Marketing For Growth: The birth of the Chief Growth Officer (CGO)

Stuart Elmes

Coca-Cola recently shook up the marketing world by introducing a new "Chief Growth Officer" (CGO) position to its C-suite rather than replacing their retiring CMO, Marcos de Quinto.

It is a move that has already been made by several other CPG/FMCG companies in response to stagnating global brand/sales growth.

This stagnation, attributable not only to struggles to innovate across traditional marketing channels, but also in large part to market saturation for the dominant brands within the FMCG sector, has forced brands to search harder than ever for ways to keep their shareholders happy. 

The CGO concept is gaining momentum thanks to the position’s role in overseeing sustainable growth in new foreign markets, unexploited domestic markets, and new marketing channels like eCommerce. 

Why the fuss? 

Coca-Cola's well-publicised marketing shift highlights an industry-wide trend and a new direction for CPG marketing. While all signs indicate that this trend is likely to spread across the sector, what does the hype around Coke's move all mean, really? 


What exactly is a ‘Chief Growth Officer’ (CGO)?

While the CGO title is still relatively new, (those currently holding the title are the ‘first generation’) the role of a Chief Growth Officer essentially looks at a company’s business and markets holistically to manage the company’s expansion. The position encompasses analyses of all aspects of the business, crossing traditional organisational silos to look at marketing, product development, customer relationships and buyer behaviour to achieve long-term revenue growth. Thomas Barta, a marketing leadership expert, has said that a CGO isn’t simply a CMO 2.0, but a ‘growth focused brand builder’ who also is one of the CEO’s most trusted advisors and an internal connector within the company.

But how can you grow when you’re already so big?! Here’s where we see it happening:

1) Growing foreign/new markets

In many of today’s markets, over-saturation is a very real problem. To combat this, CGOs and their companies must focus on identifying and exploiting markets which haven’t been inundated with advertising yet. Foreign mobile giants, like Tencent’s “WeChat” in China, have opened up new avenues and new populations to western advertising and brands. But the opportunities for established brands aren’t limited to China, however. Markets like those offered in countries like India, Brazil, and Indonesia (among others) represent a marketing goldmine for those brands wishing to expand their global reach. The astronomical potential revenues to be found in such markets, where established local brands may lack the marketing know-how of their competitors in the West, is lost on neither CGOs nor brands themselves, and many are already angling to make the most of the opportunities available.

2) Growing existing markets

While opportunities abroad are indeed intriguing,  there is still untapped marketing potential back at home as well. A robust growth strategy should also incorporate increased efficiency in markets and channels where brands already have a presence. It is the task of the CGO to identify new approaches and strategies to ensure that their brands not only maintain their presence in existing markets, but build upon it. Markets are shifting in the way that they shop and interact with brands, and it behoves the CGO to make sure that her brand’s marketing strategies shifts with it.

3) Growing new channels

In the race to fill up the lives of the public with entertainment and advertising at every turn, lucrative new marketing channels are opening up every day. New technologies (like augmented reality and artificial intelligence) and new platforms (Snapchat, Instagram) present tantalising marketing opportunities for any brand with a forward-thinking vision. The implementation of “shoppable” content on social media sites like Pinterest and Instagram, for example, have allowed brands to reap huge rewards from audiences that were much more difficult to reach just a few short years ago. While the process of maximising the efficiency of marketing on new channels can be a slow one, there is no question that the payoff for brands that find creative ways to do so can be huge. In Adimo’s ongoing efforts to help brands develop and build their presence on these new channels, it has become clear that traditional approaches to marketing and advertising often do not translate well, and that innovative solutions are the only viable option. With the impending explosion of AI assistants like Alexa and Siri, CGOs (if they are doing their job right) should already have a plan in place to position their brands as leaders in this lucrative new space.


Where will the CGO find this “growth”?

The CGO title may be something of a new concept, what isn’t new is the reality that the CGOs of tomorrow will face: the battle for market position in the decade to come will be fought online. Whether seeking new/foreign markets, new channels, or better brand position in existing markets, the most lucrative gaps are to be found on the internet. Offline channels like print, TV, and outdoor advertising will always have a place at the CPG/FMCG marketing table, but there is little doubt that the digital world will be the key driver for brand growth in most consumer goods sectors.

As consumer purchasing habits continue to shift from brick and mortar stores to online retail, the struggle to increase brand presence online grows in importance by the day. The advent of the CGO position is a direct reflection of this fact.

Because if you aren’t marketing for growth, what are you marketing for?