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How Do I Become a Chief Product Officer?

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  • Written By: Terry Masters
  • Edited By: Shereen Skola
  • Last Modified Date: 22 November 2016
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Chief product officer (CPO) is an executive-level marketing title that is typically used by companies with a single major brand or that sell a type of product with multiple platform components. It is comparable to the more generally used chief marketing officer (CMO) title but represents a company's emphasis on the tight integration of management, product development and strategy. You can become a chief product officer by acquiring the right academic credentials and a number of years of direct work experience in various aspects of sales and marketing.

Corporations can adopt any job title protocol that represents the company's business philosophy. The choice to use the CPO title as the company's principal marketing designation instead of the CMO title can simply be a matter of preference. There are certain circumstances where the title of CPO may be the more common choice, based upon how the business works. For example, a company that sells one major brand of doll in various iterations would be more likely to hire a CPO, rather than a company that sells multiple types and brands of beverages.

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Video game companies are another example of a type of business that would hire a CPO. Electronic games are major products that are implemented across multiple delivery platforms and have an ongoing development aspect that is interactive in nature. The CPO is responsible for tightly integrating the vision, strategy, design and marketing of the product, while controlling the business management aspects of a corporate department. To become a chief product officer you will have to develop an expertise in this type of focused product development.

You will need the type of educational credentials that qualify you for employment in a corporate marketing department to become a chief product officer. This usually entails obtaining a bachelor's degree in business administration or marketing. Obtaining a Master's of Business Administration (MBA) with a focus on marketing will help your candidacy, particularly with larger companies.

Unless you plan to work for a startup, the CPO position will require you to have a significant amount of relevant marketing experience before you will be seriously considered for the job. Companies can require anywhere from five to 15 years of experience, with larger companies requiring experience at the higher end of the spectrum. Your background should demonstrate proficiency with multiple areas of a marketing department, as well as a command of product life cycle management.

If the CPO position you are targeting is focused around a specific type of product or a single brand, the hiring company will often look for someone who can bring an innovative approach to the market development for the product. Demonstrating experience in developing products across new markets would also be helpful, such as taking a video game franchise and expanding opportunities for book and movie adaptations. To become a chief product officer, it also helps to be actively involved in the marketing profession through work done with trade associations, for example.

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