Young versus experienced CMO: the face off


If you’ve been following the news lately, some high decibel corporate announcements must have surely grabbed your attention. Real estate portal got eaten up by a tiger, e-commerce major Flipkart’s valuation continues to crumble while Snapdeal sacked staff and made an admission of their mismanagement. In all the stories that have cropped up in the recent months, do you recognise the common element? No, not that they were the startup ‘icons’, but that they were companies founded, managed, and run primarily by young individuals. Which unearths the age-old debate – are young professionals capable of heading companies and core departments like the way experienced (senior) managers do?

Standing at a similar crossroad of time and beginning to exhibit the creases of age, the question doesn’t elude me during casual dinners with peers of all age brackets from the industry. I dwell a little loudly on the matter here, however, with a marketing take on the subject, that is – the case of young chief marketing officers (CMOs) versus experienced CMOs.

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Of course, on the face of it, there are many obvious and reasonable arguments in the favour of both. While one has the experience to lead the pack, the other has dynamism to do the daring. As a country, we have always believed the youngsters start low and report to ‘senior’ managers who climbed the corporate ladder with years of experience. Until the startup culture disrupted the very norm. Today, a 60 years old professional is competing for a position with one half his age. And the odds can’t get more challenging.

A case for the seniors

Apart from bringing along with them a wealth of experience, older CMOs are often more insightful and prudent in their decision making. Surprisingly, they also tend to understand and blend with the culture of the company more easily than the younger counterparts. This is perhaps because they are less insecure about their position or prefer to work in a more intrinsic and congenial style. This security and stable demeanour also gives them preference over the younger generation who tend to set unrealistic commitments, try to over achieve or simply bolt at the next best opportunity. Many also argue that the lack of deep industry knowledge (which unarguably comes with time) is responsible for the lack of strategic perspective and miscalculated decisions.

A case for the young SIR’s

Young CMO’s operate differently and their style is very palpable. While traditional marketing heads have always been sales and leads driven, the young leaders focus on amplifying the brand value. It is imperative to also note the striking difference where older CMOs tend to be more company centric, the other is consumer centric. This drift in attitude over the years is responsible for the growing customer service focus by brands in the country. New CMOs also bring to the table new ideas, a refreshing perspective, and interesting use of technology to reach targets and goals. By virtue of age, they also bond well with the employees, are less rigid, and are a walking talking energy ball, essential to keep the employees motivated and dedicated. Marketing as a vertical has evolved over the years and plays an influential role in the company structure today where their efforts are co-planned with the product, sales, technical, and operations departments.

From helping with the product improvements to planning the revenue generation models and operating channels, marketers wear many hats and young managers are not shy of playing these different roles within the company as against traditional marketers who tend to focus on pure marketing. The emergence of big data, social media, and undercover marketing have also given a setback to the prospects of senior marketing heads who can’t seem to keep up with these new trends essential to whittle a holistic marketing plan. In an age where consumers are hard to predict and trends are changing as we speak, speed and agility are of essence. While older CMOs play safe and are slow to take decisions, the young brigade is, for better or worse, more instinctive and nimble.


Many factors influence the decision of whom to hire. From management styles to technical skills, pricing outlook and cost to companies, a lot can ride on the one person employed to run the most intangible asset of the company. Although many have collectively voiced their preference for hiring a reliable marketing head who is rather long in the tooth than bringing onboard an inexperienced professional, we are far from reaching a consensus and perhaps, there exists none. Needless to say, each have their own strengths and styles, and is it up to the company that is hiring to decide whether they want a dynamic, risk-taking, innovative CMO or a wise, experienced, and stable CMO.

Personally, I feel age has nothing to do with it, as long as the person in charge doesn’t stop learning and adapting through their career curve.

(Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of YourStory.)


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