Faced With Economic Uncertainty, Optimism Among Marketers Is at a 7-Year Low

CMO Survey reveals a growing sense of gloom in the industry

The CMO Survey reflects an uncertainty among marketers. Getty Images
Headshot of Diana Pearl

Marketers are feeling less optimistic about their work in the wake of a slowing economy, the newly-published CMO Survey reveals.

The survey, which is co-sponsored by the American Marketing Association, Deloitte and Duke University’s Fuqua School of Business, asked 323 marketing executives about the industry and the sentiments of those working within it. Results showed that optimism among marketers is at a seven-year low, hitting 57 on a scale of one to 100. Fifty-six percent of marketers are feeling more pessimistic about the economy now than they were during the previous quarter.

This is likely because “the largest set of economic voices around them are also pessimistic,” Christine Moorman, who is the director of The CMO Survey and a professor at Duke’s Fuqua school, told Adweek. She added: “It’s maybe more uncertainty that pessimism. Marketers just don’t know what’s going to happen with these larger economic forces.”

This doom and gloom attitude is reflected in the allotment of marketing budgets: Over the past year, the budgets grew only 5 percent, and executives expect hiring to grow by a similar percentage in the next year, too. Another interesting tidbit? Despite the growing buzz around the phrase “brand purpose,” a whopping 81 percent of those surveyed found it inappropriate for companies to take a political stance.

In other revelations from the survey, which is conducted biannually, marketers report that experimentation and analytics are both becoming powerful tools in terms of making marketing decisions. Experimentation is driving a third of marketing decisions, while marketers are using analytics at a higher rate than ever noted in the past six years. Analytics-specific budgets will likely continue to grow throughout the next three years.

Artificial intelligence and mobile spending are also becoming increasingly-used tools for marketers, with spending for the latter having tripled over the past two years.

This growth is in large part because “they finally figured out how to build capabilities around analytics,” Moorman explained. “This year we see a dramatic increase in the degree to which marketers are able to use marketing analytics,” she said. “It’s a really good sign that marketers are finding ways to use these tools that they’re investing so much money in.”

However, something marketers are relying on less is social media. Spending on that category dropped to just 11.4 percent of budgets, according to the survey, which is a decline from recent years.

“One reason may be that despite massive financial investments, social media is rated as contributing only moderate value to company performance,” Moorman said of the social media decline in a release accompanying the survey. “Despite these weak contribution ratings, survey results indicate that companies are, in fact, using social media for brand building, customer acquisition, customer retention, product/service introductions, and customer service.”

@dianapearl_ diana.pearl@adweek.com Diana is the deputy brands editor at Adweek and managing editor of Brandweek.