Marketing resiliency, adaptability and reliability on show in this year's State of the CMO

The fifth annual edition of CMO's research gauging the state of modern marketing leadership has been released

Perceptions of resiliency and adaptability are higher than ever across Australia’s marketing leadership fraternity. Yet the stature of marketing as a business leader and partner have declined since the first months of rapid customer and product innovation in the Covid-19 global pandemic.

These are just a couple of the top-line findings from the fifth annual edition of the State of the CMO research program, CMO’s ongoing and comprehensive report into marketing leadership. The research initiative explores how Australian marketing chiefs are evolving both in terms of functional role and team, as well as their contribution to business.

To do this, our report looks into key aspects of the CMO position and marketing function, encompassing the professional standing of the modern marketing leader, their technology procurement and influence, functional responsibilities and remit, extent of influence as a digital and customer custodian within their organisations, skills and priorities.

On a positive note, resiliency and adaptability are both prized and on display across CMOs. Nine out of 10 marketers this year rate their resiliency a 4 or 5 out of 5, and 51 per cent give their adaptability prowess full marks. Across the board, leadership scores are up year-on-year including commercial acumen, which more than one-third of CMOs rate as a five out of five.

Marketing budgets also aren’t as bad as you’d think. Just shy of half of State of the CMO 2021 respondents have seen marketing budgets increase compared to pre-Covid levels (48%). One in five say budgets remain the same, while just over one in four saw some decline. The primary way of approaching the marketing budget is rolling year-on-year (37%), followed by activity or program-based (34%),

However, while marketing’s stature lifted during the early months of the Covid-19 crisis in 2020, these views had dipped in our 2021 survey. During the height of Covid, 42 per cent of CMOs claimed to be perceived as business leaders, but this had dropped by 10 per cent in the latest findings. More than half of respondents cited increased pressure from the board and CEO to prove marketing’s value over the last 12 months.

An ongoing challenge is arguably CMO tenure. State of the CMO 2021 shows median CMO tenure is sitting at 3 years 2 months, up slightly from 2 years 11 months reported in 2020.

One of the fresh questions asked this year was which cross-functional counterparts CMOs see as marketing’s biggest champions versus challengers across the organisation. Top of the list of advocates as the CEO/managing director (56%), followed by sales and business development (29%).

By contrast, the biggest functional roadblock is the information technology (25%), scoring above legal/risk/compliance (19%) and operations and supply chain (19%).

And cross-functional collaboration is vital as customer experience becomes the key to competitive advantage. This year’s report showed customer lifetime value’s (CLV) importance is growing, with 17 per cent of CMOs using forward-looking metrics to prove performance to the CEO/board. In addition, 32 per cent specifically using CLV to prove marketing’s value.

CMOs also remain the most common ownership of customer experience across organisations, with four in 10 reporting direct ownership this year, on par with our 2020 results.

It’s clearly content and technology are critical in driving these customer connections. More than half of respondents increased in-house content production capabilities in the last year, and 43 per cent of marketing leaders are using customer data platform (CDP) technology to support their ambitions. More than half also have dedicated technology for customer management in place (57%).

First launched in 2017, State of the CMO provides a valuable benchmark on what it means to be a CMO in today’s market and how the role continues to transform and expand. This year’s report is based on an online survey, undertaken between May – May 2021, which garnered 138 responses.

To access the full complimentary State of the CMO 2021 report, click here

Editor's note: The original version of this story and whitepaper incorrectly noted CMO tenure for 2020 as 3 years 11 months, instead of the correct figure of 2 years 11 months. This has been updated in this article and in the whitepaper.

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