Research: American CMOs Losing The Data Challenge

Almost 20 years after America's chief marketing officers took up the chant of "digital transformation" and "Give us Big Data," just 28% have substantial confidence in their analytics. That's 10 points lower than the global average, according to a new analysis from the GfK/CMO Council study.

Respondents say their organizations are still hamstrung by the lack of talent and budgets, and departmental silos prevent them from getting their hands on the data and insights they need to do their job effectively.

"It was a surprise to us to realize how far CMOs in North America lag behind global CMOs," says Lydia Irving, GfK's vice president for North American sales and commercial strategy. "The U.S. is often seen as a kind of leading light for data. We've got so many great companies with amazing marketing systems."

Almost as surprising, she tells Marketing Daily, is their bleak assessment of the use of AI and AI-driven capabilities. While it's essential for faster insights, only 4% of North American CMOs, and 14% globally, say that AI is either "leading the way" or "used pervasively" in their companies.

Only 48% say their data is readily accessible, 7 points below the global average, and just 8% can quickly transform data into insights, compared to 20% for the worldwide average.

Based on 300 respondents and in-depth interviews, the survey indicates that finding "systems that connect data siloes and boost accessibility" is the No. 1 barrier to effective use of data, named by 64%. And adequate talent and budget are tied for the next most significant problem, at 58%.

Irving says that for all the attention companies have paid to the merits of Big Data, they're still stuck on what to do with it all. "Now more than ever, we have access to just an unbelievable amount of data about consumers' profiles and purchase habits," she says. "But we're not getting the kind of insight from it, or actionability people are looking for."

She thinks the poor marks CMOs give their organizations may indicate a mind shift away from the "more data is better" thinking. "They're focusing more on how to find the data that helps to tell a certain story or support a hypothesis."

The low confidence also reflects the changing cast of characters in the C-suite. "CMOs once worked most closely with chief product officers and the sales team. And the tech people were sort of the oddballs," she says.

To be effective, today's CMOs must work very closely with chief technology and chief information officers. "Even though they have very different mindsets and skillsets, they must work closely together to succeed," she Irving says. "Finding two people from different disciplines who can do that well is probably like looking for a magical unicorn. But it has to happen for CMOs to get the insights they need."

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