August 12, 2020



A new study by the WFA, in partnership with research agency 2CV and 28 national advertiser associations around the world has highlighted the need to look beyond the cult of the CMO as the person with ultimate wisdom in all the complex areas that now affect the role. 

Marketers typically have responsibilities ranging across an average of nine distinct areas, from marketing strategy (79%) through to data ethics (34%), business growth (58%) through to sustainability (37%). Team capabilities, and the softer skills needed to effectively lead, are increasingly critical for an ever-expanding remit. 

The CMO Conundrum and the Search for the Unicorn Marketer, which involved responses from 683 senior marketers as well as in-depth interviews with marketing leaders at blue-chip brands such as AirAsia, Airbnb, Aston Martin, Diageo, Mastercard, Nissan and Unilever is the most international attempt yet to identify what will ensure marketing can thrive in companies of all geographies. 

Many of these areas were also expected to become more important over the next five years, with 80% predicting that sustainability would grow in importance, 77% predicting a rise in the need to manage digital martech and platforms and 74% expecting data ethics to become more important. A further 73% expect data analytics to become more important, with 72% expecting customer experience/centricity to become an increasingly vital component of their work.

Alongside these specific areas, 71% of respondents also agreed that ‘general business acumen beyond marketing’ is an important skill and 82% agreed that “cultural sensitivity” is important. Top mentions for softer skills were curiosity, energy, passion and flexibility, all cited by 91% of respondents.  

“The CMO is not dead, they are just being reborn in a new form. The truth is that the CMO is more important than ever as the conductor of the orchestra of marketing experts, both internal and external, both local and global. Soft skills are even more important than data understanding in ensuring the all elements of the team are working together for the common good,” said Stephan Loerke, CEO of the WFA.

“Marketing is going to be very much the same but in a very different way,” said Ivan Pollard, SVP, Global Chief Marketing Officer at General Mills.

Whilst the report does highlight some of the marketing profession’s failures to demonstrate value to senior colleagues, only 20% agree that the role of CMO won’t exist in 10 years’ time.  

In highlighting the critical role of teams, the report also reveals the increasing importance of soft, people-skills needed to manage both cultural differences between regions and markets, as well as the interaction between central organisations and local market teams.

European marketers put more value on short-term growth and sales, while in Asia they put less emphasis on the breadth of sills. In the Americas brand purpose and collaboration are all over-indexed, while the Middle East and Africa marketers put more emphasis on leadership, digital skills and innovation.

“Prioritising the diversity of ideas in marketing teams and providing the mechanisms for new ideas to be both heard and taken forward is key for marketers to succeed in continuing to deliver value and growth to both their business and customers,” said Sabine Cronick, Managing Director UK, 2CV.

Finally, the report also highlights the power of marketing as a source of internal and external change. Purpose has been much talked about over recent years but the CMO is perfectly positioned to track consumer sentiment and help the wider business respond or even lead changes that benefit the wider community.

Eighty-four percent think marketing should transcend business goals and have a positive impact on wider society and 92% agree that “using data in an ethical way is vital for the sustainability of digital marketing”.

“This excellent WFA study is a treasure trove of insights on the conundrums faced by marketers all over the world. I really recommend people not only read it, but actively discuss it with their teams and their Executive, in an effort to answer these critical questions in a way that’s right for their organisations. I am pleased the WFA is, once again, stepping up in service of improving growth for businesses and its leaders,” said Syl Saller CBE, Chief Marketing and Innovation Officer at Diageo.

Download your report:




Global DEI Census 2023

Global DEI Census 2023

💪Starting next week, you can help reshape the #marketing and #advertising industry for good: Wednesday March 15 we launch the Global DEI Census 2023, a 15-minute anonymous questionnaire through which we look at the state of #diversity, #equity and #inclusion in the...