What exactly differentiates a CBO from a CMO? This has become a common question with the rise of the CBO position—and the truth is that there isn’t a simple answer, but here are five ways the positions differ:
1. CBOs create the vision, CMOs carry out the vision
Marketing is the communication of a brand’s messages and ideas to a wide audience, so while a CMO can create a strategy to spread a message across the country (or world), it’s beyond their scope to decide unilaterally what those messages or ideas are. This is where the CBO comes in.
2. CBO acts as a unifying force
Part of a CBO’s job is to sit beside the CMO to oversee the cultivation of a coherent brand story and corresponding design vocabulary. The CBO acts as a unifying force between the larger company or organization and their marketing team, which will translate to more effective, authentic branded communication.
3. They exist on different levels
CBOs operate somewhere between the CEO and the CMO: they aren’t in charge of the entire company, but they are responsible for creating brand unity within companies that have enormous ecosystems. This means that CBOs must have as deep an understanding of the company as the CEO, because they have to know exactly what the corporate and portfolio brand purpose are—i.e. what unifies them—and what the future of the brand will be. They are at the metaphorical helm, working with the CEO, whereas the CMO is charged with spreading that message seamlessly.
4. CMOs lead one department, while CBOs work with every department
When branding was essentially just about straightforward communication, it was a job that could be done within the branding department—and by the CMO alone. However, with the rise of the internet, customers tend to believe deeds over words, which means advertising alone isn’t going to cut it. Customers care about their entire experience with a brand. This means that the CBO has to work with every department in a company—product design, engineering, customer service, sales, and distribution—to create a cohesive customer experience. A lot of what branding is today is creating the right idea of the brand in the minds of employees just as much as in the minds of consumers.
5. CBOs must be innovative
While CMOs have to respond to the constantly changing marketing environment, CBOs have to create the future for their brand, constantly focusing on what can change while still staying true to their brand’s central purpose. CBOs are all too aware that brands that don’t change die—and it’s their job to ensure that their company continues to thrive. This means continuously pushing for renewal and experimentation. In many ways, a CBO also has to be a creative director.
The bottom line is that in 2021, a company’s brand is much more than simply their advertising. A successful company is able to imbue their brand within their every action, and in order to do that successfully a CBO is necessary. The truth is that it’s no longer possible for a CMO to be in charge of the entire brand while also trying to convey that message to their public audience. And finally, although intangible, corporate brands have significant—but fragile—economic value. Apple’s brand, for example, is valued at over $322 billion. The fortunes of that value sits somewhere within the broader purview of the CBO.