Marketers: No on Politics, Slow on Tech

Results from the most recent CMO Survey.

In the wake of recent school shootings, a growing number of U.S. companies have severed ties with the country’s National Rifle Association, but most chief marketing officers don’t think it’s a good idea for brands to take political stances. That’s a conclusion of the latest biannual CMO Survey, sponsored by the American Marketing Association, Deloitte, and Duke University’s Fuqua School of Business in Durham, North Carolina. Conducted in January, the latest edition received 362 responses from high-level marketing executives.

Only 17.4 percent of respondents think it’s appropriate for their brands to take stances on politically charged issues. “It appears marketers are more concerned about the potential downside to political activism than they are excited about the possible benefits,” says Christine Moorman, a Fuqua professor and director of The CMO Survey.

The survey also found that technology is not a big part of the picture for marketers. For instance, artificial intelligence and machine learning in marketing are moderately important or very important to only 13 percent of firms, though that proportion is expected to increase to 39 percent over the next three years. Similarly, only 8 percent of firms rate blockchain technologies in marketing as moderately or very important. This number is expected to increase to 17.6 percent over the next three years.

In addition, companies currently spend only 5.8 percent of their marketing budgets on analytics. Firms expect to spend 17.3 percent of their marketing budgets on analytics in the next three years, but the survey has not found previously predicted increases taking place. However, Moorman notes that firms are relying on marketing analytics 42 percent of the time to make decisions—an increase of 12 percentage points in the past five years—and more firms are using quantitative tools to demonstrate the impact of spending. Companies currently spend 12 percent of their marketing budgets on social media, more than triple the portion they reported spending when surveyed in 2009. This increase is expected to accelerate, with spending on social media predicted to reach 20.5 percent of marketing budgets in the next five years.

Overall, the field seems healthy, with firms planning to hire 7.3 percent more marketers in the next year. That’s the largest increase since 2012. In addition, marketing budgets grew by 7.1 percent in the last year and are expected to increase by 8.9 percent in the next 12 months. Marketing budgets represent 11.1 percent of overall firm budgets.

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