CEOs Vs CMOs: Perceptions of Marketing.

In a recent study by Marketo, ADMA and Which-50 into how chief marketing officers (CMOs) view their world in 2025, the authors also took the opportunity to understand how marketers felt they are perceived today and benchmark that against chief executive officers (CEOs).

The bottom line: CMOs are more likely than CEOs to believe marketing is poorly perceived.

‘Colouring-in’ vs Driver of Growth

CEOs provided much stronger responses to positive statements about marketing throughout the study, with far lower responses on negative statements about marketing than marketing leaders themselves.
In fact, on each measure, marketers rated positive statements about marketing more negatively than CEOs and negative statements about marketing more highly than CEOs.
Take, for example, the timeworn view of marketing as “the coloring-in department”. While eight percent of CEOs currently hold this view, 22 percent of their marketing counterparts feel this is how they are being perceived.

Other examples of a divide in the perception of business impact: twice as many marketers (13 percent) as CEOs (six percent) felt they were perceived as mostly event managers.
At the other end of the scale, 81 percent of CEOs view marketing as a driver of revenue growth, compared to 73 percent of marketers.

What factors are holding back marketing maturity?

  1. We need more executive buy-in
    CMO 31%
    CEO 5%.
  2. We need more budget
    CMO 37.5%
    CEO 31.5%.
  3. We need more staff
    CMO 13.7%
    CEO 27.5%

Building Marketing Teams and Budgets

When we asked marketers what was getting in the way of building a better marketing team, budget (28 percent) emerged as the top answer, followed by a lack of management buy-in (25 percent) and too few staff (20 percent).
Interestingly, CMOs are almost six times more likely (31 percent) to identify executive buy-in as the core problem compared to CEOs (5 percent) where CEOs list executive buy-in as a key factor that sets their marketing teams apart.

The skills-gap is an area of both agreement and contention with CEOs doubling-down on the CMO sentiment that staff shortages are a core marketing problem, yet it appears the divide exists in an understanding of what skilled staff cost, with CEOs greatly underestimating the cost of marketing full-time headcount and contractors according to CMOs identified in budgeting questions.

When the attitudes of CMOs and CEOs about new skills are compared, CMOs are much more aggressive in their predictions around the changing skill mix, with one exception: their views around the emergence of machine learning and artificial intelligence are very similar to those of the CEO.
CEOs aren’t quite as willing to let go of traditional marketing skills. They are more likely to rate currently popular skills like social media marketing, influencer marketing, web and app development, and digital marketing more highly.

There is also an evident misalignment on core areas of marketing spend, with the CEOs believing that the three key areas of marketing spend are in paid social, direct marketing, marketing automation and CRM.
This, compared to CMOs who rank search engine marketing, traditional advertising, headcount and contractors as their key areas investment, signals an opportunity for greater connection on business priorities.

Are CMOs Underspending on Technology?

At 45 percent, this was rated as the most important factor with superior skills and executive buy-in also important. The good news is that CEOs and CMOs are in furious agreement on this point — returning exactly the same scores on the tools and technology measure.

CEOs believe that technology accounts for 30 percent of marketing spend. Yet, for marketers, the figure for technology spend is closer to half that, with just 18 percent of marketing budgets being assigned to tech investment. CMOs do however take a keen interest in emerging technologies with CMOs appearing more bullish than their CEO colleagues when it comes to the role machine learning will play in 2025. Over 60 percent of marketers say AI tools will be an important part of their marketing technology stack in 2025, while CEOs are slightly more conservative with only 49 percent in agreement.
CEOs and CMOs are almost in complete agreement that marketing automation, data warehousing, analytics and visualization, content management systems and customer relationship management technologies will feature in their tech stack in 2025.

However, CEOs and CMOs divide at the point of grittier marketing technologies, deprioritizing technologies related to marketing attribution and advanced or micro-segmentation in favour of customer experience management technologies, compared to CMOs.

By 2025 CMOs and CEOs expect to be aligned around the top three priorities: lifetime value, customer retention and marketing-sourced revenue.

For more information on the findings of CMO v CEO: The Perceptions of Marketing or to pre-register for the Marketing 2025 report, contact Marketo directly here.


amardeep kaushal

Blogger, Marketer & Data Analyst.

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