What is the Line Between Being a Maverick or a Rogue CMO?

13 Aug

rogue cmoContrary to the old adage, when it comes to business, rules are not meant to be broken.  Companies put processes, guidelines and reporting mechanisms in place to insure that their employees adhere to the expectations established by the organization and to provide their company with transparency into the decisions that are being made by its personnel.  Of note, these rules apply to each and every employee from the C-suite to the front line.

Thus, it is always intriguing, in the context of marketing executives, when the labels “Rock Star CMO” or “Maverick” or “Risk Taker” are attached to senior marketing executives.  More concerning is when those personalities buy-in to such labels and begin to believe that their actions are somehow exempt from the guidelines established by their organizations.  This does not reflect well on those individuals, their companies or the marketing profession.  Further, as evidenced by the recent fall from grace of GM’s Global CMO, the story typically doesn’t end well for those involved.

Some might argue that there is a fine line between those personality traits and business ethos that separate a “Maverick” marketer from a rogue CMO.  I would challenge that notion entirely.  Professional marketers understand the benefits of charting a bold course, or taking prudent risks in the context of their brand’s position and their company’s culture.  They recognize the need to achieve the buy-in of their senior management peers and to build consensus among the rank and file for the strategies to be implemented.  Importantly, they set about these tasks in a transparent and ethical manner.

There is no excuse for individuals that knowingly seek to short-circuit an organization’s rules and regulations.  There can’t be.  For if we excuse the actions of a CMO or a CEO or a CFO how can we hold others in the organization accountable?  How can we reassure our Boards and our shareholders that our corporate governance initiatives and controls are beyond reproach?

It is not alright to maneuver around corporate signing authority limits.  It is not appropriate to hide costs by spreading them around multiple budget line items.  It is never acceptable to hide the truth about one’s actions when confronted by corporate counsel or internal audit.  For those individuals who think differently and conduct themselves in an inappropriate manner, the price to be paid is a heavy one, both economically and in terms of the perceptions about that person’s character.  In the words of Charles Dudley Warner the noted 19th century essayist:

“We are half ruined by conformity; but we should be wholly ruined without it.”

Stalwart marketing professionals play by the rules, invite scrutiny and pro-actively embrace their company’s accountability initiatives while conceiving of and executing demand generation strategies.  That is the cost of entry for senior marketing executives.   For Finance, Audit and Procurement professionals the recent events at GM reinforce the need to establish controls to insure transparency into the investment decisions being made by the marketing team and their agency partners.  Not for a lack of trust or congeniality, but because it is a necessary check and balance to insure compliance to the organization’s accountability initiatives.

Interested in learning more about marketing accountability and how to implement the appropriate controls and transparency?  Contact Don Parsons, Principal at Advertising Audit & Risk Management at dparsons@aarmusa.com for a complimentary consultation on this topic.

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