Gartner survey: CMO spending hit by COVID-19

With marketing budget taking a hit from the pandemic, marketers are shifting priorities to brand building, finds latest analyst firm report

Brand building is now a priority over analytics, personalisation and martech, according to the 2020 Gartner CMO spending survey.

It’s in the top three strategies of the CMO playbook, with the uncertainty and economic turbulence from COVID-19 bringing brand awareness and relevance to the fore.

“We are seeing successful brands take action that is authentically connected to their brand strategy and value proposition,” said Gartner vice-president analyst for marketers, Ewan McIntyre.

Analytics is still in the list of top strategies, although it's has fallen in usefulness, yet the survey found marketers continue to struggle to build even rudimentary analytics capabilities. Personalisation, another previously strong strategic priority, has lost emphasis in 2020. Garner said this finding supports its prediction that 85 per cent of marketers will abandon their personalisation efforts by 2025 due to a lack of ROI and the perils of customer data management. 

Martech utilisation is an ongoing challenge for CMOs, as marketers report using only about half of their martech stack’s full capabilities.

“CMOs believe technology will help them navigate through difficult times and recover faster, and thus will continue to shield these investments, like customer data platforms, mobile marketing platforms and digital commerce, from further cost efficiencies,” said McIntyre.

Digital is another area which has been significantly affected by COVID-19, with the pandemic accelerating the plans of many organisations. In 2020, investments in paid, owned and earned digital channels account for almost 80 per cent of multichannel budgets, with digital advertising and search advertising taking nearly a quarter, social marketing and website topping the list.

The CMO Spend Survey 2020 was conducted with more than 430 marketing executives in North America, UK, France and Germany from April to May 2020 and tracks the critical areas marketers are investing in and where cuts are being made from people, programs and technologies. 

In terms of budget, while they have been hit in 2020, three-quarters of CMOs reported they will increase spending on digital advertising and 66 per cent expect to increase spending on paid search. “CMOs should tread lightly with their expectations for paid media in the months ahead, as solid investments are likely to weaken as economic challenges following the global pandemic persist,” said McIntyre.

Finally, the Gartner report said CMOs should plan for future budgetary pressures now, rather than gamble on budgets bouncing back. “The brands that succeed in uncertain times are those that recognise the change around them and adjust to it, rather than wait for things to go back to normal," McIntyre said.

"CMOs need to build a plan that sets out the costs that can be eliminated, the essential costs that must be shielded and the costs where greater efficiency and ROI can be delivered.”

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