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CMOs on road to recovery, but challenges ahead: Dentsu survey

Understanding how Covid-2019 will lead to permanent changes in consumer behaviour is key

NEW DELHI: Today, CMOs find themselves at a critical juncture in determining the future of their brands. As they chart the course of recovery and rebuild their fortunes, they are facing a fresh set of challenges, a new survey by Dentsu has revealed.

The survey comprising 1,361 CMOs across 12 markets analyses how, despite a period of unforeseen disruption, CMOs are reclaiming the strategic agenda with a particular focus on product development. More than 450 CMOs from Australia, China, India, and Japan were surveyed.

The study finds that despite the general advice that brands should not ‘go dark’ during periods of economic slowdown, nearly two-thirds (62 per cent) of CMOs said that their marketing budgets are forecast to decline or remain flat over the coming 12 months. As a reference point, in Dentsu's 2019 survey 41 per cent of CMOs forecast this level of decline in their budgets.

Pessimism is running rampant in Australia as it predicts a significant decline (36 per cent) in marketing budget. Japan anticipates that budgets will stay flat (29 per cent vs global average 22 per cent). By contrast, positive sentiments are high in China where the budget is predicted to increase 56 per cent in the coming year.

But the number one challenge facing CMOs is not marketing spends, rather, it is understanding which consumer behaviours will change permanently and which will fall away in the post-Covid environment. CMOs report that there is the added difficulty of aligning the business around changing consumer needs quickly enough and falling consumer spend.

The report also flags concerns that half (49 per cent) of CMOs concede they are basing their response to the coronavirus crisis on strategies that were pursued during previous recessions. Globally, just one in ten CMOs are looking at entirely new strategies. In the Asia Pacific, nearly half (46 per cent) in India are using ‘completely’ similar strategies to those pursued in previous recessions, compared to 17 per cent global average. China once again bucks the trend, with only 6 per cent doing so.

However, exceptional times call for exceptional thinking, and a handful of resourceful individuals are staying ahead of the curve by cultivating a new brand of marketing leadership. According to findings, “Frontier CMOs” are well placed to manage the recovery and are doing so by focusing on a handful of key strategies that set them apart from the rest: 

Hyper-empathy: Developing superior consumer intelligence
Hyper-agility: Rapid development of new messaging, products and services
Hyper-collaboration: Integration across all elements of the marketing mix
Hyper-consolidation: Building resilience across brands and through M&A
Hyper-transparency: Ensuring purpose permeates all aspects of the business
Frontier CMOs are also significantly more likely to be accountable for digital transformation than other CMOs, proving their value and impact to company boards as they navigate the future of their business and industry.

“The Covid-2019 global health crisis has yielded an incisive economic downturn that creates an unknown and largely unpredictable environment for CMO's to navigate,” said Dentsu global CEO Wendy Clark. “However, we also see a new cadre of Frontier CMO's emerging who are leading their organizations into the unknown with confidence. These Frontier CMO's are reclaiming the strategic marketing agenda and, instead of buying into the idea that marketing’s role has somehow been denuded, they’re now leading their brands to recovery and growth.”

Dentsu Asia Pacific CEO Ashish Bhasin added: “With every disruption comes its own sets of winners and losers. It is crucial for CMOs to keep up with the new skills required in today’s new world to ensure success in the discontinuity. We are right in the midst of a change and this is exciting.”

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