The CMO’s Four Envelopes

May 18th, 2011 by Matthew Rosenhaft Leave a reply »

There is an old joke about CEOs, this is the CMO version…

A newly hired CMO arrives on the first day to find four numbered envelopes on the desk with a note that says “open in case of emergency” left by the last position holder. Bizarre, but soon forgotten in the hum of the first day and subsequently buried in the piles of stuff over the following months. Those months are a blur of activity, getting up to speed, assessing the team, evaluating the activities, working with the executive team, etc.

After a few more months, the honeymoon period wanes as things start to solidify and the CMO begins to feel the pressure to produce immediate results. Sales have been flagging, sales is complaining, the board is restless, and the CEO is less patient. The CMO remembers the envelopes and finds them buried under stacks of papers on the shelf.  Now, unsure that this point constitutes an emergency, but the CMO remembers the grilling in the last senior management meeting and thinks “now or never”. Upon opening, there is a single line, “Fire the Agency and Rebrand”.

The ensuing rebranding effort along with the renaming (which the agency obviously felt was absolutely critical for the rebranding rebirth), new website, and coupled with a Facebook campaign for good measure; keeps the organization busy for the next few months. The activities, fanfare, the energy, etc. all keep the organization consumed. CEO backs off, board seems content, and sales even smiles as they have something to talk to customers about.

But, as the excitement subsides, the pressure again rebuilds. CMO again must consider what to do to keep momentum. Ah, the second envelope. This one has one line again “Upgrade Automation”.  So, again marketing is busy, IT now has a mission to integrate the new website with the new CRM system with the new Marketing Automation and Business Intelligence systems. CIO is happy with a mission, sales is cowed with the prospect of having to learn a new CRM system, and the CEO and board are drooling at the prospect of new ways to slice and dice the data in flashy dashboards and lots and lots of activity. Good stuff.  “Don’t know why they fired the last guy, seemed to know what he was doing.”

Everything continues like this for another eight months, but again the pressure builds; CEO is becoming much more demanding, board is much more vocal, and the CMO realizes that this is truly an emergency. So, out comes the third envelope with the single line, “Reorganization”.  Instead of organizing based upon products, the new approach is now markets. Sales is cowed with the challenge of reeducating sales people to focus on markets and learn unfamiliar product lines, product marketing is re-tasked with focusing on messaging around a group of unrelated products to tell a cohesive story of why a customer needs to buy all of the products from the company. CEO is mollified, board is still not so sure, but sees a lot of activity, lots of buzz around the brand.

Again, the momentum sustains for another handful of months, but this time the pressure is even more intense as the CMOs eighteenth month anniversary with the company approaches. The board is grumbling and the CEO is now on the hot seat. The CEO holds a tough senior management meeting with lots of heated arguments and accusations. The morale is low, the organization is anxious. The CMO reaches for the trusty fourth envelope. If there ever was a time for a miracle, it is now. Again, as with the previous three envelopes there is a single line. It reads, “Prepare four envelopes…”

Matthew Rosenhaft

Matthew is a Social Marketing Executive and is co-founder of Social Gastronomy, LLC and the Social Executive Council. Prior to founding Social Gastronomy, Matthew has over 18 years’ experience as an executive in marketing, product management, and sales. Matthew has an extensive background in the SaaS Software, Social Media, Mobile, IT Services, and Telecom industries. He has prior entrepreneurial experience as a founder and executive in several early-stage venture-backed technology companies, as well as, holds several US patents for a mobile marketing technology. Matthew is a prominent blogger and regular industry speaker on social marketing and strategy topics. Matthew’s blog can be found at For more information on Matthew, you can check out his LinkedIn profile at or contact him directly at