Christine Moorman reveals the latest CMO Survey at CMO Smart

How often do you get a chance to interact with the creator of an industry-standard survey 24 hours after its most recent results are published?

That’s what happened at CMO Smart on August 29, when Christine Moorman, Founder and Managing Director of The CMO Survey, spoke with members of AMA Chicago 24 hours after the release of the latest survey.

Moorman said the CMO Survey “reflects trends and data, but it certainly doesn’t have all the answers.” So several times during her presentation, she made a point of stopping to let audience groups discuss the data and share their observations with the room.

It was an evening full of insight and “a-ha” moments. Here are some questions that were posed and pondered during the session.

Why is The CMO Survey essential?

While anyone in marketing has access to any number of surveys, The CMO Survey is different. Its only participants are top marketers—Chief Marketing Officers, VPs of Marketing, etc.—in for-profit U.S. companies, so its results truly reflect marketing decision-making at the highest level.

Plus, the survey compiles results gathered every six months over the past 10 years, giving marketing leaders a rare chronological glimpse at trends as they develop and mature.

Moorman said, “It’s a forward looking survey that tracks marketing excellence and helps establish benchmarks. It’s important that it’s non-commercial, so it can be an objective source of info about the field. It can take a critical look at the industry, because it’s not selling people with results.”

And just as Moorman—who is also T. Austin Finch, Sr. Professor of Business Administration at Duke University’s Fuqua School of Business— says, “I never discount the fact that my students collectively know more than I do,” there’s little question that the CMO Survey reveals more about the future of our industry than any single marketing executive could ever foretell.

Are CMOs less optimistic than investors?

The first chart Moorman shared was a 10-year plot of marketer optimism, answering the question How optimistic are you about the overall U.S. economy on a scale with 0 being least optimistic and 100 most optimistic?

With the dip in the last six months, marketing leaders’ optimism has essentially been flat for the last five years—a period during which the U.S. stock market has risen 77 percent.

“Marketers are the outward-looking part of an organization,” Moorman said. “This chart displays some real uncertainty.”

What’s the most important factor for growth?

We marketers spend so much time collecting, managing and interpreting data, it must be the single most important factor for growth, right?

Wrong! According to CMOs, “Having the right data” is the least important factor for organic growth. The most important? “Having the right talent”—by a nearly 4-to-1 ratio over data.

Later, discussing talent, Moorman observed that more companies cited creativity as the top skill they prioritized when hiring marketing talent. “I was pleasantly surprised,” she said. “I expected ‘martech platform experience’ or ‘data science background’ to dominate.”

Do we get our money’s worth from digital marketing?

It should surprise no one that marketing leaders predict substantial growth in digital and social media marketing. What may be surprising is that they still have trouble demonstrating these strategies’ effectiveness.

“Marketers are very bullish in this kind of spending,” Moorman said. “But getting performance from spending is more challenging. There’s not as much clarity about what works and what doesn’t.”

The percentage of marketers unable to show a quantitative impact remains far higher than that of those who can. That said, Moorman said she was encouraged by a sharp uptick in the lower number, suggesting that the gap may be closing.

Should marketers be politically active?

While discussions were lively about other topics, the noise level in the room reached its peak when Moorman opened the floor to questions about marketing leadership.

The percentage of marketing leaders who say it’s appropriate for their brands to take a stance on politically charged issues dropped since the February, 2018 CMO Survey, but more than three-quarters still say “yes.”

Moorman pointed out that the number dips sharply for companies with annual revenues between a half billion and one billion dollars, suggesting that bigger companies may have less to fear from political backlash. Meanwhile, for niche players, “if you want to attract millennials, as customers or employees, you have to stand for something.”

It was a charged ending to a fascinating, insightful presentation.

If you’re a top marketer in a for-profit U.S. company, you should participate in the next CMO survey. Your outlook is invaluable!

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