Seventy percent of Fortune 500 companies have a chief marketing officer, but the proportion is falling as businesses rethink the role, either scrapping it altogether or folding it into a new job title with a wider remit.

Last month, for example, Alison Lewis departed as chief marketing officer at Johnson & Johnson’s consumer division with the company indicating there were “no immediate plans” to fill the role as her responsibilities would be shared across the leadership group.

Keith Weed stepped down as chief marketing and communications officer at Unilever earlier this year and has yet to be replaced. At the same time, there’s a growing number of chief brand officers (P&G’s Marc Pritchard), chief growth officers (Coca-Cola’s Francisco Crespo) and presidents of brands (Beam Suntory’s Jessica Spence).

“More and more marketers are being assigned to growth or to oversee a transformation agenda,” according to Larry Thomas, managing director of Accenture’s customer insights and growth practice.

“Sometimes it can be just a more hip CMO role,” he told Ad Exchanger, “but often it’s a comprehensive change with responsibilities across the organization.”

That belatedly reflects the developments of the past 20 years as digital and new platforms and channels have altered the marketing landscape from being simply outward bound based on broad generalisations to a two-way exchange and a personalised data-driven environment.

“We’re at that tipping point where we’re trying to decide what marketing really means in this era,” Keith Johnston, VP and research director serving CMO professionals at Forrester, told Ad Age.

Part of what it means is greater financial accountability for the performance of brands – Spence, for example, has P&L responsibility for major global brands at Beam Suntory – and oversight of activities that now extend beyond traditional advertising boundaries into areas like experiential.

Even if the top marketing job title is disappearing, the role of marketers isn’t going away – it’s just that the boundaries are blurring and would-be CMOs have to think more broadly.

Nowhere is this more apparent, suggested Publicis Chief Growth Officer Rishad Tobbaccowala, than at the new breed of DTC brands, where marketers typically oversee a website and an app, customer service and experience, delivery and physical supply chain management.

Sourced from Ad Age, Ad Exchanger; additional content by WARC staff