Need-to-Know Trends from the Latest CMO Survey

October 14, 2021

Each year since 2008, The CMO Survey has been released to showcase marketing efforts being made across top companies and help others optimize their strategy. Founded by Marketing Strategy Researcher Christine Moorman, The CMO Survey is used to “predict the future of markets, track marketing excellence and improve the value of marketing in firms and in society.” In today’s blog we’re sharing insights on marketing trends from the 27th edition of The CMO Survey, which features data from nearly 300 top marketers at for-profit U.S. companies across various industries. In addition, Orange Label experts weigh in on what’s happening in the marketplace from their perspective.

Marketing Trends

One key takeaway from the August CMO Survey? Marketing leaders are taking on more responsibilities in today’s ever-changing climate and increasingly being asked by CEOs and CFOs to pull up a chair in board meetings and earnings calls. Leading the digital transformation at 73% of companies, marketers are playing a larger role at smaller companies and wearing more hats. This year, digital marketing spend and, of course, social media continued to top budgeting charts. 

Digital Marketing Spend

Another interesting takeaway from the Survey is that traditional advertising spending increased for the first time in 10 years and is projected to grow at 1.4% for the next year. Unsurprisingly, digital marketing spend continued to grow in 2021. With the goal of driving business outcomes, such as increased revenue and sales, digital marketing spend reached 58% of marketing budgets, an increase of 15.8% over the last year. Leading areas of investment included website optimization, digital media/search and data analytics while privacy, machine learning and apps were a weaker focus. 

When considering how to allocate traditional and digital spend in your marketing budget, Orange Label President Rochelle Reiter shares that it doesn’t have to be an either/or strategy, but rather a mix of both. “It’s all about finding a balance of spending on a variety of marketing initiatives that are carefully chosen to meet your objectives. The majority of our clients use the power of a media mix. One of these clients includes Southland Credit Union, who utilizes avenues including outdoor advertising, social media, content and digital media to reach audiences across Los Angeles County and Orange County,” Rochelle says. 

Congruent with these statistics, Orange Label clients expanded their online presence this year with DGSHAPE Americas enlisting the team to add a new website tab for its newly launched 3D Printer and Greenwell Farms establishing an Amazon storefront. Other digital capabilities that have been high on our list of recommendations and projects this year include search engine marketing with SEO-integrated blogs and landing pages, programmatic display ads and over-the-top (OTT) media. With the continued rise in streaming services, the power of OTT is in its ability to provide more targeted buying toward specific users demographics versus blanket buys on TV channels. 

When it comes to data analytics, the Orange Label team became attuned to the market demand for this throughout the years and in 2019 added a Data Analytics Manager to the team to offer clients even more in that realm. “By having a designated person who thinks differently and is passionate about getting to the “why” behind numbers, we can make smarter, faster decisions and recommendations and therefore increase our clients’ ROIs,” Orange Label Client Services Director Michelle Komala shares. 

2021 Marketing Trends Infographic

Social Media Marketing 

While the amount of money spent on social media has dropped below the historic high reached in June 2020, The CMO Survey finds that spending on mobile and social media will increase at an even more rapid pace in the next five years. A powerful tool in reaching consumers, business to consumer (B2C) companies reported that mobile and social media marketing have become a pillar in their companies’ success. Pew Research Center finds that roughly seven-in-ten Americans use social media, a finding that it says has remained relatively stable since 2016. 

The best way to connect with target audiences on social media is to reach them where they spend their time. Sharing the value of brands having a social media presence on relevant platforms, Orange Label Social Media Specialist Samantha Hernandez lists common goals and key performance indicators (KPIs) as: 

“Social media strategy is also dependent on what clients’ goals are–so for a client that wants to increase brand awareness we would focus some more attention on impressions and video views,” Samantha explains. When it comes to current social media opportunities, video is still on the rise as an effective form of content.

With the global launch of Instagram Reels and Instagram Video rolling out, brands have another way of reaching new audiences and growing their following. Share on X

“With the global launch of Instagram Reels and Instagram Video rolling out, brands have another way of reaching new audiences and growing their following,” Samantha says. In terms of retail, there’s opportunity to utilize the power of social media as an online shopping platform as well. 

Email Marketing 

Fourth on the list of top digital marketing spend is email and direct digital marketing with 78.3% of B2C services investing in it and 86.7% of retail/wholesalers. A well-known player, email marketing allows brands to cover more bases, especially when outside apps strike out due to issues like technical difficulties or disconnected servers. 

Allowing brands to cover more bases, email marketing is a well-known player that won’t be benched. In fact, like many digital marketing tactics, it’s advancing more each year with progressing technology. “In this past year, we have worked on projects that automate more than just the simple welcome email when subscribing to a list. CRM [customer relationship management] strategies have become more complex as the technology advances and brands are looking for ways to constantly be top of mind with their customer and fill their needs,” Michelle says.  

Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DE&I) Marketing 

The CMO Survey from February and August 2021 report large strides made on diversity, equity and inclusion (DE&I) marketing spend across the business to business (B2B) and B2C sectors. Of this, the top investing sectors include banking, finance and insurance at 20% and consumer packaged goods (CPG) at 17.9%. The majority of companies (67.9%) consider DE&I as a priority, however the Report finds that on average, “companies are making minimal changes to their marketing strategies to reach a more diverse set of customers.” When asked about barriers to bringing DE&I into marketing strategies and decision making, the majority of CMOs cited difficulty assessing and envisioning the value of DE&I-related opportunities, lack of good DE&I decision making processes to drive strategy and difficulty designing effective DE&I-sensitive actions. 

“We have seen an uptick in Diversity and Inclusivity initiatives this year,” Rochelle shares. “One example of this is our client, Bixby Land Company. We worked with their team to formalize Bixby’s Diversity and Inclusivity initiative this year with the development of a dedicated committee, additional messaging statements and a video on their website.” 

From social media spending to prioritizing diversity and inclusion efforts, the latest CMO Survey offers insights to inform, optimize and even transform your marketing strategy. As strategy is definitely not a one-size-fits-all, the Orange Label team is always here to help you define a marketing strategy that directly reflects your company’s goals – with new case stories recently released, take a look at our client work, here! For more takeaways from The CMO Survey and to hear directly from its founder, Christine Moorman, tune into our upcoming podcast episode of The 19 in which we have an exclusive interview with her. Sign up for our newsletter below so you don’t miss it! 

Written By: Michelle Komala
Contributors: Damien DalliAnnie SvitakLily Rice

Recent blogs

Filter by

Get our content

The best two emails you receive each month – our 19-minute or less podcast and our marketing blog. If you love ‘em, let us know. If you don’t, easily unsubscribe! (And let us know, we love feedback.)