Sandrine Desbarbieux-Lloyd and Angie French

The role of the Chief Marketing Officer (CMO) is undergoing a profound transformation. Today’s CMOs find themselves at the confluence of rapidly changing consumer preferences, technological advancements, economic volatility, and an increasingly polarised social environment. This complex landscape demands a reevaluation of traditional marketing roles and strategies, pushing CMOs to adapt, innovate, and lead with resilience and vision.

As marketing increasingly relies on data analytics to drive decisions and demonstrate ROI, CMOs are aligning more closely with their CEOs and peer members of the executive team to ensure marketing strategies are integrated with overall business objectives. This evolution underscores the CMO’s role not just as a marketing division leader but as a key driver of business growth, requiring a blend of contemporary marketing awareness, data proficiency, technology acumen, and strategic insight to contribute effectively to executive-level discussions and decision-making.

Navigating Economic and Digital Challenges

Economic headwinds and budget constraints are a reality for CMOs across industries. Marketing budgets, which are crucial for driving growth and engagement, have seen reductions, compelling CMOs to do more with less. This situation is compounded by the advent of paradigm-shifting technologies such as generative AI assistants such as ChatGPT, Gemini, or Claude and the expectation of near-total personalization from consumers. The journey from attracting attention to acquiring customers is fraught with challenges, making the CMO’s role more demanding than ever.

The Digital and Data Imperative

Digital transformation and data analytics have become central to the CMO’s toolkit. The rise of digital platforms has not only expanded the avenues for customer engagement but also increased the complexity of marketing strategies. The use of data analytics enables CMOs to understand consumer behaviours, measure campaign effectiveness, and drive strategic decisions. However, the sheer volume of data and the rapid pace of digital innovation present both opportunities and challenges for marketing leaders.

The Complexity of Effectiveness

Modern CMOs will need to look to Modern Measurement to understand the effectiveness of their programmes and activities. With the depreciation of third party cookies, successful CMOs will ensure they no longer rely just on attribution modelling, but triangulate their sources of performance data with combinations of lift studies and real-time econometrics modelling. AI now enables this type of instantaneous and more accurate measurement.

Balancing Creativity and Technology

While digital tools and data analytics offer new insights and efficiencies, the essence of marketing remains deeply creative. The emergence and rapid growth of new media platforms like Twitch, TikTok, Lemon8 and Discord have revolutionised the way brands engage with audiences, necessitating a blend of creativity and tactical agility. CMOs must leverage data to inform their creative strategies while ensuring that their campaigns resonate emotionally and culturally with diverse audiences.

Engaging with Social and Political Issues

The decision for brands to engage with social and political issues is a double-edged sword. On one hand, consumers increasingly expect brands to take stands on issues that matter to them, making social engagement a potential differentiator. On the other hand, taking sides can alienate segments of the market, potentially damaging brand reputation. CMOs must navigate this landscape with care, aligning their brand’s values with societal expectations without compromising their broader appeal.

The Role of AI in Marketing

Artificial intelligence (AI) presents both opportunities and challenges for CMOs. Tools built on progressive generative AI models and advanced machine learning techniques can streamline operations and enhance customer engagement through personalization. However, the consensus among marketing leaders is that AI is a complement to human creativity, not a replacement. The human element—understanding nuances, crafting compelling narratives, as well as understanding, checking, validating machine output, and making strategic decisions—remains irreplaceable, even as AI technologies evolve.

People Marketing to Machines

As AI digital assistants become more common, human beings will start using them to simplify their personal and professional lives, using them as personal assistants to pre-select and choose what they see, hear or buy. CMOs will need to lead their teams to start marketing to those machines, and not just marketing to humans anymore. Successful CMOs will understand the need to deliver much higher volumes of content for machines to digest, have good API integrations, voice optimised channels and good levels of structured data to enable those machines to find the information they need at speed.

