The CMO Survey Blog

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

CMO Optimism, Confidence, and Company Growth Strategies

Results from the February 2014 edition of The CMO Survey, a biannual survey of marketing leaders, offer strong evidence that markets are on solid footing. CMO optimism for the U.S. economy reached its highest point in five years. Asked to rate their optimism about the overall economy on a 0-100 scale where 100 is most optimistic, CMOs reported an average score of 66.1 which is nearly 20 points higher than a low score of 47.7 in February 2009 (see Figure 1). This optimism occurred across all sectors, ranging from manufacturing to biotech and consumer packaged goods.

Figure 1. How optimistic are you about the overall U.S. economy on a 0-100 scale with 0 being the least optimistic and 100 the most optimistic?

Underlying this optimism are improvements in key customer metrics such as increased entry of new customers into the market, increased customer acquisition, increased purchase volume, and increased customer retention. These top marketers also predict that customers’ top priority over the next twelve months will be a focus on product quality, not on low price. This shift indicates a belief that consumers are ready to spend again and are less interested in cost savings.

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…)

Bulls, Bears, and CMOs: Predicting the Future of Markets

From reading the press, I think it’s fair to say that we look to members of the financial sector to tell us where the economy is going. These soothsayers read the tea leaves using metrics like interest rates, capital expenditures, unemployment and stock market reactions. This is all well and good, but it is incomplete. I think it is also wise to tap into the collective wisdom of marketing leaders who have their fingers on the pulse of the market’s biggest engine—customers.

In the February 2013 CMO Survey, 468 U.S. CMOs rated their optimism for the economy on a scale of 0 (lowest) to 100 (highest). The average score was 62.7, which is up from 58.4 in August 2012. This ~10% increase is important but a set of follow up questions tells us even more. Specifically, CMOs were asked to state whether they were “more optimistic,” “less optimistic,” or “no change” compared to the prior quarter. In August 2012, results indicated that uncertainty was rampant with about one third of the sample more optimistic, another third less optimistic, and the final third no change (see Figure 1). Results of the February survey indicate that CMOs who were more optimistic increased from 29 percent of the sample in August 2012 to a whopping 56 percent in the current survey! This 93 percent increase offers a very strong signal that economic uncertainty is fading. (more…)

Economic Pessimism and Strong Company Performance Promote Risk in Growth Strategies

The August 2012 CMO Survey finds that company growth strategies will take on more risk in the coming year. Looking at Table 1, we can see that there two types of risk familiar to marketers—targeting new markets and offering new products or services. Combining these two, there are four general types of strategies that range from market penetration, which is the lowest risk because the company targets current markets with current offerings, to diversification, which is the highest risk because the company targets new markets with new offerings.

Table 1. Types of Growth Strategies

Similar to past CMO Surveys, growth spending over the past twelve months reflects a dominant focus on market penetration with an average of 51.7% of spending focused on this strategy. This is followed by product/service development (22.8%), market development (15.7%), and diversification (9.7%). However, as shown in Table 2, these figures are expected to shift significantly in the next twelve months. Growth spending on market penetration is expected to drop by 11.6% to 45.7% while all three of the other strategies are expected to increase by nearly 10% or more! These changes are consistent with a longer-term trend The CMO Survey has observed during this post-recessionary period.

CMOs on the U.S. Economy: No Rebound in Sight

New results from The CMO Survey are in and they ain’t pretty. Two key findings reflecting top marketers’ views about the economy stand out. First, Chief Marketing Officers (CMOs) expressed doubt about the outlook for the U.S. economy. On a 100-point scale where 0 is least optimistic and 100 is most optimistic, ratings dropped from a post-recession high of 63.4 in February 2012 to a score of 58.4 in August 2012. Figure 1 shows this trajectory over time. The greatest pessimism lies among business-to-business companies which dropped from an overall optimism score in February 2012 of 60.2 to a low of 53.6 in August. Business-to-consumer companies also decreased, but only from 63.8 to 61.5.

Figure 1. CMO Optimism for U.S. Economy (0-100 with 0 being the least optimistic)


CMOs on Economic Recovery: A Look at the Long Climb Out

While going through my students’ resumes before class, I read one that listed “stair climbing” as a competitive sport. I had never heard of this, so I looked it up and found a well-established world-wide network of races. You can, for example, climb the Empire State Building and Gran Hotel Bali. Doing well requires strength, sprint, and endurance. If you are really good and perform well in the 100+ races around the world, you could win the Towerrunning World Cup.

All this talk of climbing made me think it would be interesting to plot the economic recovery using data from The CMO Survey. I plotted several key financial metrics as reported by The CMO Survey between August 2009 and February 2012 in Figure 1. What a beautiful sight! Steady and significant improvement over the course of 2.5 years to where we are today. These numbers are in response to the question, “Rate your firm’s performance during the last 12 months.”

Top Marketers See U.S. Economy on the Rebound

The results from The CMO Survey are in and one fact is very clear:  Chief Marketing Officers are overwhelmingly optimistic about the U.S. economy’s outlook. When asked if they were more or less optimistic about the overall U.S. economy compared to last quarter, optimists outweighed pessimists 8 to 1. (more…)

A Fast Boat to China: Notes on Marketing

The CMO Survey reported that China will be the focus of the most dramatic increases in U.S. company sales revenues in international markets during the next 12 months. When asked to list the top three international markets for sales growth, approximately 20% named China. (more…)

What Customers Want

The CMO Survey asks top marketers to rank order the following factors in terms of their importance to customers: low price, superior product quality, superior innovation, trusting relationship, excellent service, and brand. The specific question is “For your largest market, rank your customers’ top three priorities over the next 12 months” where 1 is most important. I charted these responses over the last three years to get a sense of how priorities have shifted, especially during these tough economic times. (more…)