Tuesday, March 17, 2009

What Are CMOs Thinking?

MARCH 17, 2009

“How the heck can we…”

There are a lot of tough jobs in the current downturn, but high on the list must be chief marketing officer (CMO). A CMO’s job is to keep products moving—even in an economy where practically nothing is moving.

To find out how top marketing officers around the country are dealing with adverse economic conditions, Duke University’s Fuqua School of Business and the American Marketing Association (AMA) conducted the “CMO Survey” in February, a poll of nearly 600 US marketing executives.

What they found out could help you in your business.

To begin with, of course, none of them were very happy.

The survey found that 59% of marketers were less optimistic about the economy than they had been one quarter before. Amazingly, though, that is better than when the survey was conducted in August 2008. Then, 77% of respondents were less optimistic.

“While marketers in general remain unexcited about the economic situation, it is encouraging to at least see that pessimism is not increasing among the marketing community,” said Christine Moorman of Fuqua. “This could either indicate that marketers think the worst times are behind us, or they have simply adjusted to operating in an adverse environment.”

When the CMOs were asked about the first customer priority for the next 12 months, price dominated.

The marketers expect marketing spending to remain almost flat this year, growing by only 0.5% over the next 12 months. But where they are spending their limited marketing dollars is changing.

They anticipate a more than 7% decrease in traditional advertising and increases of about 10% in both Internet marketing and new product introductions.

CMOs are turning to new and often unproven strategies that focus on the Internet, partnerships, new markets, and new products and services to keep their companies moving forward.

Business-to-consumer marketers are making even more significant shifts to the Internet, for both product and service advertising.

“The shift is part of a broader movement to the Web and social media as key ways to reach customers,” said Ms. Moorman. “However, it also reflects marketers’ hopes for improving return on marketing investment with a cheaper and more effective set of tools.”

When the CMOs were asked to identify firms across all business sectors that excelled at marketing, Apple, Procter & Gamble and Coca-Cola topped the list. Some things don’t change.

Related research, released late last year, from the Verse Group and JupiterResearch (now folded into Forrester Research), found that 87% of US CMOs believed branding initiatives needed to be more flexible.

Not only that, 63% of them believed traditional brand positioning and advertising were losing their effectiveness. In fact, many felt traditional advertising was “broken.”

Looking ahead to this year’s marketing priorities, the CMOs ranked greater marketing accountability as most important, followed by finding a better way to manage brands across multiple platforms.

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