Oystercatchers’ first Club Evening of 2024 featured CMOs from Channel 4, Chelsea Football Club, Octopus Energy and the CEO of IPG Mediabrands discuss the trends impacting marketing’s top job, from reputational control to growth and tenure. This article was originally published on Marketing Week.

Discussing how the CMO role is changing is a hot topic for marketers. Perhaps natural, given the shifting shape of marketing functions, the responsibilities being added and the turbulent environment.

But Zaid Al-Qassab, outgoing Channel 4 CMO and soon-to-be CEO of M&C Saatchi suggests the answer is straightforward.

“Honestly, I do really believe marketing hasn’t changed, and won’t change,” he said, speaking at February’s Oystercatchers Club event last week.

He suggests CMOs need to not get bogged down in focusing on the divides within marketing functions when considering current trends, describing himself as “very reactionary against the idea that there’s brand marketing and performance marketing.”

The battle lines between performance and brand are “nonsense”.

“All marketing is performance marketing, you’re just talking about what stage in the customer journey you’re getting them,” he said.

Claire Cronin, CMO at Chelsea FC, added that the CMO role requires “much more focus broadly on reputation management, partly because of the power of social media and cancel culture, but also because of the growing importance of sustainability.”

“Ultimately, it all comes down to what people think of your brand,” she added while noting the growing trend for marketers now is “more responsibility” in managing their brand’s reputation.

In addition to discussing the role itself and what it entails, the CMO title is often up for debate, with many businesses choosing to drop the ‘marketing’ in favour of something seemingly more descriptive.

“I don’t care if it’s called chief marketing officer, chief growth officer, chief customer officer, chief product officer – I could go on,” said Al-Qassab.

“It’s about understanding your customers and your business objectives and finding ways to marry them.” He offered the example of Channel 4’s app redesign and rebrand, which might not have “instinctively” been the most important thing to do, but it was when he “looked at the data”.

Al-Qassab’s view of the CMO job is not dissimilar to Mark Ritson, who in a recent Marketing Week column said we need to stop talking about the “end of the CMO” as that’s simply not the case.

Instead, he argues marketers should just focus on doing their jobs better.

Octopus Energy has gone through a period of huge growth in the past few years, hiring 1,000 people in 2023 alone. As Pete Miller, the business’s global creative director responsible for creative and marketing said: “It goes back to that paradigm of the only constant is change.”

“As we’ve grown so much, my constant worry is that we get to a point where we’re no longer the agile, instinctive, innovative beast that we started out as,” he added. “The challenge is keeping agility, creating a culture that thrives on it, and yet still somehow manages to maintain a brand that is consistent.”

Adding an agency perspective, Richard Morris, CEO of UK and EMEA at Mediabrands said that consistency is key from his side of the fence. “It’s really frustrating when marketing directors and CMOs change,” he said.

While noting the “urban myth” of the average CMO being in role for just 18 months, it’s no lie that top marketers switch out of roles faster than their C-suite counterparts.

“If you look at how many studies value consistency, it’s extraordinary. I would advocate for CMOs to be in role for as long as possible, building trusted, enduring relationships. And then wonderful things happen,” Morris concluded.