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Marketers Report More Optimism About U.S. Economy

  • CMO survey finds improved optimism among marketers at smaller U.S. companies
  • Respondents say marketing has taken on greater importance in their company, with significant investment on digital services
  • Companies show more willingness to take a stance on politically charged issues, but shy away from the most controversial matters

Summary by Dirk Langeveld

Marketers are reporting increased optimism about the United States economy, and also anticipate that their profession will take on a more prominent role in their company over the next year.

The CMO Survey was issued in February and collected 356 responses from marketers at for-profit companies with between 50 and 10,000 employees. Fifty-five percent said they were more optimistic about the economy than in the previous quarter, up from a low of 8 percent in June and 18 points higher than in February 2020.

Seventy-two percent indicated that marketing has taken on a more important role in their company over the past year. Although marketing spending plummeted during the COVID-19 pandemic, dropping an average 3.9 percent, the typical respondent anticipated a 10.1 percent increase in spending over the next year. Average expectations include a 14.3 percent boost in digital marketing, 9.5 percent increase in brand building efforts, and 0.2 percent decrease in traditional marketing efforts.

Companies typically increased their spending on digital marketing during the pandemic by an average of 11.5 percent. Seventy-four percent of marketers said their company had optimized its website, while 65 percent had improved their digital media and search efforts and 57 percent invested in direct digital marketing.

The survey results showed a greater focus on offering a superior product or service and improving customer experience. Marketing priorities included building building better customer-facing digital interfaces, transforming go-to-market business models, and expanding by offering new products/services. However, there were also significant increases in new automation technologies to improve communications with customers, improving data integration to allow end-to-end customer tracking, expanding into new geographies and segments, and engaging in mergers or acquisitions.

Marketers were more likely to say their company was willing to take a stance on politically charged issues, with 28 percent saying it was appropriate to do so – up 10 points from June and February 2020 surveys. However, companies continued to shy away from the most controversial stances, with just 1 percent saying it was appropriate to support a particular candidate and 3.5 percent saying it was appropriate to support a campaign.

The vast majority of respondents – 93 percent – thought it was appropriate for their marketing efforts to urge customers to vote. A total of 43.5 percent thought it was appropriate for their company to support a specific piece of legislation.

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