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Marketing Proves Its Mettle During Pandemic; Job Growth Follows Suit

The dust is beginning to settle for marketers who helped steer their companies through marketplace volatility caused by the ongoing pandemic. While the profession took its knocks with job losses in 2020, the forecast is looking brighter moving into 2021. The 26th edition of The CMO Survey, which surveyed 356 marketing leaders, offers an overview of gains and losses and provides timely predictions for the year ahead.

Companies reported that 8.2% of marketing jobs were lost over the last year (February 2020 to February 2021). These numbers are similar to the 9.0% loss reported in the June 2020 CMO Survey, indicating job losses did not worsen over the last six months. Of these losses, 28.1% were senior manager roles. The hardest hit sectors were B2C services (-12.3%), with consumer services (-18.7%) and communications/media (-15.5%) reporting the greatest losses. Last June, the largest portion of marketers (24.0%) anticipated that these lost jobs would “never return.” This number has decreased to 13.1%, indicating more optimism. Likewise, while only 19.9% expected jobs to return “1-2 years from now” in June, that number has increased to 40.2%, again indicating more job optimism.

Marketing job were also added last year—a 9.1% overall increase occurred, with 17.7% of these roles going to senior managers. How are these two facts true at the same time? As I will discuss in detail below, some firms and sectors lost jobs, others added them, and some did both and changed both the mix of skills and seniority of managers.

These marketing job additions are projected to be permanent, with 38.6% of marketers reporting jobs will never return to pre-pandemic levels. One reason for these job additions is the role that marketing has played during the pandemic. Some 72.2% of marketers reported that the importance of marketing in their companies increased during the last year—over and above the June 2020 survey level of 62.3%. The pandemic has also turned up the dial on customer demand for digital experiences—placing marketers in a stronger position to provide strategic direction to their companies and deliver growth against that opportunity.

Companies adding marketing jobs were smaller in terms of number of employees and sales revenues. For example, companies with 50-99 employees added 23% new marketing jobs, while companies with 10,000 employees added only 3%. That likely indicates that larger companies reshuffled priorities, tapped their existing talent bench to handle more responsibilities, and leaned on technology to deliver both growth and efficiencies. Likewise, companies with less than $10M in sales added 14% new marketing jobs while companies with $10B+ in sales added 3%. The sectors adding the most marketing jobs were consumer services (24%), healthcare (18%), education (14%), and tech (14%). The growth in these sectors is hardly surprising to anyone who has been following the news this year.

Looking across job losses and gains at the company level, gains were slightly higher (net job change = 0.9%), but this metric varies quite a bit by sector and company size. Education (10%) and healthcare (9%) rose to the top on net gains. In other sectors, net job gains were not as high, but the high level of losses and gains indicates that the mix of marketers likely changed. This mix reflects increasing demand for digital skills. When asked to report on the digital investments they have made over the last year, marketers reported that optimizing their websites (74%), digital media and search (65%), direct digital marketing to customers (57%), data analytics (56%), MarTech systems/platforms (54%), and online experimentation and/or A/B testing (45%) were most important. As with job additions, net job gains were larger and more positive for smaller companies.

Looking ahead, marketing hiring projections for the next year are very optimistic, reaching 7.6% planned increases for 2021 compared to a few months into the global pandemic in June 2020 when marketers projected a hiring decrease of 3.5% for the year. These figures align with reports from the Bureau of Labor Statistics that the outlook for marketing managers is projected to grow 6% from 2019 to 2029, faster than the average for all occupations. Akin to this past year’s job additions, smaller companies report stronger future hiring—often 10x the level of their large company counterparts. Job seekers should take note. Instead of chasing an elusive role at a big technology firm, they could win a role at smaller companies and build their talent stack there.

The pandemic has given marketers a chance to prove their mettle and serve as a strategic advisor to the C-suite. Numerous analysts have attested to the fast pace of digitization at companies: from developing new digital products and services and testing new business models to streamlining operations. That pace is unlikely to abate, as it has been demonstrated to drive both growth and profitability. Marketing leaders should therefore have an easier time, then, defending budgets and strategies and hiring, training in this environment.

Detailed analysis of these results and a set of companion reports from a pilot of The CMO Survey run in the UK in conjunction with London Business School are available at https://cmosurvey.org/results/. The effect of Brexit on marketing is addressed in the UK results.

Join two upcoming webinars:

  • S. Findings: Join me for an analysis of new findings from the 26th Edition of The CMO Survey on April 21 from 12:30-1:30PM Eastern. To register: http://bit.ly/2Nv72zH.
  • UK Findings: Join me and Nader Tavassoli from London Business School for a discussion of results from the inaugural UK CMO Survey on April 1st at 11:00AM Eastern To register: http://bit.ly/2P6RUsM.

Sign up to participate in the next survey at https://cmosurvey.org/participate/

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