As US companies face escalating inflation, ongoing supply-chain challenges, job market uncertainty and the threat of recession, marketing executives report dwindling confidence in the US economy, and for many, shrinking marketing budgets, according to The CMO Survey released September 13.
The twice-yearly survey, which was fielded in August, includes responses from 273 marketing leaders at for-profit US firms and was sponsored by Duke University’s Fuqua School of Business, Deloitte LLP and the American Marketing Association.
Overall, about 66% of marketers said they were less optimistic about the third quarter of 2022 compared to the second quarter. Only 12% of marketing executives said they considered themselves more optimistic about the third quarter. Executives in the health care sector were the most optimistic (63%), likely due to the boom their businesses experienced during the pandemic.
“These levels of optimism are still well above the low point reported in the midst of the pandemic in June 2020, when more than 85% of marketers were less optimistic looking at the coming quarter,” said Christine Moorman, Fuqua marketing professor and founder and director of The CMO Survey.
Declining optimism and inflationary pressures have influenced a substantial portion – 42% of companies – to cut their marketing budgets, the data showed. Still, 41% of companies noted that their budgets remained steady. Several sectors appeared to be insulated from economic pressures: companies in the education, energy, transportation and professional services sectors were more likely than average to not feel the squeeze.
Marketers said inflationary pressures are most likely to result in increased prices (65% of companies). Only 13% reported making layoffs, pointing to the continuing tight labor market, the survey showed.
While some companies reported reducing marketing budgets, the survey indicated that marketing spending now comprises an average of nearly 14% of overall company budgets – an all-time high since The CMO Survey began in 2008.
“The pandemic accelerated the investments companies were making in digital marketing,” Moorman said. “This increase in the relative importance of marketing in companies reflects a trend we have seen throughout the pandemic – marketing has gained visibility and importance as companies have had to invent new ways to reach their customers and clients during this challenging period. Consistent with this, marketers report their companies are further along the digital marketing journey than they were last year.”
The size of marketing organizations grew by about 15% over the past year but is expected to drop to 7% growth in the next year, reverting closer to growth rates reported before the pandemic.
Remote work is now prevalent across industries and economic sectors: nearly 58% of marketing teams report working from home at least some of the time and nearly half (48%) say they’re exclusively working from home.
“While marketers report no concerns about productivity, they do report worrying that the company culture and the socialization of young marketers have weakened,” Moorman said.
Spending on analytics as a percentage of the marketing budget hit an all-time high of nearly 9% of marketing budgets. Marketing analytics is now being used in nearly half of all marketing decisions, rising from 38% just before the pandemic.
Companies have also made good progress connecting marketing analytics to company performance, Moorman said.
“We expect to see analytics continue to rise, enabling teams to defend investments and make more precise decisions across the marketing landscape,” he added.
Other notable findings:
- 30% of marketing leaders report their companies would use their brands to take a stand on politically charged issues — a CMO Survey high, up from pre-Covid levels of about 19%
- 50% of companies say they are returning to face-to-face channels to sell, 41% are using social media to sell products and about 11% say their previously face-to-face channels have become digital
- companies expect their use of artificial intelligence or machine learning to grow by 166% in the next three years as they use these technologies to optimize and automate their marketing efforts
A detailed analysis, including longitudinal trends and insights across industries, is available at cmosurvey.org/results.