Upskilling: Top priority for the CMO today

In an exclusive survey conducted by IMPACT, an overwhelming majority of CMOs affirm that upskilling is the key priority for them in the post-COVID world

e4m by Srabana Lahiri
Updated: Jul 15, 2020 8:34 AM
Upskilling

What’s top of mind for the CMOs of leading brands, navigating their way through the post-COVID landscape? Upskilling and adapting to new technology, it turns out, with a majority of 19 out of 30 CMOs we approached – i.e., 63% – giving it a vote of 10/10 as part of a broad survey of leading marketers conducted to find out how they see themselves taking on the challenges of the post-COVID world. The pandemic has brought in a rapid digital transformation of businesses, that was in slow mode earlier, and it is up to the CMO to move with it in real time, by learning and getting used to new technology. If this was somewhere on the horizon even earlier, the respondents of IMPACT’s CMO survey have actually come out and said it loud and clear.

The task before CMOs is also to make the consumer buy their brands; but how big a fear is the limited buying power of the consumer? Very big, it appears, going by the results of the survey. Two respondents gave this survey point a clear 10/10 rating to voice their fear, while an overwhelming majority of the CMOs – 22 (73.3%) out of 30 – have rated it between 7-9, presenting it as a major concern.

Marketers have also shown cautious optimism about the return of advertising spends on TV and Print to pre-COVID levels in the next few months. While no one gave a rating of 10/10 to this survey point, 20 out of 30 CMOs (66.67%) have overall rated it between 7-9 on a scale of 1 to 10.

How we conducted the survey

We approached CMOs of 30 leading brands with a survey designed to understand their priorities in terms of keeping the brand relevant, advertising spends, work-life balance and tackling the digital fast-forward. We gave them 10 key survey points and asked them to rate each on a scale of 1 to 10. Here are the survey points:

  • Upskilling and learning, adapting to new technology is vital for the new age marketer.
  • A big fear for marketers will be the low spending power of consumers post the lockdown.
  • Brands can weather the current conditions by creating relevant content.
  • Brands will be seen as more human after the pandemic.
  • Cost and time to turn around projects will reduce by more than 50%.
  • There will be a clear shift in the client-agency relationship.
  • Print and TV advertising will regain their share of ad pie in a few months.
  • Non-essential, premium and luxury brands would need to re-invent themselves.
  • Work from home or travel only when required will become the new normal.
  • People will give more time to themselves and their families, ensure a better work-life balance.

Finally, we tabulated and analysed the CMOs’ ratings to come up with the survey results, presented here.

Upskilling & learning, adapting to new technology vital for new age marketer

An overwhelming 63% of the CMOs polled, i.e, 19 out of the 30, believe upskilling, especially adapting to new technology, is vital for the new age marketer, navigating his or her way in the post-COVID environment – they have rated it 10 on 10. Another 23%, i.e., seven more CMOs, have given it a rating of 9. As transactions have moved to the virtual space, and social distancing has mandated newer methods to allow people to experience brands, marketers have to rely on technology in a big way, be it to decode data, use artificial intelligence to simulate experiences and drive efficiencies in marketing, deploy chatbots to interact with consumers, etc. They are evidently on a mission to go to market with more knowledge.

A big fear for marketers will be low spending power of consumers post the lockdown

Marketers are indeed worried. Though only two of the CMOs surveyed have given voice to their fear with a 10/10 rating to this survey point, an overwhelming majority of the respondents – 22 (73.3%) out of 30 – have rated it as a major concern. Seven (23.33%) CMOs have rated it 9, 9 (30%) have rated it 8 and 6 (20%) have rated it 7. The opportunity for the CMO lies in identifying the new demands of the post-lockdown economy and catering to them, mainly providing low contact, digital/phygital solutions and treating the customer with care and concern.

Brands can weather the current conditions by creating relevant content

Eight CMOs out of 30 surveyed – i.e., 26.6% - have reiterated the role of creating relevant content around their brands in marketing, by giving it top rating of 10/10. Five CMOs (16.6%) have given it a rating of 9, while nine of the respondents (30%) have given it a rating of 8. In a situation where advertising has slowed down and stores aren’t open for people to try and test brands, creating the right engaging content can help marketers gain leads and customers. Content that connects to what’s on people’s minds and provides them useful information, for instance a DIY video relevant to a search, or interesting story-telling, is obviously on the marketer’s mind.

