The CMO Survey Blog

Chief Marketing Officer Optimism at Four-Year High; Proving the Value of Marketing Remains Elusive

New results from The CMO Survey offer encouraging predictions about the future of markets and document ongoing challenges to marketing excellence and leadership. The 410 top marketers surveyed in August report their highest levels of optimism for the overall U.S. economy in four years. On a scale of 0-100, with 0 being the least optimistic, CMO scores came in at 65.7. This is nearly a 20-point increase over the same measure taken in August 2009 near the low point of the recession. Almost 50% of top marketers answered they are “more optimistic” about the overall U.S. economy compared to last quarter. Back in 2009, the optimists came in at just 14.9%. “Pessimists” went in the opposite direction with those reporting to be “less optimistic” dropping from 59.3% in 2009 to 13.2%.

Now for the rough news. Demonstrating the impact of marketing spending remains a challenge for marketing leaders. Only one-third of top marketers surveyed report their companies are able to demonstrate quantitatively the impact of their marketing spending. This percentage worsens when considering social media investments. Only 15% of CMOs surveyed report proven quantitative impacts from their social media marketing expenditures. Another 36% respond they have a good sense of the qualitative impact, but not the quantitative impact. Almost half of the CMOs surveyed (49%) have not been able to show that their company’s social media activities have an impact on their business (Figure 1). Despite this, marketers are expected to increase expenditures in social media from 6.6% to 15.8% over the next five years (Figure 2). (more…)

Marketing in a Technology Company: GE’s Organizational Platform for Innovation

This post was co-authored with Anna Chavis and Jace Moreno, MBA students, Fuqua School of Business, Duke University.

At a recent roundtable discussion at Fortune’s Most Powerful Women Summit, Beth Comstock, the Chief Marketing Officer of GE, described how GE approaches marketing: “You have to create a platform that invites innovative ideas.” Unfortunately, we teach marketing and many companies approach marketing as if the organization does not exist. As a result, marketing often fails because it sits outside, or is layered on top, of the most important activities in companies. Marketing needs to be down in the trenches and marketing leadership needs to foster a culture of innovation that creates new products, new services, and new customers.

GE has written this approach into its DNA. In particular, GE’s culture ensures that technological innovation (the historical backbone of GE) and commercial innovation (managing with deep consideration of the customer’s needs and wants) are inextricably entwined. We interviewed Beth Comstock during her visit for the Distinguished Speaker Series at the Fuqua School of Business, Duke University. From this talk and from other press accounts, we derived four capabilities that constitute GE’s organizational platform for innovation. We discuss these capabilities and offer examples of the new products, services, and customers that have resulted.

Capability 1: Create Marketing Innovation Internally

A big feeder of GE’s marketing innovation is the ECLP—Experienced Commercial Leadership Program—GE’s first externally focused leadership program. ECLP began in 2002 as part of Jeff Immelt’s commitment to grow GE’s commercial pipeline and aims to position GE as the “gold standard in marketing.” The two-year post-MBA program develops a pipeline of future leaders and also teaches the company what good marketing is and how it has the potential to change traditional views of product development. The program is viewed as a mutual learning experience—the graduates bring an external perspective and unique talent to GE and program participants learn from GE’s R&D expertise. As Comstock noted, “Marketing must bring a different viewpoint to tough problems. This involves data analytics that produce customer insights and the ability to address customer needs in a creative manner.” She went on to point out that “The best marketers are the ones who have both the creativity and analytical skills in the right proportion.”

Capability 2: Integrate Collaboratively Within GE

There are two key illustrations of this capability—the Commercial Council and the Imagination Breakthrough Process.
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In Search of Marketing Excellence: Ten Differences Between High-Performing and Low-Performing Companies

Marketing excellence—marketing leaders strive to attain it and marketing professors try to dissect it. For the first time, The CMO Survey-August 2012 asked top marketers “How would you rate your company’s marketing excellence?” on a 7-point scale where 7=one of the best in the world, 6=a leader but not one of the best, 5=strong, 4=good, 3=fair, 2=weak, 1=very weak. The mean score was 4.4 (standard deviation=1.4). Figure 1 contains the full distribution of responses.

Figure 1. Marketing Excellence Ratings in Companies

Over time, The CMO Survey will develop a longitudinal database and provide more definitive answers to the questions surrounding marketing excellence. However, using only the August 2012 data, I can share some of the performance, spending, strategy, leadership, and organizational choices/outcomes that are and are not correlated with marketing excellence.

To generate these insights, I classified companies participating in The CMO Survey according to whether they performed above or below the mean on the marketing excellence question. The high-performing group (n=184 firms) has a mean marketing excellence score of 5.52 (s.d.=0.66) and the low-performing group (n=170 firms) has a mean marketing excellence score of 3.22 (s.d.=0.88).
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Six Reasons Marketing Budgets are on the Rise

Marketing budgets as a percent of overall firm budgets and as a percent of firm revenues are both on the rise as noted in my prior post. Why are firms spending more on marketing? Here are six reasons I see in The CMO Survey™ data and in my research.

