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The Fractional CMO Trend Is a Sign of the Times



Out of a global workforce of 3.38 billion people, almost half (1.57 billion) are freelance, The World Bank revealed last year. But the definition of “freelance” is evolving to now reach the C-suite, including senior marketers.

The pandemic changed many aspects of work, introducing more companies to the concept of hybrid schedules and boosting digital transformation. It also changed the mindsets of many executives, who saw how their lives had been overtaken by their professions. Cue the rise of the fractional C-Suite.

For most senior marketers, the idea of taking a professional step back would have previously meant a career break or moving into consultancy. The emergence of the fractional CMO position offers a new opportunity to use their experiences and skillsets.

But marketer roles are proving more elusive due to the state of the world’s economy. Research conducted by Indeed for ADWEEK discovered that the number of job posts featuring “marketing” in the title on the platform has decreased 16% since 2021 in the U.S. and 15% in the U.K.

Meanwhile, a simple search on LinkedIn for the term “fractional CMO” lists 283,000 results. And that is only likely to grow in the future as awareness of the benefits and demand for the role increases.

The position is proving attractive to very experienced marketers. The fractional capacity allows them to decide how and when they work, offering the chance to align it with their personal and career interests. With emerging technology, remote working hubs and talent platforms, the world is their oyster if they have the desired skillsets. The shift is also a boon for smaller brands, allowing top marketers to offer the value of their knowledge and experience at a rate small companies can potentially afford.

“There’s value in honing your skills as a CPG marketer, but also in applying a fresh perspective to an entirely different category. A fractional CMO role can allow you to do exactly that: take on a new challenge in some of your time and have a big impact on an organization without it becoming your only focus,” explained former Mondelez and Beam Suntory senior media executive Jerry Daykin.

The appeal to businesses

Startups that were previously unable to afford a highly experienced marketer are finding they can approach individuals to come in and steer their communications needs on a 15-hour-per-week contract. It also lightens the long-term commitment of both parties, and comes with a much lower salary.

What makes the fractional CMO different from a consultant, explains Úna Herlihy, co-founder of Irish talent company The Indie List, is the responsibility that comes with the job.

“A fractional CMO comes in and has the accountability for all of the work and doesn’t necessarily get stuck into the weeds of the day-to-day—nor should they—but they are accountable, they have KPIs to deliver,” Herlihy said.

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