Berlin CMO Research: What It Takes to Be a Marketing Head

Last September, I bought a one-way ticket to Berlin.

With one suitcase and vaguely great study-abroad memories, I took the chance to fulfill a post-grad itch and dove straight into Berlin’s tech scene. If you’re curious why, I can share my spreadsheet of reasons with you another time, but for now, this article highlights the marketing leaders that have shaped Berlin’s top 100 highest funded startups.*

I pieced this research because I was curious about the marketing career trajectories in Berlin. When I moved here, my network consisted of a few old Tinder dates and randoms from WG Gesucht, so I wanted to rebuild myself in a new community. This research taught me which companies are leading Berlin’s “Silicon Allee” and which key figures are molding these brands.

The Research:

I researched marketing heads from Berlin’s 100 highest funded startups on Crunchbase to explore patterns on what it takes to be a marketing leader in this city. The companies within the sample have raised more than $16.7 billion in funding combined.

In this research, the sample size for “Berlin’s marketing leaders” consists of 72 highest marketing profiles within each company whether it’d be a CMO, Head of Marketing or VP of Marketing. The research aims to show patterns of the city’s senior marketing leaders and reveal their genders, educational backgrounds, years of experience, and co-founding and international experiences.*

*The following research reflects on May 2019 data accessed through publicly-available information on LinkedIn and Crunchbase.

Job Titles

Most startups in Berlin do not have a CMO. In fact, only 31% of the companies have a CMO. Many reasons may lead to this like company size, growth stage and the needs of the company. When a CMO was not present, the most senior marketing leaders were either Heads of Marketing or VPs of Marketing. But interestingly, a few companies had multiple CMOs due to market specialty and localization strategies.

Gender

Despite Berlin’s progressive take on social issues, this city has a long way to go in gender equality amongst its C-Level Marketing roles. Men dominate the industry with only 16% women holding the CMO positions in Berlin. Compared to the 2019 average, Berlin startups rank below the average number of women holding CMO roles in Fortune 1000 Companies which was 39%. However, when I segmented Heads of Marketing and VPs of Marketing in Berlin, there was a 40% female ratio, which closely aligns with the 42% ratio in female marketing executives in Fortune 1000 Companies.

Education

There are so many online courses these days and “self-taught” gurus. As someone who did not study marketing, management or business administration, I’m curious about the correlation between educational background and career paths.

So, to what extent is that valid for marketing professionals? Very valid.

According to my research, 71% of the marketing leaders (CMOs, Heads & VPs of Marketing) actually did not study Marketing, PR, Advertisement, Communications or Media. The subject diversity was incredible — from Philosophy to Design, to even Chinese Medicine.

My research also found that more than half of Berlin’s marketing heads did not have a Masters degree and only a small fraction have pursued their PhD degrees.

Work Experience

Amongst the marketing heads researched in this data set, Berlin CMOs have 13 years of marketing experiences on-average; Heads of Marketing & VPs of Marketing have an average of 11 years of marketing experiences combined.

Although there were no clear correlations on marketing specialization in former roles, 40% of the group have previously co-founded/founded a company or are the current founders of their brands. Looks like “entrepreneurial” isn’t just another buzzword hiring managers use.

International Experience

Transitioning out of university, starting a new job or moving to a foreign country isn’t easy. Let alone doing it all at once. Although challenging, starting my career abroad has pushed me to think globally and sharpened my communication skills as a marketer.

In this research, I found that Berlin marketing heads consist of a very international group.On average, they speak three languages and have worked in at least two countries. And almost half of the group speak 4-5 languages.

Takeaways:

I was initially inspired to conduct this research in search of an industry mentor in a new city. Besides learning about career trajectories in marketing, my research taught me which startups are the biggest players in Berlin based on funding. In conclusion, senior marketing leaders in Berlin have the following patterns:

  • Male-dominated (84% male CMOs; 58% male Heads of Marketing and VPs of Marketing)
  • Often come from a non-marketing educational background (71% did not have degrees in Marketing, PR, Advertisement, Communications or Media)
  • Have on-average 12 years of work experience
  • Speak on-average 3 different languages and have worked in at least 2 different countries

So what’s next? The research prompted me to look into a tech hub closer to home, Silicon Valley. I’ll be releasing another report to see correlations and differences between CMOs, Heads and VPs of Marketing in Silicon Valley. Follow to stay tuned on the next piece!

This research was created out of curiosity about marketers in Berlin. With that said, I’m always interested in learning and meeting new people in the tech community, so send me a message if you’d like to exchange new ideas or chat over coffee.

This research was inspired by Honeypot’s What does it take to become a CTO in Berlin?

A thank you to Michelle Tenggara, Raphael Raue and Oliver Tuebing for editing and reviewing this piece.

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