I heard through the grapevine that Liz Pava, Pillsbury CMO, has resigned from her position. Her last day is rumored to be May 30th. This resignation follows on the heels of the launch of the new Pillsbury corporate identity package (see earlier post of May 16). Rumor also reports that it was definitely her choice and the reason for her departure was “the ball just stopped moving forward.” Why do CMOs and Marketing Directors really quit? It can’t always be for “a better opportunity” (translate: more money, more power, more you name it) or can it?

I started thinking about my own departures. I was in 3 law firms as the top marketing professional over the past 13 years. Each time I left it was for “a better opportunity.” In hindsight it always seemed like a better opportunity because something in the relationship with the firm had begun to break down which caused me to look for that “better opportunity” in the first place. Oddly, I don’t think that what was broken could not have been fixed in any of the cases and may have actually been the better opportunity had I been able to confront my illusions. There was just something psychologically compelling about moving on. Here’s my water cooler analysis.

The beginning of the end was when the firms decided to launch a “major” change in their business model, management committee, or client service model, etc. etc. You name it. They wanted change. Their ability to change in a meaningful way was in question. With all this talk of change came a change in their perception of their self. In order to justify this change, they would find or create holes in existing relationships. Like suddenly the successes of the past and the time everyone had invested in building the business together was no longer enough. Tear up the foundation. Start over. It was almost as if they were ordering up a new car or sexier wife.

I love change – sort of. Especially when it’s built on respect and substance. But, whenever there was a change change was in the air and leadership’s perception of themselves grew, their trust and respect for marketing became the late model car or the old lady. Following this there was an unwillingness to “move the ball forward.” That triggers my flee instinct.

Changing law firms or geography or both can be great for career; especially for someone like me who gets bored quickly and thrives on all things new. Yet I can’t help thinking that if illusions were confronted, stronger and more effective results would have emerged. This throw away world we live in impacts attitudes of others and ourselves, and our career moves. Law firm marketing isn’t like product marketing. A constant influx of new blood to infuse creativity isn’t necessary as law firms are rarely truly creative. Once in 10 years maybe?

Do you have any thoughts on why CMO’s come and go so readily or any stories from your own experience that might shed light on this topic?