I had a chance to review the results of an interesting new global study of chief marketing officers (CMOs) by IBM, and I want to comment on some of its findings. Adding to the pressures facing the CMO today are new challenges in brand promotion and the growing impact of consumer sentiment expressed in several channels, including social media. The research found these to be the top two concerns in marketing and that 65 percent of organizations are not prepared to deal with them. My investigations lead me to agree with these findings.

Most of all, CMOs in 71 percent of organizations are unprepared for the current data explosion. Our own benchmark research on business analytics reached a similar conclusion, showing that organizations are still spending the majority of their time in preparing data instead of analyzing it. In a keynote at the recent IBM Information On-Demand conference, Jeff Jonas, chief scientist of the IBM Entity Analytics group, talked about “enterprise amnesia” and how companies are getting dumber, not smarter, with the proliferation of data. Our research over the last decade leads me to a more subtle view on this issue; in general organizations are taking steps forward in their management and use of information, but they are doing so inconsistently. We certainly find room for improvement in organizations worldwide.

As a long-time research analyst I have to admit I was pleased to see that IBM’s CMO study identified market research as the most important source in 82 percent of organizations for influencing strategy decisions, followed by corporate strategy (81%), competitive benchmarking (80%) and customer analytics (74%). For a decade we have been doing market research on issues, buyers and technology to provide benchmarks that organizations can use to compare their efforts to those of their peers and industry. For example, our benchmark on marketing analytics found that only 21 percent of organizations are innovative in the use of analytics; the bulk of marketing organizations still rely on spreadsheets – and not coincidentally, more than half are not satisfied with their analytic processes.

In addition our recent research on customer analytics shows that dedicated technology can help companies generate and understand the right information in this critical area. Our research found that 89 percent of organizations want their analytic processes to be simpler and that critical metrics include customer satisfaction and external metrics – areas where the right tool can resolve issues. The CMO research found that 80 percent of organizations will use technology to deal with the ever larger volumes of data produced by social media, customer analytics, CRM and mobile applications. Our research into big data similarly found exploding volumes of data and the need for new applications for analytics and insights. Looking ahead, CMOs in the IBM study said the most important measures of marketing success will be ROI on marketing spend, the customer experience and conversion rates for new customers.

This research by IBM provides significant validation of our firm’s independent and objective voice. I do not often comment on market research done by other firms since it is hard to validate their methodology and quality review. One indicator of whether quality controls are applied to market research is if the final report does not specify how many qualified respondents and organizations are included in the research compared to all those who participated. IBM interviewed marketing executives personally, so I doubt this is an issue here. Its survey provides some findings that any CMO should reflect upon. My own research relevant to CMOs covers other areas not addressed here, including demand generation, digital automation of inbound and outbound promotion of brands, and promotion of products and services across the Internet. Considering that IBM acquired Unica as I assessed to address some of this area, I was surprised not to see much on this marketing area of focus in the research, along with aspects of managing customer feedback across multiple channels including live and digital ones.

Despite these gaps, the IBM research has some thought-provoking data points on the pressures consumers and customers are exerting on CMOs. More than ever they must consider how to keep the public engaged and be timely in their organization’s actions to promote brands, increase awareness and create opportunities for their company’s products and services across multiple channels, including social media, as the volumes of data keep steadily increasing. All this – and the new methods for accessing information and giving feedback via smartphones and tablets – will keep CMOs on their toes for years to come.

Regards,

Mark Smith – CEO & Chief Research Officer