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Top CEOs have Marketing skills not background

13 April 2022

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?

Longevity

The survey in question was the Brand Guardianship Index, an annual survey undertaken by Brand Finance (brandfinance.com), 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

Phil Hall
Head of Global Communications
Brand Finance
Michael Josem
Associate Communications Director
Brand Finance

About Brand Finance          

Brand Finance is the world’s leading brand valuation consultancy. Bridging the gap between marketing and finance, Brand Finance evaluates the strength of brands and quantifies their financial value to help organisations 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 nearly 100 reports which rank brands across all sectors and countries.

Brand Finance is a regulated accountancy firm, leading the standardisation 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.

Disclaimer

Brand Finance has produced this study with an independent and unbiased analysis. The values derived and opinions presented in this study are based on publicly available information and certain assumptions that Brand Finance used where such data was deficient or unclear. Brand Finance accepts no responsibility and will not be liable in the event that the publicly available information relied upon is subsequently found to be inaccurate. The opinions and financial analysis expressed in the study are not to be construed as providing investment or business advice. Brand Finance does not intend the study to be relied upon for any reason and excludes all liability to any body, government, or organisation.

The data presented in this study form part of Brand Finance's proprietary database, are provided for the benefit of the media, and are not to be used in part or in full for any commercial or technical purpose without written permission from Brand Finance.

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