Quantitative Proof of Marketing Spend’s ROI Still Eludes CMOs

February 21, 2014

This article is included in these additional categories:

Brand Metrics | Business of Marketing | Marketing Budgets | Return on Investment

DukeCMOSurvey-Measuring-Biz-Impact-Marketing-Spending-Feb2014There’s been plenty of discussion of late concerning marketing ROI – or at least marketing’s ability to prove it – and new survey results from the latest edition of The CMO Survey indicate that not much has changed in the past half-year or so. According to the Duke Fuqua School of Business study, only 35.7% of CMOs feel that they can prove the short-term impact of marketing spend quantitatively. Even fewer (28.6%) can prove the long-term impact on a quantitative basis. Those figures are roughly the same as in the prior edition of The CMO Survey, released in August 2013, in which 36% felt able to prove the short-term impact and 32% the long-term impact.

Those are sobering figures in light of research indicating that the vast majority of marketers believe that proving marketing ROI will only become more important in the next year.

To be fair, about half of the CMOs responding to this latest survey say they have a good qualitative sense of the long- and short-term impact of their marketing spend, leaving fewer than 1 in 4 without the ability to demonstrate any impact. But the sense is that it’s the quantitative proof that’s needed in order to ease the pressure to prove marketing’s value.

Interestingly, when segmenting the responses by company type, the survey reveals an outlier among respondents: B2C product companies. Among these, some 65% say they’re able to prove the short-term impact of marketing quantitatively, making these CMOs almost twice as confidence as the survey average on this level. And while they’re less enthusiastic about their ability to prove the long-term impact of their spending (39.5%), they’re still more confidence than the others on that basis, too.

Whatever their method of arriving at this figure, CMOs responding to the survey estimate that marketing ROI increased by 3.4% during the prior 12 months, which is slightly above estimates in prior surveys (which have been in the 3-3.2% range for a couple of years). And for the most part, their estimates regarding the performance of various brand metrics (customer acquisition, customer retention, and brand value) have remained steady.

CMOs are also setting themselves some hefty goals for the next year: they’re hoping to increase their marketing ROI by 5.3%, representing a 56% increase from their actual estimated performance during the prior 12 months.

That may be the result of an uptick in confidence regarding marketing’s excellence. In this latest survey, about 6 in 10 rated their company’s marketing excellence as a top-3 box score on a 7-point scale (where 7 is the top rating). With a mean rating of 4.7, this survey’s results are a step up from last year’s surveys, where the mean rating was 4.5.

About the Data: The CMO Survey is conducted online twice a year. The latest survey was fielded from January 14 to February 4, 2014. The survey had 408 respondents, of whom 88% were VP level or above.


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