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Marketers still not becoming CEOs

13 April 2022
This article is more than 2 years old.

A key recent survey of the world’s top 250 CEOs found that only 8% of them had a PR or Marketing background. The leap from CMO to CEO still seems to be too big for most to make.

Brand Value

The survey in question was the Brand Guardianship Index, an annual survey undertaken by Brand Finance (, which lists the top 250 CEOs in order of their ability to add long-term value to the brand they head up. The ability to add long-term brand value seems to be tailor-made for marketers and yet 92% of the top CEOs have a different professional background.

Being a CEO

Adding value to a business over the long-term is the key requirement for any CEO. Increased value, whether that is measured by share price, profitability or even customer or employee satisfaction, increases the stability and longevity of any business and needs to be a CEO’s primary responsibility.

Of course, there are many factors that need to be managed to add value and the Brand Finance survey reflects that. It analyses CEOs based on several criteria, including whether they have a long-term vision for the brand, have strong governance of the business and the personal reputation and approval ratings of each individual, as well as the market cap growth achieved.

Who Should be CEO

However, the ability to add long-term brand value to the business is the primary measurement of the survey and that would naturally be considered a key marketing skill. So, it seems like an obvious step to make marketing leaders CEOs.

Yet in the Brand Finance survey, marketers fall well behind CEOs with finance and economics backgrounds (39.7%), computer science and engineering backgrounds (38.8%) and even behind business and management backgrounds (9.7%). CEOs with a PR and Marketing background currently only account for 8.8% of the top 250 CEOs.

It would appear that businesses and boards are reluctant to promote marketers to the very top job.

As an industry, is that something that should worry us?

For marketing individuals that aspire to become a CEO, then maybe it is something to worry about, but probably not for the profession as a whole.

As we have already discussed, applying a marketing skillset is a key component of being a leading CEO. It just may be that it is easier for CEOs with a finance or engineering background to develop marketing instincts than the other way around. What we’re finding is that marketing as a skillset gets to lead businesses through the rise of the skills through the business, rather than through the rise of the individuals through the business.

It is very likely that some of the leading CEOs have excellent support from their CMOs, unfortunately however, it means that the CMO is unlikely to become CEO themselves.

What’s Next

For CMOs that have an ambition to become a CEO, while it may help to have and be able to display more knowledge about finance or engineering, remember that one of the key attributes of a successful CEO is good personal branding. As CEO, you will need to be the ‘face’ of the brand and knowing how to manage your own personal brand is a vital skill, so don’t lose your marketing savvy.

While for the industry as a whole, PR and Marketing is considered an integral part of the leadership of any business. The people may not always be considered the best to lead a business forward, but the skills are. Remember, in Brand Finance’s Index of the best CEOs the judgement is based on the long-term value of the brand, not just the share price or profitability of the business. The best CEOs are judged by marketing criteria, not finance ones.

Media Contacts

Penny Erricker
Communications Executive
Brand Finance

About Brand Finance

Brand Finance is the world’s leading brand valuation consultancy. Bridging the gap between marketing and finance for more than 25 years, Brand Finance evaluates the strength of brands and quantifies their financial value to help organizations of all kinds make strategic decisions.

Headquartered in London, Brand Finance has offices in over 20 countries, offering services on all continents. Every year, Brand Finance conducts more than 5,000 brand valuations, supported by original market research, and publishes over 100 reports which rank brands across all sectors and countries.

Brand Finance also operates the Global Brand Equity Monitor, conducting original market research annually on over 5,000 brands, surveying more than 150,000 respondents across 38 countries and 31 industry sectors. Combining perceptual data from the Global Brand Equity Monitor with data from its valuation database enables Brand Finance to arm brand leaders with the data and analytics they need to enhance brand and business value.

Brand Finance is a regulated accountancy firm, leading the standardization of the brand valuation industry. Brand Finance was the first to be certified by independent auditors as compliant with both ISO 10668 and ISO 20671 and has received the official endorsement of the Marketing Accountability Standards Board (MASB) in the United States.

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