The Modern CMO as Personified by These Famous TV Characters

What does today's marketing leader look like? We took our favorite TV characters, mixed them together, and ended up with the modern CMO.

Rebecca Wojno
July 17 2019

The modern CMO is a perfect recipe of equal parts leader, flawless communicator, and data analyst. Add three tablespoons of business savvy, a hearty serving of empathy, and one box of storyteller’s creativity. These qualities on their own do not constitute the head of marketing, but when combined, they result in a successful CMO. We took the best traits from our favorite TV characters and mixed them together. Meet the modern CMO:

More from PostFunnel on marketing leadership:

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The Fearless Leader

There’ll be inner departmental conflicts along the way, but an effective CMO is—among other things—a master ‘peer-mediator,’ who knows how to bridge together his/her teams, from growth to design. Though disagreements may stir up discontent, the leader keeps everyone aligned and focused on the main goals. And when team members’ energy wanes, they’ll raise morale and empower each employee to control their own domain.

TV character to emulate: Leroy Jethro Gibbs, leader of the NCIS Major Case Response Team, NCIS

While not the mushiest or verbal of bosses, Gibbs knows how to empower his team to get the job done. What he lacks in feedback, he excels in leading by example. He knows when to use tough love and when to congratulate them on a job well done, as evidenced (pun intended) by several of his rules:

  • Rule #15: always work as a team
  • Rule #28: your case, your lead
  • Rule #33: clean up the mess that you make

The Stellar Communicator

CMOs serve as the brand ambassador – both inwardly and outwardly – so they must effectively communicate with teams companywide. Whether it’s collaborating with product, R&D, or sales, they must be able to reach out for information and use the facts to create cohesive branding. CMOs can concisely communicate company values, propositions, story, culture, and products, to audiences of all types and sizes.

TV character to emulate: CJ Cregg, WH Press Secretary/WH Chief of Staff, The West Wing

CJ has a compelling (read: witty and straight-forward) method of delivering news, updates, and stories, using her intellect and honesty to communicate the administration’s position in a way that makes more friends than enemies. She’s humorous, stoic, and composed, depending on the message. CJ relies on her team to help unearth the facts, which is why she’s legendary in knowing how to gather information.

Passion for the Data

The modern CMO proves that the ‘expertise in data’ entry on their resume isn’t an afterthought. They understand the facts and figures needed for successful marketing. They’re data-driven, yet can explain the numbers in a way the rest of the team will understand. Adaptable in nature, they take the cues from the data, not just hunches.

TV character to emulate: Dana Katherine Scully, FBI Agent, The X-Files

Dana’s ability to read and understand the data without biases is an integral part of her team’s success. She’s interested in concrete proof, numbers, facts, and sound information; but she’s not married to her conclusions – she’ll adjust her mindset when confronted with other, stronger data. As a CMO, she’d make even the least ‘left-brained’ marketer excited about the numbers and inspire everyone to do a little digging of their own when solving problems.

The Industry Expert

This is a professional who loves their work and relishes learning industry ins and outs. While the rest of us are off scouring Amazon for that day’s deals or planning their next vacation—no judgement—this marketer spends their free time diving into marketing’s current trends and upcoming industry events. Their deep knowledge of the field powers their strong intuition of what will work, and what won’t.

TV character to emulate: Rachel Green, executive at Ralph Lauren, Friends

Regardless of whether you’re a fan or not, there wasn’t a time when Rachel didn’t know the latest fashion trends or wasn’t dedicated to her work. She read and subscribed to the latest catalogs and fashion magazines to stay up to date. Rachel succeeds in her various roles because as a genuine fashionista, she earns the respect of her boss and important industry players (such as her almost-employer at Louis Vuitton) by showing her expertise.

The Brilliant Business Mind

What good is any marketing effort if there’s no understanding of how it’ll impact the business? Modern CMOs can turn marketing KPIs into business objectives, meeting wider company goals. Great marketing leaders understand that every marketing operation should ultimately increase revenue.

TV character to emulate: Olivia Pope, head of crisis management firm, Olivia Pope and Associates, Scandal

We’re not saying you should run a team like her white hat operation, but Ms. Pope knows a thing or two about making her clients happy and keeping a business alive. The entrepreneur built her brand from the ground up, collecting an entire Rolodex of happy customers along the way. Olivia knows it’s not enough to be a fixer; she needs to be the best fixer in Washington. She works tirelessly to maintain her reputation for excellent service – shadiness aside.

The Empathetic One

An empathetic CMO is more likely to understand the importance of customer centricity and feel invested in who your customers are, what they like, how they see things, and their overall experience with your brand. These types are dedicated to serving their audience to their greatest ability.

Tv character to emulate: Randall Pearson, father, son, councilman, This Is Us

Randall became a politician to make his constituents’ community a better place. He’s warm-hearted, sensitive to the struggles of others, and demonstrates a real desire to help everyone around him, whether they’re blood related or not. His incredible capacity for emotion allows him to convince his wife, Beth, to adopt Deja and take in his birth father, William, who was suffering from stage IV cancer.

The Storyteller

No marketer gets anywhere without the ability to harness and display their creativity. CMOs develop a cohesive and memorable brand story for audiences. They know how to spin a narrative and share concepts, ideas, and products with consumers. They’re masters at projecting a certain image and weaving a tale that’ll captivate current and potential customers.

TV character to emulate: Hank Moody, novelist and freelance writer, Californication

Various shortcomings aside, Hank is an accomplished novelist who knows how to tell a tale – and award-winningly entertaining ones at that. When motivated, he’s an excellent storyteller with legions of fans, all who claim to understand him based on how much his words have touched them. The author takes pride in having a strong grasp of language, and although some would consider him a snob, he’s all about preserving the dignity of the written word.

Last week on…

Envisioning the modern CMO was a little like searching for the perfect brownie recipe. On their own, they may be quality ingredients, but ultimately, you can’t bake the perfect dessert from 3 ounces of unsweetened chocolate, roughly chopped. Today’s Head of Marketing must have all of the above components to lead and inspire his team. We’re still waiting for TV networks to dream up a fictional-full packaged CMO who would lead their team to CRM greatness, but in the meantime, we’ll take our cues from our favorite characters.

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Rebecca Wojno

Rebecca is a marketing content writer and copy editor. Aside from writing about the importance of customer retention, she spends her time searching for good Mexican food and watching "Suits" reruns.

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