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CMO and marketing leaders

Latest findings from PwC’s Pulse Survey

CMOs accelerate innovation, roll out new tech — and reimagine marketing

Chief marketing officers (CMOs) aren’t interested in business as usual or in merely closing short-term workplace gaps. They’re looking to the future: rolling out new technologies and ways of working to keep innovation flowing and revenue growing. This broader vision likely reflects the double role that CMOs play in the new world of work. They’re not just responsible for their own teams. They also influence how customers and other stakeholders — including current and potential employees — view their organizations.

As hybrid work spreads, CMOs in our latest PwC US Pulse Survey say their top challenge is the possible loss of innovation opportunities. Challenge number two is cybersecurity — which may increasingly be a prerequisite for innovation. Marketing innovation often requires customer data: data to design and personalize campaigns and to assess a campaign’s effectiveness. Yet customers may hesitate to share data if they don’t trust you. This trust may be lacking if you can’t keep their data secure and private.

Marketing innovation also requires teamwork, the creativity that comes from sharing and improving ideas. In a hybrid and remote work world, this teamwork may not always take place during in-person meetings or in-person mentorship relationships. Instead, effective teamwork may require technology tools that enable collaboration at a distance — as well as tools that put the right data in front of the right people at the right time.

CMOs’ top future-of-work challenges


All
CMOs

Loss of innovation opportunities
%
%
Not having effective cybersecurity measures in place
%
%
Impact of hybrid work on revenue growth
%
%
Loss of our in-person corporate culture
%
%
Loss of mentoring opportunities
%
%
Not having technology tools to support hybrid work
%
%
Determining which groups should be in person, how often and when
%
%
Office space going unused or underused
%
%
Concerns that managers will treat on-site and remote workers differently
%
%
Possibility of returning to 100%-remote work as needed should COVID-19 variants lead to new restrictions or school closings
%
%

Q: To what extent do the following present challenges to the success of hybrid work at your organization? (Responses to ‘Major challenge’)
Source: PwC US Pulse Survey, August 19, 2021: base of 738, CMO base of 84

Why CMOs say talent is jumping ship — and top ways to respond

You might think that money is the most powerful incentive in the job market, but according to CMOs, it’s not. Different from the total sample of C-suite respondents, for CMOs, it’s not better wages/salaries elsewhere that tops the list of reasons why employees leave. Instead, by a small margin, it’s better career advancement opportunities elsewhere. Perhaps because the brand is often part of their remit, CMOs are also far more likely than the total sample (26% versus 15%) to cite brand/reputation as a reason why talent leaves.

This turnover is a grave concern. Fully 100% of CMOs — every single respondent in our survey — report that turnover rates have been increasing. For employee retention and talent acquisition strategies that can mitigate this problem, CMOs’ top choice (cited by 45% of CMOs versus 44% of the total sample) is location flexibility. Choices two and three are expanded career development opportunities (44% of CMOs versus 34% total) and expanded benefits (42% versus 31%).

CMOs believe, it seems, that employees most want professional development and good working conditions. Here too, technology can play a critical role. It can help make flexible work seamless, automate tedious tasks and provide a key element of career advancement: the chance to do innovative, exciting work on data-driven campaigns, supported by the latest marketing technology (martech).

More than money: Why CMOs think their employees are leaving


All
CMOs

Better career advancement opportunities elsewhere
%
%
Better wages/salaries elsewhere
%
%
Better flexibility elsewhere
%
%
Our brand/reputation compared to competitors
%
%
Overwhelming workload
%
%
Better benefits elsewhere
%
%
Work isn’t fulfilling or aligned with values/passion
%
%
Lack of confidence in our executive leadership
%
%
My company has (or will have) a vaccine mandate
%
%
Leaving the workforce altogether for personal reasons
%
%
Seeking work in new location because they moved and we are asking them to return in person
%
%
Managers’ relationships with employees
%
%
Safety concerns
%
%
My company is requiring (or will require) masks when on-site
%
%
Bad company culture
%
%

Q: Data shows that turnover has increased in many industries. Why do you think more employees are leaving your company right now? (Select all that apply.)
Source: PwC US Pulse Survey, August 19, 2021: base of 661, CMO base of 84

Get ready: Here’s what’s about to impact marketing 

CMOs are focused on the future for many reasons, but the top one may be that their responsibilities may be about to change. New products and services topped the CMOs’ list of factors likely to cause a major impact on their marketing organizations. It appears that many companies are no longer primarily focused on supply (and survival), as was necessary in the recent past. Instead, they’re rolling out new offerings to find growth in a fast-changing economy. It’s the CMO’s job to help turn these new products and services into revenue.

