IBM Study: The 4 key challenges that CMOs everywhere are confronting

CMO IBM Study ad agencies

As CMOs struggle there is a window of opportunity for ad agency new business. 

A new IBM study of more than 1,700 chief marketing officers reveals that most CMOs are well aware of the changing marketing landscape and the need to make fundamental changes to traditional marketing methods of brand and product marketing.  But they are struggling to respond. Their unpreparedness to manage these key changes in the marketing arena presents a great opportunity for advertising agencies, PR firms and digital shops. But, only if they are prepared to lead.

The study’s findings point to four key challenges that CMOs everywhere are confronting: 

  1. The explosion of data – 90% of the world’s data today has been created in the last two years alone.
  2. The rise of social media – 56% of CMOs view social media as a key engagement channel
  3. Channel and device choices – The growing number of new marketing channels and devices, from smart phones to tablets, is quickly becoming a priority for CMOs.
  4. Shifting demographics – New global markets and the influx of younger generations with different patterns of information access and consumption, are changing the face of the marketplace.

The Importance of Social Media

This study reiterates the importance of social media and the need for agencies to be better positioned as leaders in this evolving consumer engagement channel. Currently very few of the global or regional advertising agencies can claim a leadership position within this space.

Carolyn Heller Baird, CRM research lead for the IBM Institute for Business Value and the global director of the study, likens marketers who underestimate the impact of social media to those who were slow to view the internet as a new and powerful platform for commerce.

The inflection point, created by social media, represents a permanent change in the nature of customer relationships … Like the rise of e-business more than a decade ago, the radical embrace of social media by all customer demographic categories represents an opportunity for marketers to drive increased revenue, brand value and to reinvent the nature of the relationship between enterprises and the buyers of their offerings.”

CMOs identify customer relationships as one of their top priorities. They recognize the impact of real-time data and social media supplementing traditional methods of marketing and gathering market feedback, but they remain stuck in traditional approaches. Missing another opportunity to lead, agencies haven’t been receptive to social media and slow to understand its relevance.

“Marketers who are receptive to social media and the insight it provides will be far better prepared to anticipate future shifts in markets and technology.”

Additional insights from this study:

  • 78% of CMOs expect more complexity over the next five years, but only 48% are prepared to deal with it.
  • 82% of CMOs say they plan to increase their use of social media over the next three to five years, only 26 % are currently tracking blogs, 42 percent are tracking third-party reviews and 48 % are tracking consumer reviews to help shape their marketing strategies.
  • 63% of CMOs believe return on investment (ROI) on marketing dollars spent will be the most important measure of their success by 2015. However, only 44 % feel fully prepared to be held accountable for marketing ROI. 
  • Less than half of the CMOs surveyed have much sway over key parts of the pricing process and less than half have much impact on new product development or channel selection. 
  • 56% of CMOs view social media as a key engagement channel, but they still struggle with capturing valuable customer insight from the unstructured data that customers and potential customers produce.
  • CMOs still focus primarily on traditional sources of information such as market research and competitive benchmarking and 68% rely on sales campaign analysis to make strategic decisions.
  • Four-fifths of respondents plan to use customer analytics, customer relationship management (CRM), social media and mobile applications more extensively over the next three to five years.
  • 75% of CMOs believe marketing must manage brand reputation within and beyond the enterprise.

The IBM 2011 CMO Study Video News Release:

Click the following link to access the full 2011 IBM Global CMO Study

Additional articles that may be of interest:

photo credit: ibmphoto24 via photo pin cc

About Michael Gass

Consultant | Trainer | Author | Speaker

Since 2007, he has been pioneering the use of social media, inbound and content marketing strategies specifically for agency new business.

He is the founder of Fuel Lines Business Development, LLC, a firm which provides business development training and consulting services to advertising, digital, media and PR agencies.


  1. Michael,

    I attended an incredible CMO Roundtable event in Atlanta today hosted by IBM. Carolyn Heller Baird, the CMO Study Global Director, shared details and insights from the report. This is an amazing report and it should be required reading for any CMO, those working with a CMO and anyone like me, that markets to CMOs I’m not yet working with.

    Thanks for sharing information about the report. And especially now that I have one myself, I recommend to anyone reading this that they follow that link you provide and get their own copy of the full report.

  2. Thanks for adding your insights Billy. Very much appreciated.

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