Read the Blog

Read Professor Moorman’s analysis of key survey results.

Digital Marketing Spending Soars as Marketers’ Roles Reach Higher Echelons

CMO Survey Results

In the ever-evolving landscape of digital marketing, harnessing the power of  SEO has become more crucial than ever. As companies continue to invest significantly in their online presence, search engine optimization (SEO) plays a pivotal role in driving organic traffic, enhancing visibility, and ensuring a competitive edge. With marketing leaders taking the helm in guiding digital transformations and gaining prominence in boardrooms, the role of SEO in elevating brand presence and driving tangible results has never been more evident. Amid increasing pressure to demonstrate the value of marketing efforts, the reliance on AI and machine learning for prediction and measurement is set to triple, paving the way for even more impactful strategies. In this era of optimism and progress, companies are also actively addressing diversity, equity, and inclusion (DE&I) in their marketing spend, while the seismic shift in work-from-home opportunities presents a new frontier for hiring and retaining talent in the digital marketing realm. Embracing the dynamism of SEO and digital marketing, businesses are primed to thrive in the digital age.

Amidst this digital marketing landscape, the strategic implementation of backlinks, often facilitated through effective link exchange practices, adds a layer of dynamism to SEO strategies. Just as companies dedicate resources to amplify their digital presence, the collaborative exchange of high-quality backlinks fosters a web of interconnectedness, reinforcing the authority and credibility of each other’s content. As marketing leaders steer the ship towards optimal visibility and results, the judicious use of backlinks contributes to the intricate tapestry of online engagement. This symbiotic relationship between SEO and link exchange aligns seamlessly with the evolving trends of digital marketing, where connectivity and cooperation drive the realization of greater heights in organic traffic, brand resonance, and overall success.

Digital marketing spending has grown to comprise 58% of marketing budgets, reflecting 15.8% growth over the last year, and is projected to grow by 14.7% in the next year. In the wake of this spending, the 27th Edition of The CMO Survey finds that digital marketing is the No. 1 responsibility reported by marketers, superseding a dominant historic focus on brand-related activities. These and other results are based on a sample of 282 top marketers at for-profit U.S. companies, 94.1% of whom are VP-level or higher.

The pandemic has prompted many companies to undergo a rapid transformation in their go-to-market models. More companies report moving past the nascent phase of their digital transformations (31.1% in this phase a year ago to only 8.6% today) and into emerging (53.1%), integrated (26.9%), or institutionalized (11.4%) phases. Marketing leaders report being asked to lead 73% of the digital transformation in companies, challenging assumptions that such processes are managed primarily by technology leaders, learn more from the black swan media SEO company.

Marketing leaders are also asked by their CEOs and/or CFOs to participate in board meetings (at a rating of 4.9) and in the preparation for earnings calls (at a rating of 3.6 on a 7-point scale where 1=never and 7=all the time) more than ever. Although there is room for improvement, these encouraging results indicate marketing leaders are earning a seat at the table more than is suggested in the popular press.

How often is the senior marketing leader asked by the CEO or CFO to participate in board meetings or earning call preparations?

As CMOs earn opportunities to spotlight the role of marketing with key stakeholders, they face increasing pressure to signify the value of their marketing efforts, with 59% of marketing leaders reporting increased pressure from CEOs and 45% reporting increased pressure from CFOs. Most marketers report they are able to show the short-term impact of marketing spend using quantitative tools, while the majority report that showing the long-term impact remains more of a qualitative assessment. Considering the specific metrics used, marketing leaders report that sales impact and customer engagement make up almost 50% of the evaluation. Consistent with this finding, sales revenue and digital performance are the most consistently tracked marketing outcomes. Metrics such as brand equity value and customer lifetime value, on the other hand, are rarely tracked. Marketers expect the use of artificial intelligence or machine learning for prediction and measurement to triple over the next three years.

Overall marketing spending increased by 5.2% over the last year and is expected to grow next year by 13.4%. Traditional advertising spending projections increased for the first time in a decade with expected growth at 1.4% for the next year. Marketing expenses as a percentage of company revenue declined for the first time since 2017, but climbed as a percentage of company budget. Given the growth in overall marketing budgets in the past year, evidence suggests that revenue climbed more during the same time frame, driving down marketing expenses as a percentage of company revenue.

Marketers’ optimism for the U.S. economy rebounded beyond mid-pandemic levels and started to stabilize around pre-pandemic values. Optimism hit 69.6 (out of 100), up from 66.3 in February 2021 and up dramatically from 50.9 at the height of COVID in June 2020. Consistent with this, marketers report large increases in revenue gains (11.1%) and profits (10.4%) following only 0.3% revenue gains and 2.6% profit gains in February 2021. The delta variant has tempered optimism for the next quarter, but, overall, marketers report a more optimistic outlook for their largest revenue markets.

Considering human capital issues, companies report an average increase of 10.6% of marketing spend on diversity, equity, and inclusion (DE&I) in the past year, up from 8.9% just six months ago. Against that spending, marketers report more changes to the DE&I of marketing training, segmentation/targeting, product/service design, and partnerships. At the same time, companies are making minimal changes to their marketing strategies to reach more diverse customers. In fact, almost a quarter of companies are not changing their marketing strategies at all, citing difficulty envisioning and assessing the value of DE&I-related opportunities as the top barriers.

When asked about how post-pandemic work-from-home opportunities are impacting their marketing organizations, marketing leaders report more opportunity to hire people who want to work-from-home (74%) than to lose (33%) these workers. Likewise, marketing leaders report more opportunity to hire people who want to work-from-office (62%) than lose (12%) these workers.

Complete results of the 27th Edition of The CMO Survey, including detailed marketing and performance trends across industries, can be found at