CMO and marketing leaders

Latest findings from PwC’s Pulse Survey

Tailor tech for sustained, customer-focused solutions

Marketers take pride in their creativity, curiosity and eye for innovative solutions. CMOs want to be change leaders, understanding the need to differentiate the brand to capture market share. They’re increasing investments across the board to get there. But they may need to temper their expectations — 90% of CMOs cite achieving measurable value from adopting new technologies as a challenge to transforming, according to our August 2023 Pulse Survey.

Today’s complex market requires smarter, data-driven decisions that focus on the customer and demonstrate a strong ROI. CMOs can team with other C-suite leaders to find sustained solutions that can benefit the marketing function and drive overall value for the business.

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Show incremental growth to justify customer-focused investments

Only 21%

of CMOs plan on cost cutting in the next 12 to 18 months, despite financial uncertainty

The CMO is the company’s brand steward charged with the challenge of understanding the ever-changing consumer. Focusing on this goal, marketing leaders are targeting investments in customer attraction, growth and retention. At the same time, CMOs are being asked to do more with less. And when 40% of board members and 37% of CFOs say they plan cost cutting in the next 12 to 18 months, CMOs need to continue to drive ROI-oriented discussions and demonstrate the value of their work. 

This means focusing on meeting changing customer expectations and providing a personalized experience that attracts and retains them. But only 35% of CMOs strongly agree that they effectively personalize to attract customers, and 49% strongly agree that they effectively personalize to retain customers.

New technologies aren’t a silver bullet, but more than any other strategic priority, businesses are embedding them to drive future growth. For marketers, these investments can help reach customers, shape demand, lower the cost of acquisition and increase conversion. Despite their optimism and appetite for business reinvention, 90% of CMOs say the cost of new technology poses a challenge to transforming, and 63% worry that new technologies will make the current business model irrelevant. That may help explain why 57% are increasing investments to refine these models. 

In an attempt to balance their increased spending, marketing leaders may be looking to AI and other technologies to find efficiencies. More than half (54%) are increasing investments in marketing AI use cases, and 43% strongly agree that generative AI (GenAI) will support new business models in the marketing function over the next 12 to 18 months. While changes need to be made to keep up with the evolving business environment, CMOs may need to step back and evaluate their position.

What you can do

  • Focus on fewer, better investments. Identify the appropriate use cases for technology to help you scale, and engage marketing employees in upskilling for long-term strategic potential.  
  • Concentrate on customer attraction. Balancing company values and capabilities can help attract fiercely loyal customers who advocate for your brand. 
  • Turn loyalty into a growth and retention engine. If CMOs are increasing loyalty budgets, identify the audiences that can drive growth, understand them better and use this knowledge to better engage with them.

PwC Pulse Survey: Business reinvention PwC Pulse Survey: Business reinvention

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Strengthen marketing strategies with the right technology


of CMOs say embedding new technologies into their business model is their company’s highest strategic priority in the next 3 to 5 years

Technology is moving at a rapid pace, and it’s creating a myriad of new opportunities for the marketing function. Now it’s up to the CMO to pinpoint which technologies and applications can help move the needle on customer transformation strategies. From capturing a story to analyzing data, advanced technologies can help address customer needs in new ways. 

Second to introducing new revenue streams (29%), one in four marketing leaders say embedding new technologies is their company’s next highest strategic priority in the next three to five years. CMOs say they’ve already used marketing technology for customer journey orchestration (46%), data analysis and insights around marketing performance (44%), and data analysis and insights enabled by artificial intelligence (40%). 

These technologies can enable marketers to do more with less by: 

  • Freeing up capacity to focus on higher value areas by automating routine work

  • Diving deeper into your data, tying together insights better and faster

  • Allowing your employees to concentrate on the consumer, delivering more personalized and enhanced customer journeys

Critical to success is having a team that is trained on new technologies. Forty percent of CMOs say training existing employees on new tech will pose a significant challenge over the next three to five years, but more than half are decreasing or just maintaining investments in marketing talent, recruitment and upskilling (9% and 43%, respectively). CMOs need to achieve more with fewer training dollars. 

What you can do 

  • Consider how the technology you’re investing in can help pay for itself. Robust data can strengthen your business case, so be sure to measure your performance and create benchmarks that show the value of your strategy. 
  • Communicate how the marketing function impacts your company’s bottom line. 
  • Work on balancing your short- and long-term marketing investments — it is key to growth and lasting value.
  • Cultivate trust with the customer. Earning and maintaining trust can improve your company’s bottom line. Embed trust into the design of your marketing tech initiatives from day one.

PwC Pulse Survey: Business reinvention PwC Pulse Survey: Business reinvention

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Demonstrate the value of marketing to your C-suite peers

Only 54%

of CMOs strongly agree that the value of marketing is understood by key decision makers

Fears from the previous Pulse Survey may be manifesting themselves. In November 2022, 89% of CMOs said they believed their budget would be cut before other departments. Looking at today’s survey, these cuts may be coming to fruition. And CMOs may be trying to get ahead of it. They’re instituting hiring freezes and rescinding offers more than nearly all of their C-suite peers. But it’s difficult to be reinvention-ready without a strong workforce.

Marketing leaders are keenly aware they need to prove their value. As they look to the broader C-suite, only 54% of CMOs strongly agree that the value of marketing is understood by key decision-makers. At the same time, about half (49%) strongly agree that they’ve formed meaningful relationships across the C-suite. 

When it comes to demonstrating value, CMOs should consider teaming with the CFO. Finance leaders have long used technology to demonstrate ROI, drive cost savings and find efficiencies. Now they’re jumping on the latest innovations to strengthen these abilities and help shift the business from cost cutting to value creation. CMOs can glean knowledge from their finance peers on how to build more sophisticated budgeting models. By viewing the customer as an asset, not a cost, CFOs and CMOs can collaborate to focus on investments that yield sustained value while maintaining the customer experience, a key combination for the long-term success of the company.

What you can do 

  • Make sure you have the right talent to support the marketing function given your company’s strategic business goals.

  • Build trusted relationships with C-suite executives and show them the value you bring to the company. This idea extends beyond internal stakeholders as external collaborators can help solve challenges and build prosperous business relationships.

  • Improve your budgeting with tools gathered from your colleagues in finance.

PwC Pulse Survey: Business reinvention PwC Pulse Survey: Business reinvention

About the survey

Our latest PwC Pulse Survey, fielded August 1 to August 8, 2023, surveyed 609 executives and board members from Fortune 1000 and private companies about the current business environment, the risks executives are facing and their company’s strategic plans and priorities. Of the respondent pool, 68 were CMOs.

Contact us

Jon Glick

Jon Glick

Principal, Customer Transformation and Loyalty, PwC US

Samrat Sharma

Samrat Sharma

Marketing Transformation Leader, PwC US

CJ Bangah

CJ Bangah

Principal, TMT Customer Transformation Consulting, PwC US

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