. I think that one of the challenges in evaluating marketing candidates (and a reason for subsequent poor performance on the job) is that traditionally, much marketing activity was subjective and lacking in objective metrics and therefore it was harder to effectively evaluate the quality of a prospective marketing hire (CMO or lower) than for other functional roles like engineering, QA, product management, etc. and therefore poorly-qualified marketing staff tended to recirculate in the industry without getting weeded out as quickly. Now, with site traffic metrics, SEO, PPC campaigns, etc. there are many more objective metrics you can evaluate a marketing person on and hopefully this will be less the case.

  4. Tim Karlberg

    Tim Karlberg

    Sometimes the truth hurts. Thanks for voicing it, Ian. Numbers 2, 7, and 8 are a painfully honest assessment of too many in-house marketing units.
    Fortunately, most of the clients I’ve worked with have been open to small doses of gentle re-education (the younger they are, the better it goes).

  5. Re: Treat their customers like they’re dumb. They’re not. They’re rushed, tired, hassled, suspicious, but not dumb.
    Yep! I notice this from other departments as well – product, engineering, and support. A customer complains that they can’t figure out how to do something or they want a refund. The reaction is: “oh, well they’re just a tiny customer” or “those aren’t our REAL customers” or “so dumb, it’s right there in the interface.”
    I suggest more marketing managers step up and be the voice of the customer internally in organizations. It will pay off in word-of-mouth acquisition, which is the best way to make your goals.

  6. dianeski


    You forgot “use the word ‘leverage’ in every other sentence.” ;-)

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