Partly to meet this imperative, and partly in response to new workforce needs and pressures, many marketing organizations have reorganized themselves — and many others likely will do so soon. As they reorganize, CMOs should consider an emphasis on becoming more data-driven and agile. As your company rolls out new products and iterates existing ones more quickly than ever, your team will have to continuously launch new campaigns and adjust old ones.

To achieve this agility, some marketing organizations may need a tech upgrade. Artificial intelligence, for example, can help marketers simulate and plan campaigns for products and services that their customers have never seen before. After campaigns have launched, AI can help assess and refine them quickly. The right technology tools can also help fill the talent gap by accelerating automation and by attracting employees who often want to work with the latest marketing technology.

In with the new: What’s making big waves in marketing

New products and services
%
Post-pandemic organizational changes
%
Negative customer/client experience due to staff shortages and/or high turnover
%
Changes in consumer confidence
%
Shortage of marketing talent
%
New growth goals
%

Q: Given the current work environment, what impact will each of the following have on your marketing organization over the next 12 months? (Responses to ‘Major impact’)
Source: PwC US Pulse Survey, August 19, 2021: CMO base of 84

CMOs’ to-do list: top priorities for workplace transformation

How to thrive as ways of working evolve? CMOs’ top answers are marketing technology (including data and analytics) and a renewed focus on the customer experience. These two priorities often connect and may be best treated together. It’s martech and AI-enhanced data analytics that can better enable a personalized, digital customer experience. 

To use AI and other martech effectively, CMOs may need to offer their teams some help. Many marketing professionals find new technology exciting, but they may lack the technology background that would make its use intuitive. CMOs may want to offer digital upskilling and coaching on how to work with advanced analytics and other martech tools. To encourage adoption, consider too, highlighting the opportunities that technology offers — including the opportunity to achieve real-time insights into effectiveness, both to improve campaigns and to prove value to the business.  

A stronger partnership with the business may underlie the next three priorities on CMOs’ list: revenue management and pricing, digital and omnichannel commerce and protecting the brand. Increasingly, modern marketers aren’t just fulfilling commands to promote a certain product or service. They are working hand-in-hand with the business on pricing strategies, omnichannel sales tactics and revenue forecasts.

Martech + happier customers = what CMOs want most

Marketing technology, data and analytics
%
Customer experience, personalization and loyalty
%
Revenue management and pricing
%
Digital and omnichannel commerce
%
Promoting our brand
%
Improving data privacy
%
Data-driven marketing transformation
%
Agile ways of working
%
Telling our environmental, social and governance (ESG) story
%

Q: Which of the following will your marketing organization prioritize over the next 12 months given new ways of working? (Select up to three.)
Source: PwC US Pulse Survey, August 19, 2021: CMO base of 84

Change is coming: plans to make marketing more effective

Workforce transformation offers CMOs a set of opportunities that go far beyond the workplace. If you’re already reorganizing your team, hiring new people and deploying new technology to support hybrid work, it may be the right time to also implement other operational changes. You may be able to accelerate your digital transformation initiatives and become a better partner for the business — a partner whose value is recognized because you have the data to prove it.

In our survey, CMOs’ top plans for operational changes all have to do with digital success: better managing digital assets, more martech and analytics, superior data and identity management, and stronger first-party data strategies. This focus on digital assets and tools is highly justified — and not just by the growth of the digital economy. Just as important, this digital economy is changing. Data privacy expectations are rising and the digital marketing ecosystem is evolving new strategies and tools in response. With changes in third-party cookies and other tools that until recently formed the foundation for digital advertising, for example, many companies must now future proof their customer data strategy

The good news is that if you successfully navigate these new challenges — and our survey indicates that most CMOs have the right priorities — the benefits will be enormous. You’ll likely  have not just productive and engaged employees, but also agile, data-driven marketing that can produce superior, provable results.

Top marketing operational changes for a digital world

Better manage digital assets/content
%
Increase use of marketing automation and technology, including analytics
%
Improve data and identity management to personalize the customer experience
%
Initiate or strengthen first-party data strategies, such as loyalty programs
%
Increase use of external agencies
%
Increase use of in-house offshoring
%

Q: Which of the following operational changes will you implement in the next 12 months to improve marketing effectiveness? (Select up to three.)
Source: PwC US Pulse Survey, August 19, 2021: CMO base of 84

About the survey

Our latest PwC US Pulse Survey, fielded August 2 to August 6, 2021, surveyed 84 marketing leaders from Fortune 1000 and private companies, along with other C-suite executives, about business priorities and decisions they’re making around the future of work. Find all of these insights in our PwC US Pulse Survey.

Next in work: What’s top of mind in the C-suite?

Contact us

Tom Puthiyamadam

Digital Products & Consumer Markets Advisory Leader, PwC US

Samrat Sharma

Principal, PwC US

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