NEW YORK: Chief marketing officers at the biggest US brand owners are now staying in their positions for almost four years, reflecting a number of trends influencing business strategies, new analysis has suggested.

Spencer Stuart, the executive search consulting firm, reported in its latest annual study of around 100 of the leading American advertisers that CMOs had an average tenure of 43 months by the close of 2011.

This total has increased over time, from a low of 23.2 months in 2006 to 26.8 months in 2007, 28.4 months in 2008, 34.7 months in 2009 and 42 months in 2010.

The headline figure fell to 25 months in the automotive sector last year, compared with 33 months when discussing communications and media. Industrial conglomerates, by contrast, posted 99 months.

Greg Welch, a consultant at Spencer Stuart, suggested that widespread corporate consolidation and stock market troubles encouraged a natural conservatism.

"That said, it is important to point out that we are also seeing the emergence of some simply fantastic general managers in these roles, who just happen to also be great marketers," he told Forbes.

Among the longest-serving featured executives was Bill McDonald, who has been EVP, brand management, at Capital One, in the financial category, for 160 months.

Stephen Quinn has occupied the CMO's seat at Wal-Mart for 77 months, five months in front of Anthony Pace, his counterpart from Subway, the quick service chain.

"Anyone can count the beans; not too many can make the beans. In a world that's going more transparent, the skills that you have as CMO are actually better preparation to be a CEO than they've ever been," said Pace.

Tony Palmer, CMO at Kimberly-Clark, the household products specialist, has notched up 64 months, ahead of Joan Chow, of ConAgra Foods, on 59 months, and Joe Tripodi, of Coca-Cola, the soft drinks group, on 52 months.

Antonio Lucio, holding the same post at Visa, the financial services firm, logged 49 months, and argued making an impact across the brand, business and organisational levels is now vital to success.

"Marketing has always struggled between short-term and long-term. If you have a longer tenure, you will have a greater ability to live with your results; you're going to be able to focus more on the long-term equity of your brands, as well as short-term results," he said.

Data sourced from Forbes; additional content by Warc staff