With brands around the world disrupted by the coronavirus pandemic, and marketing budgets being squeezed, a major new study has identified a new group of Chief Marketing Officers who are pioneering the fight for recovery.

The study from Dentsu International, which incorporates data from 1,361 CMOs across 12 markets, concludes that the number one challenge for brands is to understand and respond to the ways the pandemic will have long-term effects on consumers’ behaviour.

This challenge is compounded by the fact that two-thirds, or 62%, of those surveyed say their budgets will be cut or flat over the next year; that figure increases to 82% for smaller brands. And despite the unparalleled challenges brands face, half of CMOs say they plan to employ recovery strategies taken in previous recessions, with only one in ten saying they expect to adopt entirely new strategies.

Six out of ten CMOs surveyed say their businesses have been significantly affected by the pandemic, with 7% – nearly all CMOs of smaller businesses – saying the effects of the crisis represent an existential threat to their companies. 

But, more hopefully, a quarter of brands report the pandemic has had minimal disruption to their businesses, and 10% say the pandemic has actually been helpful – this figure rises to 24% in India.

The study, “Into the Unknown” identifies an emerging group of what it dubs “Frontier CMOs” who are “reclaiming the strategic agenda through product development in particular”.

This group is well placed to manage the recovery, say the authors, because they are focused on a small number of vital strategies, which set them apart from the rest.

They are developing superior consumer intelligence; rapidly developing new messaging, products and services; integrating all elements of the marketing mix; building resilience across brands through M&A, and ensuring that purpose permeates all aspects of the business.

Frontier CMOs are also significantly more likely to be accountable for digital transformation than other CMOs, says the report, “proving their value and impact to company boards as they navigate the future of their business and industry”.

Wendy Clark, CEO, Dentsu International, said: “Our survey reveals there is a risk that CMOs are still using existing approaches to manage a challenge that is without precedent.

“However, we also see a new cadre of Frontier CMOs emerging who are leading their organizations into the unknown with confidence. These CMOs are putting consumer intelligence at the heart of their brands, matched by deep integration across all elements of the marketing mix and radical collaboration as a default across their business,” she added. 

Sourced from Dentsu