CMO evolution: Understanding the need for change but fearing not keeping up

James is editor in chief of TechForge Media, with a passion for how technologies influence business and several Mobile World Congress events under his belt. James has interviewed a variety of leading figures in his career, from former Mafia boss Michael Franzese, to Steve Wozniak, and Jean Michel Jarre. James can be found tweeting at @James_T_Bourne.

CMOs have a problem. Their role is changing, from exploring customer engagement and adding to the sales pipeline, to one of more consistent growth. Yet a new report warns that a potential recession has led to an overall negative feeling among marketing chiefs.

Chief Outsiders polled more than 50 of its CMO consultants – executives with senior experience at Fortune 500 level now working at mid-sized organisations – last month to give their verdicts.

According to the report, CMOs are increasingly collaborating with other organisational entities, such as research and development, sales, IT, and customer service, to meet their growth goals. Almost 40% of those polled said they were ‘somewhat’ perceiving the trend, with an additional 30% saying it was ‘significant.’

When it came to specific initiatives being focused on in 2020, organic searches, content marketing, and email marketing were top of the tree, while video content is seen as both a popular and effective choice going forward. The good news is there will be more budget to spend; four in five respondents said it was either likely or very likely that their clients would increase digital ad investments in 2020. Yet just under nine in 10 admitted it would be difficult to stay ahead of technical enhancements without incurring what the report calls ‘experience debt.’

Alongside a potential recession – not to mention the looming threat of the coronavirus – retail CMOs are likely to be concerned over Amazon’s continued domination of the eCommerce space. Some retailers, such as Kroger, are building their own solutions to provide greater and more transparent sales attribution. The Chief Outsiders report notes that direct-to-consumer (DTC) strategies are what many marketers are banking on. Indeed, retail, at around a third of respondents, is the industry most likely to see DTC or direct-to-business initiatives in 2020, the research notes.

More good news arrived in the shape of marketing for social good. When asked whether social good efforts will impact marketing messages in 2020, just under nine in 10 said it would, although the vast majority tempered their view by saying ‘somewhat.’

This makes for interesting reading when compared with a recent report from The CMO Club, alongside Deloitte. The study again focused on the evolving role of the CMO – and in some cases blurred lines. More than two thirds of respondents said they had profit and loss responsibility, yet only 16% said they had responsibility for the company’s sales force.

The Chief Outsiders report came to a similar conclusion. Overall, according to the report, 44% of CMOs believe business and economic conditions will have a negative impact on 2020 business performance, while 35% argued the impact would be positive.

You can read the full survey here (email required).

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