“It has been over a century since our world has faced a pandemic of Covid-19’s magnitude. The socio-economic disruptions triggered by the virus will continue for upcoming months and a “new normal” for business seems likely to be in the long run. As an organizational activity, business function and profession, marketing sits at the epicenter of corporate responses to these challenges as companies shift their go-to-market activities.”

   ~ Christine Moorman, T. 

Austin Finch

CMO Survey 2020 – a survey of around 300 top marketers of US companies produced and conducted by Deloitte, Duke University’s Fuqua School of Business, and the American Marketing Association (AMA) shed light on how the coronavirus crisis has impacted the marketing strategies of prominent brands. It states about how this pandemic has reformed the landscape for marketing organizations across a range of industries. One of the most vital key findings: because of the total collapse of in-person marketing engagement due to the lockdowns, customers are now considerably more open to new digital offerings and experiences from the brands, more interested towards companies’ efforts to promote social good, and more deliberate in their consideration, purchasing, feedback and loyalty behaviour. These disruptions have led to comprehensive shifts in marketing tactics and investments within departments as leadership is scrambling to adapt to a new and an absolute uncertain future.

Let’s have a look at some of the key findings of the CMO Survey:

Top reported customer priorities according to the June, 2020 CMO Survey. Christine Moorman/CMO Survey

Customers prioritize trusted relationships. Marketers expect that customers will place a higher value on “trusting relationships”, as 29.3% are expecting it will be customers’ top priority. Most of the marketers surveyed expect customers to focus more on “trusting relationships” with brands and companies than on low price, despite the economic slowdown.

Around 80% of CMOs believe customers are paying closer attention to the social activism, outreach and investments of companies during pandemic, and will reward brands that represent their values with greater loyalty in the long run.

Online and digital are essential. According to the survey, online sales have grown 43% between February and May, 2020, accounting for 19.3% of all sales --- marking a trend in more companies selling online. Small companies (with less than 500 employees) are taking full advantage of selling online at 26.1%. The emergence of doing business online has made consumers significantly more open to digital offerings and experiences - a shift that marketing executives believe will persist even after the pandemic recedes. This suggests that efforts in digital marketing will command a greater share of total marketing spending moving forward, even if overall marketing budgets shrink around 10% next year, as many of those surveyed expect.

Social media is a critical brand-building tool. As marketers emphasize on building brand trust and loyalty to attract and retain customers, companies are more and more using social platforms as a vital engagement tool.

Brands are using social media for brand awareness and attracting and retaining customers much more than for market research, engaging employees, or other social media pursuits. Marketers stated that 7.5% of their marketing spending is assigned to online influencers, mostly on Company blogs, LinkedIn, Instagram, and Facebook, and that they are anticipating large gains in the use of influencers in the next few years (up to 12.7%). Marketers reveal a clear prioritization of mobile website optimization (70.1%) over app creation and maintenance (29.9%).

84% of CMOs are using social media for brand building and more than 54% have used it for customer retention during this pandemic.

Social media used for various purposes according to the June, 2020 CMO Survey. Christine Moorman/CMO Survey
Marketing budget for social media according to the June, 2020 CMO Survey. Christine Moorman/CMO Survey

That’s reflected in a 74% increase in social media marketing budgets since February 2020 – a rise from 12.3% to 23.2% of total marketing budget. That shows an important shift in the perception of value of social media among marketing leaders, reversing a sceptical trend that’s persisted for the past few years.

Agility and Improvisation will lead to success. The COVID-19 pandemic caught everyone by surprise, including marketers. The economic downturn has already resulted in a 9% reduction in marketing jobs with more likely to follow. The largest majority of marketers (24%) anticipate these jobs will never return, with 19.2% of marketers expecting these jobs to return in 6-12 months and 19.9% expecting them to return 1-2 years from now. This suggests that the departments will have to do more with less. Marketers revealed that marketing employees are being assigned to work for the online promotion of the company, developing new promotional strategies, and reaching out to existing customers. 

Marketing Employees' tasks during the pandemic according to the June, 2020 CMO Survey. Christine Moorman/CMO Survey

The pandemic also drove home the importance of agility and resilience in the face of unforeseen events. Most of the marketers considered themselves and their organizations unprepared for the events that emerged, and expect to invest more in training to develop improvisational/ pivoting skills, innovation, creative thinking and managing uncertainty within their workforce.

Marketers also believe that they missed some opportunities, suggesting their organizations have not taken full advantage of market research, customer acquisition opportunities or new engagements, and may have been too conventional in their willingness to experiment with new tactics and approaches.

Marketers’ key objectives during the pandemic are building brand value that connects with customers and retaining current customers, more than improving ROI or even customer acquisition. Considering marketing opportunities, marketers shift resources toward building better customer-facing digital interfaces, transforming their business models, expanding into new offerings, and building partnerships over new markets, new capabilities, new automation, and data integration. Marketers believe these strategies will be noteworthy long-term opportunities for their companies.

Marketing objectives during the pandemic according to the June, 2020 CMO Survey. Christine Moorman/CMO Survey

Overall, marketers are considering the pandemic as an opportunity to demonstrate value to their organizations, especially in industries that are desperate to rebuild customer engagement in a world where traditional in-person channels are significantly curtailed.

Based on these findings of the survey, we can say that if marketing organizations learn the lessons from the past few months, we will see greater investments in digital outreach and digital experience, more social engagement around contemporary issues and values, and more internal importance on creativity and experimentation in the months and years to come.

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