The CMO Survey Blog

Mobile Spending to Increase 160% Despite Performance Questions

Marketing leaders report their companies currently spend 6% of marketing budgets on mobile marketing and that this investment level is expected to increase to 15.6% over the next three years. The CMO Survey reports this increase in newly released results from 255 marketing leaders.

This whopping 160% increase reflects a growing reliance on mobile to interact with customers where they look for information and make purchases. On top of it, companies hope to reach customers closer to the time of purchase in order to make them aware of offerings, deals, and additional information that may help close more sales.

Despite these hopes, marketing leaders report only modest success in the impact of mobile marketing activities. When asked to rate the performance of their company’s mobile marketing activities on a scale from 1-7 where 1=poorly and 7=excellent, Figure 1 shows the current gap with only customer engagement breaching the halfway mark, while delivering your brand message, customer acquisition, customer retention, sales, and profits all falling below average.

Figure 1. How Mobile Marketing Performs (7-point scale where 1=poor, 7=excellent)

Examining different sectors, Table 1 shows, on average, B2C companies outperform their B2B counterparts in getting returns from mobile. However, at the same time, no sector has any real advantages.

Table 1. Sector Performance on Mobile Marketing

The CMO Survey did not ask how marketing leaders plan to invest the huge increase in mobile spending over the next three years, but it is clear that allocating a large portion of it toward understanding and managing the impact of mobile is essential. As with other aspects of business, it is not the size of your budget that matters, but how you manage the investment to create and leverage critical customer, brand, and financial outcomes. Among the most important steps are fundamentals of marketing strategy, including selecting your target customer, developing and communicating a benefit that meets customers across all aspects of your marketing, including mobile, and then figuring how to reach and engage customers at the right time and in the most effective ways. Importantly, marketing leaders should not forget that poor mobile marketing can harm your brand and your relationships with customers.

Strong Economic Outlook Spurs Marketing Spending

Marketing leaders report their most positive outlook since the recession hit six years ago, according to new results from The CMO Survey. When asked to rate how optimistic they are about the overall U.S. economy on a scale where 0 is least optimistic and 100 is most optimistic, current reports are 69.9 compared to February 2009 levels of 47.7.

This 46% increase is built on related reports that marketing leaders expect all customer indicators to improve in the next year. These include customer acquisition, customer growth (increased volume and increased purchase of related products and services), customer retention, and new customer entering the market. To top off this good news, price is predicted to be less important than superior product quality, excellent service, and a trusting relationship with companies.


Marketers are spending against this positive outlook. Specifically, marketing budgets are expected to increase 8.7% in the next year. Compared to the half of percent marketing leaders reported in February 2009, their confidence in markets is very clear.

What are marketers spending on? This is a four part story. First, digital marketing is expected to grow by 14.7% next year compared to a negative growth rate of 1.1% for traditional advertising (outside of the web). Second, marketing spend on mobile is expected to almost triple from 3.2% to 9% of marketing budgets in the next three years. Third, marketing spend on social media is expected to increase 126% over the next five years, from currently 9.9% of marketing budgets to 22.4%. Finally, marketers will spend more on marketing analytics, which currently account for 6.4% of marketing budgets. This is expected to increase 83% to 11.7% in three years.

Interestingly, hiring in marketing is not growing at the same pace with marketing leaders reporting only a 3.5% increase in marketing hires. One reason for this is that companies are hiring outside agencies and consultants to do some of these marketing tasks. For example, companies currently use outside agencies for 19% of social media activities which is an increase over 17.4% from just one year ago.

Sponsored by the American Marketing Association, Duke University’s Fuqua School of Business, and McKinsey, Inc., The CMO Survey collects and disseminates the opinions of top marketers in order to predict the future of markets, track marketing excellence, and improve the value of marketing in firms and in society. For a complete set of results, visit

Tweet this: Social media important to company performance but difficult to prove

New results from The CMO Survey point to this disconnect. Social media spending is currently 9.4% of marketing budgets and is expected to increase 128% to 21.4% in the next five years (see Figure 1). However, the 351 marketing leaders responding to August 2014 survey overwhelmingly report that proof lags spending and only 15% of marketers report their companies can show the impact of social media using quantitative approaches.

What’s the buzz? Companies experienced a 25% percent increase in sales through the Internet in the last year—from 8.9% to 11.3% of sales. There does appear to be a sizable opportunity in reaching customers through the Internet that underlies this spending push. Consistent with this view, digital marketing, more broadly, is expected to increase 10.8% in the next year, while traditional advertising budgets are predicted to decrease 3.6%. In other words, there is a signal in all this buzz.

Figure 1. Social media spending as a percent of marketing budget


Pinning it down: Demonstrating the effect of these spending increases on businesses remains a challenge. Forty-five percent of marketers have not been able to demonstrate this impact at all while 40% have qualitative proof only. Getting that all-important quantitative proof, which only 15% have, is essential to justifying this spending (see Figure 2).

