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Top CEOs have Marketing skills not background

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

Marketing is not considered a good route into becoming a CEO, as only 8% of the top global CEOs have a marketing background. Longevity seems to be a far more important aspect of what makes a CEO a top performer, as discovered in a recent survey.

So, where does that leave the marketing profession?


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.

While that criteria – adding long-term brand value – seems perfectly suited for a marketer, none of the top ten had a marketing background. Instead, the top ten performing CEOs had been in their roles for more than double the amount of time, on average, than the rest of the list.

The CEO Role

The role of a CEO is to add value to the business over the long-term. 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.

But surely all of those elements could be managed by someone from the marketing profession. So why are businesses so unlikely to give the top job to someone with a marketing background?

Learning in the Role

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

Yet we also know that managing the brand value is both an important element of being a CEO and, more importantly, of being considered one of the leading CEOs in the Brand Guardianship Index. So again, the question seems to be, why are there so relatively few marketers in that list?

The answer seems to be linked to the key differentiating factor of the top ten CEOs – that they have been in their role a long time.

The average tenure for the top 250 global CEOs is 7.6 years. The top ten performing CEOs average 15.9 years in their role – over twice the Index’s average. While the ten lowest ranked CEOs average only 5 years in their role.

This points to the idea that the very best CEOs learn marketing skills as they develop in the role. We cannot say whether the best CEOs learn more marketing the longer they are in the role, or whether they are allowed to stay in the role longer because they have added marketing skills to their own personal profile, but there does seem to be a connection.

What’s Next

Good marketing skills are vital to running a successful business and it seems that the very best CEOs understand this. If, as a CMO, you have the ambition to become a CEO, it may help to have and be able to display more knowledge about finance or engineering. However, marketing as a profession would appear to be well-respected and secure in its place at the top table

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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