NEW YORK: A new breed of chief marketing officer – the "transformational" CMO – is focused on business performance and preparing to step up to the CEO position, a leading industry figure has said.

Bruce Rogers, the Chief Insights Officer of Forbes and leader of Forbes' CMO Practice, explained that, unlike their predecessors, transformational CMO have "a fundamental understanding of the levers of growth".

They have "insight on the relative importance and value of these levers, and know how to convert this understanding into enterprise-wide action that drives overall performance," he said.

He contrasted this with a short-cut approach to growing profitability which relies simply on cutting costs and investment.

"Driving growth is much more complicated … It requires an ability to develop relationships and solutions for customers that drive demand."

It's a theme that has also been exercising the head of the world's largest agency holding company. Sir Martin Sorrell, chief executive of WPP, told the UK's Marketing Week that "cutting costs is not the be all and end all and that growing revenues is the right thing" to do.

"What we have to do as an industry is demonstrate to clients that it makes sense to focus on the top line and that those companies [that do] are the ones that are successful," he averred.

In support of this contention, he pointed to the top ten companies in Millward Brown's BrandZ report and Y&R's Brand Asset Valuator, which he said had outperformed the US Commodity Index by 300% – the implication being that strong brands are also financial assets.

Rogers expected that transformational CMOs, armed with an understanding of technology and analytics, would be better placed to drive growth and ascend to the chief executive position.

In the past, he said, many CMOs were creative experts who had come out of advertising agencies but who lacked broader business skills.

"In the future, CMOs will come from unconventional places," he suggested, such as start-ups. "What better place to understand how to drive meaningful growth than a start-up?"

The flip side of that, however, could be that big companies struggle to recruit suitable CMOs as potential candidates prefer to work with a start-up.

Data sourced from Forbes, Marketing Week; additional content by Warc staff