As Marketing’s Importance Rises, CMOs Plan Budget Expansion

March 30, 2022

Senior marketers in the US continue to feel that their roles have increased in importance, per the latest edition of The CMO Survey. Roughly 2 in 3 (67.9%) surveyed in February reported that their roles have taken on new significance over the past year, a figure broadly similar to results from the February 2021 survey.

Not too surprisingly, respondents from the Healthcare (84%) and Consumer Services (83%) sectors are among the most apt to believe that their roles’ importance has increased. Healthcare marketers’ priorities have shifted as a result of the pandemic, while Consumer Services marketers are dealing with changes in consumer behaviors, including in spending patterns.

Events the world over are causing marketers to stay focused on present day matters: the senior marketers surveyed are putting a heavy emphasis on spending their time managing the present as opposed to preparing for the future of marketing.

Alignment with Finance Leaders Climbs; So Do Budgets

CMOs have historically had a tenuous relationship with the Finance department, but this latest edition of The CMO Survey suggests that the tide might be turning. In fact, almost 8 in 10 marketers surveyed rated the alignment between the marketing and finance leaders at their organization on goals, strategies, and tools/data as a top-3 box on a 7-point scale (where 7=very highly). This is up from fewer than two-thirds (65%) who reported the same in the year-earlier survey.

With marketers feeling increased pressure to prove their worth to the CFO, better alignment is likely a key step in securing larger budgets. And in this respect, there’s good news, per the report. The results indicate that marketing spending grew by an average of 10.3% over the prior year, the first time in the survey’s 10-year history that a double-digit growth rate had been achieved. (The previous high was 7.5%, as witnessed in the August 2018 edition.)

Furthermore, the senior marketers surveyed expect their overall marketing spend to expand by another 13.6% in the year ahead.

Which Areas Are Set to Benefit from Spending Hikes?

Senior marketers are expecting budget expansion across all areas surveyed, though some stand out more than others. One such is traditional advertising, which has in recent years been almost exclusively earmarked for budget contractions. In fact, in the prior 20 editions of the survey, respondents expected a coming-year increase in traditional advertising budgets just twice. One of those was the most modest of expectations (+0.6%, in February 2017), while the other was in the most recent survey, in August 2021 (+1.4%). In this edition, expectations have been hiked to a new level, with senior marketers now predicting a 2.9% increase in traditional advertising budgets in the year ahead.

One goal for which traditional advertising excels is branding, and it’s likely no coincidence that brand-building budgets are on the rise. Compared to the past 12 months, senior marketers expect that their brand-building budgets will climb by a hefty 11.8%, which the report notes is a “historic high.”

Of course, the biggest budget hike is reserved for digital marketing (+16.2%), which has seen its importance climb during the pandemic, although marketers are still looking for ways to improve their performance.

Other Findings:

  • Despite confidence in marketing budgets, the survey finds that for more than half of marketers, R&D spending exceeds marketing spending, with R&D budgets on average 7.2% larger than marketing budgets.
  • On average, marketers spend 14.7% more on acquisition than retention budgets.
  • Marketers report spending 13.3% of their budgets on mobile activities, down from a high of 23% in the special COVID edition of this survey fielded in June 2020.
  • Likewise, social media’s reported share of budget (15.4%), though consistent with the past couple of editions of the survey, is down from its pandemic high of 23.2% in June 2020.
  • Marketers report that on average, 5.6% of their budgets involve the use of any type of influencer strategy, down from 7.5% in June 2020.

About the Data: The results are based on a January-February survey of 320 top marketers at for-profit US companies, 96.6% of whom are VP-level or above.


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