Brands will be seen as more human after the pandemic

While 70% of the CMOs surveyed give a fairly high rating to the humanisation of brands post the pandemic, just four out of the 30 respondents – i.e, 13% - gave it a 10/10. Eight CMOs (26.67%) rated it at 7 while another eight (26.67%) rated it at 8, and a set of five CMOs (16.67%) rated it at 9 – together they make up 70.1%. With lockdown affecting sales and consumers suffering high stress on account of the spreading virus and impacted finances, brands have to assume a more nuanced approach to marketing, making themselves more relatable – at times funny, at times empathetic; providing names and faces, telling real stories, creating communities and so on, to reach the consumer.

Cost and time to turn around projects will reduce by more than 50%

Not a single respondent to this survey point rated it 10/10 – they don’t think cost and time to turn around projects, that had gone down considerably during the pandemic, will remain the same once the COVID-19 phase passes. We see mixed responses from CMOs here – with different sets of marketers (three each or 10%) rating it 2, 3, 4 and 6, while 7 of those surveyed (23.3%) - rated it 5, and another 7 (23.3%) rated it 8. Shot-at-home ads and virtual meetings may have saved the day during lockdown, but the post-COVID scenario is set to turn real.

There will be a clear shift in the client-agency relationship

Only two of the CMOs surveyed (6.6%) have given a 10/10 rating to a clear shift in the client-agency relationship, while 5 respondents (16.67%) have rated it 9 and another 3 (10%) have rated it 8. A good 30% of CMOs overall have low expectations of any change – 3 (10%) rated it 1, another 3 (10%) rated it 3 while 3 (10%) more of the CMOs rated it 4. Both media and creative agencies have, in fact, responded to the crisis situation by standing solidly behind their clients, and this is clearly why the relationships remain intact. Where change is foreseen, it could either be a deeper relationship forged by carrying the crisis together, or a process-driven shift, made sharper by learnings from the COVID-19 phase.

Print and TV advertising will regain their share of ad pie in a few months

Here, the respondents of the survey have exercised cautious optimism by not giving a clear rating of 10/10 to the return of Print and TV advertising to pre-COVID levels, but keeping their spirits high all the same. As many as 20 out of 30 CMOs (66.67%) have overall rated it high – 5 (16.67%) rated it 9, 8 (26.67%) rated it 8 and 7 (23.33%) rated it 7, predicting the comeback of TV and Print advertising. Industry reports already indicate the beginning of a slow recovery, holding up the optimism of the CMOs. It’s the spenders themselves talking here!

Non-essential, premium and luxury brands would need to re-invent themselves

Seven out of 30 (23.33%) CMOs polled for this survey gave a 10/10 rating to the need for non-essential, premium and luxury brands to reinvent themselves to be relevant to the cash-strapped consumer. Four (13.33%) of the respondents rated it 9, 5 (16.67%) rated it 8 while 6 (20%) rated it 7. A few respondents, however, do not think such a change is necessary – one CMO gave it the lowest rating of 1, while two others rated it at 3. We have already seen some luxury brands churn out entry level daily use products such as masks and sanitisers, and also engaging consumers in online conversation. Perhaps they can look at people used to buying only essentials for months, and persuade them to give in to the luxury of a fancy purchase.

Work from home or travel only when required will become the new normal

Only 3 out of 30 – i.e, 10% –  of the CMOs polled believe work from home or travel only when required will absolutely become the new normal, and rated it 10/10, while eight (26.6 %) of the respondents have given it a weightage of 7 out of 10 in the survey. With international travel still on halt and domestic travel allowed with restrictions in place, even as the lockdown continues and infected cases abound, it is interesting to see that some CMOs still believe travel and working out of an office are part of their job in the near future.

People will give more time to themselves and their families, ensure a better work-life balance

Nine out of 30 - a total of 30% of the CMOs who responded to the survey voted for a better work-life balance, giving it a rating of 8 on a scale of 1 to 10, while only 1 CMO gave it top priority, i.e, a rating of 10 out of 10. A good number of the respondents kept their expectations muted, with nearly half of them rating it low priority (6.67% gave it a rating of 3, 6.67% gave it a rating of 4, 13.33% gave it a rating of 5 and 20% gave it a rating of 6 on a scale of 1 to 10). The pressure on CMOs to perform in the post-COVID scenario, after a period of business at a standstill, is perhaps responsible for this.

(The marketers’ inputs were compiled by Neeta Nair, Dipali Banka, Christina Moniz, Eularie Saldanha, Anjana Naskar, Misbaah Mansuri and Michelle Noronha)

For more updates, be socially connected with us on
WhatsApp, Instagram, LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook & Youtube