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Proximity to CEO Drives Chief Marketers’ Pay
C-level relationships matter most, while digital marketing skills add value

By Stephen Miller, CEBS  7/25/2014

Chief marketers who report directly to CEOs are likely to earn more than their peers, according to a new study by the 7,000-member Chief Marketing Officer (CMO) Council. Additionally, good peer relationships provide an advantage as the most highly paid CMOs have forged close partnerships with chief financial officers and chief information officers.

Additional findings highlighted in the council’s 2014 CMO Compensation Report include:

• Key accomplishments of the top earners (greater than $500,000 base compensation) are centered on restructuring marketing to drive results, improving the yield/accountability of marketing and building digital capabilities. These top earners are more likely to report directly to the CEO.

Bonuses are the most common type of compensation beyond base pay. Eighty-five percent of CMOs receive bonuses, with large company CMOs being more likely to have bonus-based compensation.

Digital marketing skills are important. CMO salary tends to increase as their firm’s digital marketing performance improves.

Marketing titles (including chief marketing officer, vice president of marketing, and senior vice president of marketing) don’t significantly correlate with base compensation.

Marketers Feel Underpaid

“With a minority of CMOs believing that they are fairly paid, there appears to be a general issue with CMO compensation,” states the report, authored by Kimberly A. Whitler, assistant professor at the University of Virginia’s Darden School of Business. “This high degree of dissatisfaction suggests that either CMOs are actually underpaid relative to key benchmarks identified in the report or that CMOs just believe they are underpaid.”

This finding may be a key driver of CMO turnover, said Whitler, and “suggests a greater need: 1) to understand why CMOs believe they are underpaid, and 2) for more collaboration between executive recruiters, CHROs, and CEOs to ensure that CMOs are fairly compensated.”

Stephen Miller, CEBS, is an online editor/manager for SHRM. Follow him on Twitter @SHRMsmiller.

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