Results from the latest The CMO Survey reveal that Covid-19 has accelerated the adoption of digital tools among companies and customers.

At a headline level though, the report which studies the views of US CMOs, unsurprisingly reveals well-founded pessimism about the US economy. Respondents were somewhat less pessimistic about the outlook for their own organisations.

As to priorities, customer-facing interfaces and transformed go-to-market strategies are among the top agenda items for CMOs.

Founded in 2008, the survey is the longest-running non-commercial survey for and about the field of marketing, according to the authors.

One of the more interesting results is that marketing budgets are growing as a percentage of total revenue, according to the research, even as marketing headcount is being cut. The trend is looking grim over the next 12 months in terms of new hires.

Christine Moorman, Editor-in-chief, The Marketing Journal in a blog coinciding with the release of the report writes, “As marketers struggle with layoffs and mounting expectations to do more with less, social media has been their saving grace, with 84.2 per cent of marketers saying they use social media for brand building and 54.3 per cent saying they use it for customer retention.”

Chart source: The CMO Survey

Spending on social media is actually increasing, despite high profile social activism, although the survey was done before the #StopProfitForHate campaign really caught fire in recent weeks.

At the time that marketers responded to the survey they indicated that they felt the contributions of social media to company performance was “rising for the first time in CMO Survey history—up 24 per cent since February.”

According to the report, “Optimism among marketers plummets to levels only seen during the Great Recession. Optimism about the economy is 50.9 (out of 100) when just four months ago it was 62.7. In February 2009, following the Great Recession of 2008, this rating was 47.7. When asked if they are “more” or “less” optimistic about the overall economy, 85.3% are less optimistic.”

The authors note this is the highest level in the survey’s history and they say it is almost triple the 30 per cent who said they were less optimistic about the economy in February 2020. The report also found that B2C companies are more pessimistic than their B2B counterparts. Larger revenue companies, those with revenues in excess of  $US10B are also more worried than their peers at the small business end of the spectrum.

Christine Moorman, Editor-in-chief, Journal of Marketing

The report says, “Marketers are more optimistic about their own companies than they are about the overall economy, but this figure still dropped to near Great Recession levels with marketers reporting 68.8 per cent in this Survey, compared with 64.2 in February 2009.”

“This result marks an 8 per cent drop since February 2018 (the last time this question was asked). When asked if they are “more” or “less” optimistic about their own company, most people are less optimistic (46.5 per cent), marking only the second time in Survey history that more marketing leaders have been “less optimistic” than “more optimistic” or “no change.” The other time was in February 2009, during the Great Recession.”

Moorman writes, “Eighty-five percent of marketers report an increased openness among customers to their digital offerings and 84 per cent believe customers place more value on digital experiences than before the pandemic.”

Customer behavior

The report finds that marketers believe there is increasing openness among customers to new digital offerings introduced during the pandemic with 85% indicating this was their view.

Chart source: The CMO Survey


“Many companies observe lower likelihood to buy (67.2 per cent) and unwillingness to pay full price (43.3 per cent), both of which contributed to the depressed financial performance over the last two months. Marketers anticipate that many consumer behaviors will return to normal levels in 6-12 months, including likelihood to buy and willingness to pay full price. At the same time, owing to deeper experiences online, marketers believe that customers’ increased value placed on digital experience will stay high and never return to pre-pandemic levels,” the report says.

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