The CGO vs. CMO

In recent years, a trend has emerged where Chief Marketing Officers (CMO’s) become (or are replaced by) Chief Growth Officers (CGO’s).  The trend has gotten increased attention in 2017 because large companies (like Coca Cola, Colgate-Palmolive, and others) are jumping on that bandwagon.  So, is this just a trendy title change, or is there more to it?

Here at Stonehill, we think there is much more to it.

The corporate world’s move from “marketing” to “growth” officers reflects a recognition that marketing’s traditionally narrower focus on developing new categories of goods, markets, strategic acquisitions and distribution channels is no longer enough to fuel growth.  Instead, growth these days requires that traditional marketing professionals also take into account corporate innovation, strategy, technology, culture, and finance.  In other words, Chief Growth Officers must have a long-term vision coupled with an enterprise-wide growth strategy.  That requires an organized, multi-disciplinary, cross-platform, approach to growth.

One marketing industry executive, speaking about Coke’s recent move to replace its Chief Marketing Officer with a Chief Growth Officer, said, “[f]or generations, Coke has been recognized as an epic marketer. But in today’s environment, you have to rely on more than commercials and marketing tactics to grow. The appointment of a chief growth officer is one part, but also bringing tech, sustainability, talent, and research and development right under the CEO signals to me that they get it, and that they’re organizing more for transformation rather than continued marketing excellence.”

The “new reality” that Coke, and others, now acknowledge is that traditional marketing expertise in branding, advertising, demographic markets and digital outreach is no longer "getting the job done” for large companies, or for small ones.  Instead, growth in today’s business environment will require a grasp of broader aspects of corporate operations and strategy, coupled with the ability to implement transformational, corporate-wide growth initiatives.  This could spell trouble for traditional marketing agencies, and for flat-footed marketing executives.

In larger companies using CMO’s, these trends are going to require more than just changing a corporate title to "CGO."  To survive being replaced or losing a seat in the board room to a CGO, marketing executives must evolve, develop a broader skill set, and break from their “tried and true” marketing models that have worked in the past. 

Small businesses should also take note of these issues.   Sustainable, scalable growth will require more than a traditional marketing firm who will simply launch a public relations campaign and improve website SEO rankings.  Instead, successful lead generation and growth must be performance and data focused.  Small businesses that don’t have the luxury of an internal marketing team will need to identify outside help who can develop a clear corporate strategy that informs all aspects of the company's public relations, innovation, technology, finance, corporate culture and, most importantly, client experience.   

Since its inception, Stonehill has advocated and used this kind of multi-disciplinary approach to help both our large and small business clients achieve their growth objectives.   Our services include advising marketing and growth executives in larger companies, and serving as an “outsourced CGO” for our small business clients.   If you think we can help you, contact us at or visit our website at for more information.