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A New Mandate for Marketing and a New Breed of CMOs


In our recent CMO Navigator research, we asked 600+ CMOs in North America how their strategies and their vision for the role of marketing are taking shape as a result of an environment in which business is increasingly being disrupted by global crises and consumers are starting to implicitly assign to brands the role of platforms for change.

A Greater Focus on Business Transformation

Back in April, when we conducted this research, marketers felt pretty optimistic about the state of the economy, confidence that possibly stemmed from the fact that the negative impact of the pandemic on the business seemed to have decreased – only 21% CMOs said their organization was still significantly impacted, compared to 31% in 2020 – and that at this stage only 16% respondents told us the Russian/Ukrainian crisis significantly impacted their organizations.

One of the most interesting findings was that 68% of North American CMOs feel that marketing has grown in importance over the last two years. This widespread belief is corroborated by a growing number of business metrics CMOs report now being accountable for within their organizations.

When we asked CMOs about the role of the marketing function within their organizations in the last 12 months and their expectation for the next 12 months, business transformation emerged as an area of future focus that 40% of marketers expect to divert attention towards. This denotes a new vision for marketing as a change agent within the business, which is confirmed by the fact that, asked which type of innovation is most critical for the success of their strategies, the majority of respondents (59%) pointed to the innovation of organizational processes to make the business more efficient.

The Rise of the ‘Perceptive’ CMO

In our study, we confronted CMOs’ priorities for their brands with what consumers expect from them by running parallel surveys with identical questions. While we see that CMOs are aligned with consumers on brands’ responsibility to take a stance when crises arise, it was interesting to see that CMOs underestimate how much importance consumers place on knowing that brands treat their employees well and deliver helpful customer service.

This line of research allowed us to identify 18% of respondents as 'Perceptive' CMOs: marketers who are much more closely aligned to consumer expectations than their peers. In our analysis, not only it emerged that 'Perceptive' CMOs are more successful than their peers – 72% Perceptive CMOs work for organizations that experienced a revenue increase in the last year, compared to 67% 'Non-Perceptive' and 87% Perceptive CMOs expect their marketing budget to increase in the next 12 months, compared to 83% 'Non-Perceptive' – but most importantly we found out that the strategies they prioritize and the challenges they are most worried about show that Perceptive CMOs are as close to business needs as they are to consumer wants.

Ultimately, their mindset of operating at the intersection between the two drives Perceptive CMOs to be even more invested in marketing’s transformation into a change agent within their business than their peers, with greater focus placed on business growth and business transformation for the next 12 months than their ‘Non-Perceptive’ counterparts.

Spotlight on Canadian CMOs

Perceptive CMOs are proportionately present among both U.S. and Canadian respondents in our study. But let’s look at a few data points that set Canadian CMOs apart from their peers:

Back in April, 83% of Canadian CMOs were optimistic about the economic outlook of their country, with as many as 40% of them being 'very' optimistic. This is significantly greater than in the U.S. where only 75% CMOs were optimistic overall, and only 34% of them were very optimistic. Canadian CMOs (42%) are significantly more likely to consider the supply chain disruption one of the biggest external challenges they will face over the next 6 to 12 months compared to U.S. CMOs (33%). Across the board, changes to the workforce, a.k.a. the ‘Great Resignation’ (voted by 45% Canadian CMOs), are seen as the biggest external challenge marketers are confronted with at the moment.

Overall, our study showed a significant correlation between innovation and this shift in the role of marketing. On this front, Canadian CMOs seem to be well-positioned with 64% finding their current innovation efforts to be effective, compared to 52% of their U.S. counterparts. However, the marketing landscape is constantly being disrupted by new technologies and consumer behaviors and preparing for what's next is a key to future differentiation: as an example of this, almost half (49%) of Canadian CMOs intend to pursue the organization or sponsorship of virtual events (conferences, concerts, esports) in the next 12 months to earn consumer attention in a transformed media landscape.

Get your copy of the dentsu 2022 CMO Navigator here.

Stephen has been a celebrated leader, trusted advisor and radical collaborator at dentsu for the last 18 years. Starting off his career in the media group, Stephen quickly established himself as a thought leader for key global clients, overseeing a portfolio of world-class brands. Stephen firmly believes that a strong team and an even stronger culture are what drive success in our business.