In the past, there has been an insidious precept that even the most gifted marketers should stay in their groove, which means making the transition to general business decision making is a leap too far.

One survey of CEOs found that only 2% had previously led marketing teams, while 31% had headed up some other business unit.

It can seem like a logical decision to promote or recruit financial directors to steer a ship that is struggling to stay afloat. However, there are signs that companies are ripping up the hypothetical rule book, which is something that struggling retailers may well need to consider.

For example, earlier this year the global Kraft Heinz brand appointed Miguel Patricio as its new chief executive. Patricio was previously the chief marketing officer for brewer AB InBev. 

What do CMOs offer to CEO posts?

There is logic in focusing a retail executive search on candidates that have a proven ability to market products, and themselves! If anyone can rescue struggling retail brands and attract new shoppers to bricks and mortar stores, surely it has to be people with the proven ability to attract and command consumer attention?

Even if the business leadership role seems far removed from “selling”, the ability of former marketing chiefs to get under the skin of your customers could be a potent basis for innovation and business growth.

Embracing this trend involves removing any lingering stigma or misconceptions attached to modern marketing executives. If you see “marketing” purely as big data analytics and collating persuasive content for advertising, digital marketing and in-store campaigns, you may need to think again.

Marketing executives with strong track records have important transferrable skills. They could be the people most adept at harnessing the power of data – and emerging retail tech – and forging profitable relationships with consumers. They have insights on how to diversify channels to market, and ways to craft value propositions and compelling business cases.

Aren’t all CEOs the ultimate marketing weapon?

There is an increasing understanding that there are too many CEOs who know the business but don’t fully understand who they do business WITH.

In other words, a business struggling to find its position in modern retailing needs the insights and experience of someone able to grasp brand positioning as the core of business growth strategies.

It’s also important to consider that the most important marketing lead in any retail organisation is often its CEO – the public face of the organisation. If in doubt, there are plenty of examples amongst high profile, customer-led business gurus, including Steve Jobs, Richard Branson, Mark Zuckerberg and Sir Alan Sugar.

If you need to find candidates who fit naturally and seamlessly into leadership posts as part of your retail executive search, get in touch with us today to market your vacancy to leading lights in marketing.