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News Analysis 18 Nov 2021 - 5 min read

CMO Tenure Table: 40 top marketers - who, how long and what can we learn?

By Sam Buckingham-Jones & Freya Morris

The tenure of CMOs has fallen over the past decade, US consultancy Spencer Stuart says. In Australia, things are not very different.

Mi3 has compiled a selection of Australia's top marketers and their tenure - along with some quick insights from some of them on what it takes in modern marketing to stay in the chair. It's not exhaustive, yet, but we'll expand and update quarterly. The top four? Leading the league is Mazda's Marketing Director Alastair Doak, a former journalist, topping 14 years with the auto brand. SCA's Chief Marketing & Communications Director Nikki Clarkson follows on 12 years with the broadcast and digital media group, and Joel Goodsir, Head of Marketing at Inspirations Paint, takes third spot approaching ten years. Auto & General's (Budget Direct) Jonathan Kerr is about to clock-up nine years with the insurance firm. Check out the League Table below.  

"The trade press and conference circuit would tell you that the key skills are in data science and analytics, martech integration and customer experience, all of which are important. However, in my opinion, marketers must take a lead role in strategy.

Joel Goodsir, Head of Marketing, Inspirations Paint

A few secrets to longevity, say some in Mi3's CMO Tenure League, are deep functional expertise, understanding the business strategy and - just maybe - putting less stock in the trade press and conference circuit. CMO tenure has been trending downwards over the past decade, US firm Spencer Stuart says, and while tenures are a little longer in Australia based on our sweep, other factors are no different. Here's the first instalment, derived from dozens of marketer LinkedIn profiles. We acknowledge that can be fraught - more than a few have entered and left the table after cross-checking LinkedIn profiles that have not been updated - but it's a start. Here we go.

What you need to know: 

  • Mi3 has put together a list of 40 top CMOs in Australia. The average tenure is a little over 45 months - three years and 9 months, which is about six months longer than the US average. 
  • Four CMOs in the list are are in the "100 Club" - they've been in marketing with the same company for more than 100 months, or eight years and four months: Mazda's Alastair Doak, Southern Cross Austereo's Nikki Clarkson, Joel Goodsir from Inspirations Paint, and Jonathan Kerr from Auto & General.
  • Clarkson, Goodsir and Kerr say being an expert in the fundamentals of marketing, understanding business strategy, and talking about commercial outcomes are the key themes for longevity and relevance to their business.

The 100 Club

At the top of the marketer list sit four people who’ve been in the game a long time.

When Alastair Doak, Mazda’s Marketing Director, was appointed to the role, the first iPhone had just been launched and John Howard was still Prime Minister. Doak has held the role for 14 years and two months. Nikki Clarkson, SCA's Chief Marketing and Communications Officer, has been in the role for 12 years. Joel Goodsir, Inspirations Paint’s Head of Marketing, has managed the brand for nine years and four months. Jonathan Kerr from Auto & General has been at the top for eight years and eight months.

Their secret? A deep understanding of the business, support from the execs, and long-term strategy, they say.

“You need the support of the Board room to build long term strategies with significant investment. There are no shortcuts, do the work, earn the confidence of your peers and execute on what you said you would do,” Kerr says.

“[You need] an absolute passion for understanding the commercial fundamentals of your business, your sector and Marketing/Media landscape.”

Clarkson agrees, it is about being distinctive, having customer-led solutions and support. But it's also about the people around her. "Simply nothing can be done without an amazing group of talented experts around you," she said.

Goodsir says his CEO, Robert Guy, challenges him regularly. “I still have big goals to achieve in the business as we continue to grow as an omni-channel retailer.”


Nikki Clarkson, Joel Goodsir and Jonathan Kerr
Southern Cross Austereo's Nikki Clarkson, Joel Goodsir from Inspirations Paint, and Jonathan Kerr from Auto & General. 


What’s the most valuable advice you’ve ever been given? 

Kerr: "Can I share two? 1. Advice from Jim Collins from his book Good To Great: ‘First Who, Then What - get the right people on the bus’. I have put together an incredible team, that has been the biggest difference maker. 2. It's an old saying, ‘You have two ears and one mouth, use them proportionately’. I remain a work in progress on that front.”

Clarkson: "Be inclusive and bring everyone along for the ride. This advice has been invaluable and particularly helpful in the development of our cross functional strategies and solutions. Collaboration across all touchpoints ensures that we understand the business in a more profound way than ever before and that our stakeholders are well informed, included and confident in the overall marketing strategies and proposed solutions."

Goodsir: “In order to attract, you have to repel. If you want to attract a particular segment of customers, it is absolutely necessary to repel another group. If you try to be all things to all people, you’ll end up being nothing to no one. Vanilla. Beige. The friction that comes from being for one group and therefore repelling another terrifies Sales Managers the world over. This is at the heart of Positioning (in Segmenting, Targeting, Positioning). It’s a marketer’s job to explain these tenants of marketing theory to the business, educate to allay fear and achieve the success, which can come from taking correctly counter-intuitive actions.”


What advice would you give to an aspiring CMO? 

Kerr: "Your foundation must be the five P's of Marketing, not bits and pieces. Be passionate about those fundamentals and become known in your company/sector as the absolute expert on those elements and then via s credible commercial viewpoint apply them to your business challenge. Don't be caught talking 'about the work', be known for talking about commercial outcomes.

Clarkson: "Don’t forget the soft skills. Be a great technical marketer, know your stuff, but always invest in great relationships with teams and stakeholders. This is the best way to understand the business - and that will help the marketing function play a valuable role in the business and its success."

Goodsir: “Your job is to be the voice of the customer inside the business, from the coal face to the boardroom table. It’s not just enough to be the voice, you have to fight for the customer’s needs and wants to be heard, fight to stay the strategic course and fight to add value. Your job is to create and deliver mutual value, demonstrable value for customers and the bottom line.”


What skills should marketers be prioritising? 

Kerr: "It's not about one skill or another, it's about an absolute passion to develop yourself. Of course the university you attend and/or the business you work for should help develop your Marketing and Commercial skill set, but there is no way that will be at a fast enough pace or diverse enough for you to break through and be great. Embrace the grind, do the work, become an expert in the pieces of the puzzle that matter in your business and then put just as much passion into execution as the stuff people see."

Clarkson: "Again, people skills can't be underestimated. Customer segmentation and insights are critical to enable a ‘customer first’ approach in all work. And really understanding the complex and ever-evolving world of martech, data and analytics, including personalisation and customer journeys plus, the core elements of brand strategy to enable great creative, category distinction and brand preference."

Goodsir: "The trade press and conference circuit would tell you that the key skills are in data science and analytics, martech integration and customer experience, all of which are important. However, in my opinion, marketers must take a lead role in strategy. If you are not involved in developing and implementing strategy in line with overarching company strategy then you’re not heading in the right direction to be a leader of tomorrow."

The secret to staying in the top marketing job the longest may be not responding to a request for comment. Mazda’s Doak did not reply.

Top CMO Tenures in Australia: The List

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Sam Buckingham-Jones & Freya Morris

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