Figure 2. How companies demonstrate the impact of social media spending


Doing so will likely require more spending on measuring marketing ROI. Survey results indicate that companies spend only 2.3% of marketing budgets on measuring marketing ROI. It will also require companies to rethink the way they approach such measurement. Survey results also indicate that only 11.9% of companies surveyed use experiments—a method that allows marketers to know with certainty what, whether, and to what degree social media spending impacts performance.

Who Has the Biggest Marketing Budgets?

Marketing budgets are rebounding. They are expected to increase 6.7% in the next twelve months according to the February 2014 edition of The CMO Survey. This is a sizable increase over projected increases of 4.3% in August 2013 and a massive boost over the 0.5% increase reported in February 2009. Bounce!

To put these figures in perspective, The CMO Survey reports that marketing budgets represent approximately 10.9% of overall firm budgets. These figures have hovered around this average since this question was first asked in February 2011. On the other hand, marketing budgets as a percent of firm revenues improved to 9.3% from 7.9% in 2013 indicating that marketing budget growth outpaced revenue growth. One question that survey users often ask about these figures is whether or not they include salaries for marketing employees. Analysis indicates that these marketing spend estimates include both employee and non-employee investments in marketing.

I examined all three marketing spending metrics across several firm and industry characteristics. These are summarized in Tables 1-3. As shown in Table 1 across these three indicators, B2C-Product companies have the largest marketing budgets (as a percent of budgets and revenues) and the largest expected growth in marketing budgets across the four economic sectors. I expected a large increase over the B2B companies which may be reaching customers with their own or their channel’s salesforce. However, I did not expect to find B2C-Product companies also dominating B2C-Service companies by 20-30% differences. Would love to hear from marketing leaders in this sector about this differential.



Does Pressure to Prove the Value of Marketing Help or Hurt Company Performance?

Two-thirds of all top marketers feel pressure from their CEO or Board to prove the value of marketing according to August 2013 results from The CMO Survey. Of those, 60% describe that pressure as increasing. These numbers are consistent with the fact that most CMOs continue to find proving the value of marketing elusive. Survey results indicate that only 36% of top marketers report being able to prove the value of marketing quantitatively in the short-run and 31% in the long-run. Demonstrations of the value of social media are even more elusive with only 15% able to offer quantitative evidence for the value of social media spending.

A key question that needs to be asked is whether pressure on CMOs to prove the value of marketing helps or hurts company performance. These are reasonably good arguments on both sides. On the positive side, increasing pressure might make marketers work harder. On the negative side, increasing pressure could make marketers focus on strategies that are easily measured or that only provide short-term boosts so that proof is in hand when the CEO or board comes knocking. This means that instead of designing and selecting strategies that are optimal for company goals, strategies are selected to help marketers defend their spending decisions.

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…)

Do Marketers Know What They Want From Social Media?

Social media spending as a percentage of marketing budgets will more than double over the next five years according to new results from The CMO Survey. Responses from 468 top marketers in February indicate that companies are spending 8.4 percent of their budgets on social media. Over the next year, that number is expected to increase to 11.5 percent, and in the next five years it will reach 21.6 percent.

Looking back to the first time I asked these questions in August 2009, the levels were 3.5 percent of current budgets and expected to increase to 6.1 percent over the next year and 13.7 percent over the next five years. The increase in current spending from 3.5 percent to 8.4 percent alone represents a 140 percent increase in the last 3 years. No other part of the marketing budget has grown so much in such a short amount of time. In fact, during the same time period, traditional advertising has continued to plummet. It was decreasing by 7.9 percent per year three years ago and continues to drop 2.7 percent in the current year.

The dramatic increases in social media spending were universal across different business sectors: B2B-product, B2B-services, B2C-products, and B2C-services. The B2C-product sector, which includes companies such as Procter & Gamble and The Coca-Cola Company, expects the most dramatic increase, from 9.6 percent to 24.6 percent (see Table 1). (more…)

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).

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…)

Marketing Spend on the Rise – Three Trends Worth Watching

Results from The CMO Survey™ (August 2012) contain three indicators that marketing spend is on the rise in companies.

First and the weakest, CMOs reported that marketing spend is expected to grow by 6.4% in the next year. This number is positive, supporting my thesis, but the number is actually down from expected growth of 9.1% from August 2011. Given continued depressed firm growth and slow economic growth, this decrease is not altogether unexpected. It is positive nonetheless.

Second and more telling is the fact that marketing budgets as a percent of firm budgets increased 40% from 8.1% in February 2011 to 11.4% in August 2012. The Figure shows that this percentage has increased steadily over the last 18 months, pointing to the fact that companies are placing a greater emphasis on marketing spend relative to other types of strategic spend.


Figure. Marketing Budgets as a Percent of Firm Budgets

Third, marketing spending as a percent of firm revenues increased 30% from 8.5% in February 2012, the first time The CMO Survey™ asked the question, to 11% in August 2012.