The CMO Survey Blog

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?
Figure-1,-2-14

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.
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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.
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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)

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Marketers to Spend Despite Tumultuous August: Smart, Crazy, Saviors?

While the general public can be accused of having short memories, it doesn’t take much for us to remember the volatility the financial markets experienced in the month of August. Standard & Poors’ downgrade of US credit and a tumultuous battle in the US Congress left many frazzled as their stocks moved in various directions. The words “double-dip recession” inundated the headlines and prognosticators’ outlooks. (more…)