The CMO Survey: Few Marketers Think Brands Should Take Political Stances

February 20, 2018
Latest CMO Survey focuses on marketing analytics

Less than one-fifth of marketing leaders think it is appropriate for their brand to take political stances, a new survey finds.

Firms expect to hire more marketers than at any time since 2012, amid a focus on having the right talent in place as a means to drive growth.

These are among the latest findings from The CMO Survey. Conducted biannually since August 2008, and sponsored by the American Marketing Association, Deloitte and Duke University’s Fuqua School of Business, it is the longest-running survey dedicated to understanding the field of marketing. The latest edition, conducted from January 9 to January 30, received responses from 362 top marketing executives.

Only 17.4 percent of marketing leaders said they think it is appropriate for their brand to take a stance on politically-charged issues.

“It appears marketers are more concerned about the potential downside to political activism than they are excited about the possible benefits,” said Christine Moorman, a Fuqua professor and director of The CMO Survey. “In an era when CEO activism is more common than ever, this will be something marketing leaders should expect to grapple with much more frequently.”

The survey also found artificial intelligence and machine learning in marketing is moderately important or very important to only 13 percent of firms. But that proportion is expected to increase to 39 percent over the next three years.

Similarly, only 8 percent of firms rate the use of blockchain technologies in marketing as moderately or very important. This number is expected to increase to 17.6 percent over the next three years. 

“I expect that both blockchain and machine learning technologies will become powerful marketing strategy tools in the next decade,” Moorman said.

Firms plan to hire 7.3 percent more marketers in the next year, the largest increase since 2012. Marketing leaders report having the right talent is the most important driver of growth within firms, more important than having the operating models, technology or data.

“I don’t think talent is at top of every CMO’s agenda,” Moorman said. “Survey results do indicate that spending on training and development has increased. However, I would say more can be done to attract, enable, and retain marketing talent. Simply put, if firms want to grow, talent should be a mission critical priority.”

Companies currently spend 5.8 percent of their marketing budgets on analytics. Firms expect to spend 17.3 percent of marketing budgets on analytics in the next three years but so far, the survey has not found previously predicted increases taking place.

“More important than spending, reliance on marketing analytics to make decisions has increased from 30 percent to 42 percent of the time in the past five years,” Moorman said.  “The number of firms using quantitative tools to demonstrate the impact of spending has increased 28 percent over the last five years. This is an important trend and should bode well for marketers looking for a seat at the boardroom table.”

Companies currently spend 12 percent of their marketing budgets on social media. That’s more than triple the proportion seen when the survey first asked about it in 2009.  This increase is expected to accelerate, with social media spending predicted to reach 20.5 percent of marketing budgets in the next five years.  

Other findings include:

  • Marketing budgets grew by 7.1 percent in the last year and are expected to increase by 8.9 percent in the next 12 months. Marketing budgets represent 11.1 percent of overall firm budgets.
  • Spending on digital marketing is expected to increase by 15.1 percent over the next year, while spending on traditional advertising is expected to fall by 1.7 percent. 
  • Seven percent of marketing budgets was spent on mobile marketing, expected to increase to 13.5 percent in three years.

For more analysis of the results, including business-to-business and business-to-consumer breakdowns, visit

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