Quantum computing, the Internet Of Things and… Machines Marketing to Machines

With the roll-out of 5G, satellite networks to cover rural and remote areas, as well as quantum computing – which could enable computing a billion or trillion times faster than current ‘classical’ computers – the Internet of Things will become a reality, with all devices in the home and outside connecting to each other. CMOs will then need to start thinking about how the AI assistants of these devices, whether they are wearables, cars, mirrors or fridges, will connect to the AI assistants of companies and human beings. We will then enter the era of machines having to market to machines…


One of the current challenges for many leaders is how to upskill their employees in the face of such rapid changes driven by AI deployment. In the future, there will be roles working in AI – such as data engineers, machine learning engineers, data scientists – and roles working with AI – using AI platforms and tools enabling humans and digital marketing solutions to be more efficient – so it is important for all leaders, but in particular CMOs, to understand those differences and create specific training programmes for existing personnel, while working with recruitment partners to recognise the need for the addition of very different roles including, data science, analytics and development skills in the marketing division.

Traditional vs. New Media

Despite the dominance of digital, traditional media retains its relevance. CMOs recognize the importance of a diversified and integrated media strategy that includes both traditional and digital channels. The key is understanding where the audience is most engaged and tailoring content and channels accordingly. This balanced approach ensures that brands can reach consumers effectively, irrespective of the medium.

Test and Learn Culture

As well as enabling their teams by having the MarTech available to test increasingly complex hypotheses, the right platforms and skills to analyse performance and record the outcomes in a central, accessible knowledge base to inform decisions, CMOs need to also mandate their teams to work collaboratively and cross-functionally, sharing business objectives and aligned KPIs including longer term testing schedules. That will allow the reframing of failures as opportunities and bring positive energy to all employees.

Future Directions for CMOs

The role of the CMO will continue to evolve in response to changing market dynamics, technological advancements, and shifting consumer expectations. Success in this role requires a blend of creativity, strategic insight, technological proficiency, and an ability to lead through change. CMOs must be agile, data-driven, and empathetic to consumer needs, all while managing the complexities of the digital age.

What will remain

The Marketing function continues their duty of representing the customers inside the organisation, researching, understanding and sharing their needs and behaviours so Businesses can delight them and thrive. When CMOs find it difficult to influence the Boardroom to secure agreement and funding, it is critical for their colleagues to understand they are the face of the customers and they can help lead the Board to make the right strategic decisions to drive sustainable growth.

In conclusion, the changing role of the CMO reflects broader shifts in the business landscape. As guardians of brand, growth and engagement, CMOs must navigate economic pressures, technological disruptions, and the evolving expectations of consumers and society. By balancing creativity with data, engaging thoughtfully with social issues, and leveraging technology to enhance human decision-making, CMOs can drive their brands forward in an increasingly complex world.

About the Authors

Sandrine Desbarbieux-Lloyd, Former Group Director at Meta 

Sandrine is a C-level Marketing, Digital, eCommerce, and AI executive with extensive EMEA knowledge. As Group Director at Meta (Facebook), she oversaw large clients such as Google, driving growth across social media products, including messaging, video, AI, AR, VR, and the Metaverse. Previously, she was European Vice President of Digital at Samsung, where she was leading a multi-billion pound sales and marketing business across 34 countries, and where she created the centre of excellence for machine learning applications in Marketing. Sandrine also held roles for large brands including Tesco, Avis, Lacoste, Kurt Geiger, Hilton, AXA, BT, BAA, E.ON, and Bupa.

Angie French, Digital and AI Consultant

Angie is a seasoned leader & technology expert with 25 years of experience. She has excelled in roles at Microsoft, Xaxis, Kantar, and Meta, focusing on infrastructure, digital advertising, and AI. An experienced senior leader with a post-graduate degree in AI from Oxford, she’s a renowned speaker on innovation, AI, and women in tech, now seeking roles to deliver rapid business growth leveraging cutting-edge technology.

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