  1. New jobs: Marketing appears to be taking a leadership role in managing social media activities in companies. Given social media spending as a percent of marketing budgets is expected to rise from 7.6% to 18.8% over the next 5 years, this means new funds are flowing toward marketing.
  2. New skills: Companies plan to increase marketing training by 3.7% in February 2012 to 7.2% in August 2012. In particular, I see many companies in investing in programs to build marketing capabilities. A good example is GE’s Experienced Commercial Leadership Program, which develops cohorts of young marketers for the company. Another example is Becton Dickinson’s Marketing Excellence Initiative, which provides non-marketers with a big dose of training in key marketing tools and processes.
  3. New knowledge: Big Data has captured the imaginations of leaders in companies big and small. The ability to leverage information about customers in order to deliver and demonstrate value opens the door for marketers to fill the role as analysts and “data whisperers” as McKinsey calls them. As noted by McKinsey in its Chief Marketing and Sales Officer forum, “Data whisperers are those analysts who can coax meaning and insights from the increasingly sophisticated and massive data sets available today.” (more…)

Holding on to Marketing Leaders

When times get tough, do marketing leaders get fired? Three years of results from The CMO Survey indicate the answer is “No.” Looking at Figure 1, we can see that the number of years a top marketer is in his or her current role in a company averages 4.4 years and that this number has not changed dramatically over the last three years: 2009 (4.3 years), 2010 (4.6 years), and 2011 (4.3 years). (more…)

How to Invent a Marketing Function

Studying organizations over the years, I have found that new marketing leaders often join companies that have only the beginnings of a marketing function. Facing such a situation, how do you invent a marketing function? What are the key steps? What capabilities help marketing deliver what it can offer companies? (more…)

Why Hire a Marketer?

The CMO survey reports that companies anticipate hiring 7.2% more marketers in the next 12 months. The survey also shows that consulting companies will experience the largest increase (+17.3%) followed closely by manufacturing (+14.9%), technology (+12.5%), banking/finance (+11.9%), and healthcare/pharmaceuticals (+8.3%). (more…)

Managerial Discretion and CMO Value

You know the stats:  CMOs are reported to have an average life of just over 2 years.  You also know the gripe:  Marketing has an unproven effect on the firm’s performance in capital markets.  I intend to help shed light on these ideas throughout this blog at various times.  Academic colleagues Boyd, Chandy, and Cunha recently published a paper in the Journal of Marketing Research (and a much easier to read version in Advertising Age) addressing the stock market impact of a CMO. The specific questions they asked were whether, and under what conditions, hiring a CMO contributes to firm performance.

The study used new CMO announcements collected from major newspapers and wire services (such as the Wall Street Journal, PR Newswire, and Dow Jones Newswire) from 1996-2005 and included a variety of industries.  It may not be surprising that the results were mixed—some CMOs contributed substantially to stock price movements and others did not.  In fact, in 46% of the cases in the sample, the stock market response to the appointment of a CMO was positive, whereas in 54% of the cases, the response was negative. Given these results, the next logical question is why the CMO effect differs across firms.

As it turns out, a CMO’s “managerial discretion” is a critical factor in determining his or her impact on stock values.  Discretion can come from a variety of sources, including the CEO.  This study examined the effect of the firm’s own customers as a factor limiting the CMO’s freedom to decide or act in accordance with what a CMO judges best for the firm.  In short, powerful customers can constrain a CMO’s discretion.  The authors explain that this finding extends to both end customers and intermediate customers (such as Walmart, a P&G customer or American Express, an Oracle customer).

How do powerful customers limit the managerial discretion of CMOs?  They can force price concessions and product modifications, they can demand extra service or special deals, and perhaps worst of all, they can resist innovations that cannibalize products in inventory, that require new training or expensive new infrastructure investments.

One piece of good news is that customer power does not influence all CMOs alike.  Individual and firm factors affect the contribution a CMO makes to the firm value.  Experienced CMOs—either previous CMO experience or experience from outside of the firm—mitigates the degree of customer power.  CMOs that head large firms, CMOs in firms with strong performance records, and CMOs of firms operating across a broader scope of markets also tend to escape these problems.

The authors state that “Marketers often play an important role in developing strong economic ties between firms and their customers, but the results from this research ironically show that a move toward strong economic ties with a few customers may actually limit the effectiveness of top marketers in driving firm value.”  That’s a tough tightrope to walk.

If you are a marketing leader in your firm, how do these findings resonate?  How do you serve your customers while also ensuring they are not challenging your discretion beyond what is reasonable?