Are CMOs in denial of the new normal? The IBM CMO Study

The IBM CMO Study

Last week, I wrote about Dan Zarrella’s book ‘Zarrella’s Hierarchy of Contagiousness‘. The author declares that many marketing professionals often follow fluffy ‘guesswork’ when it comes to social media. The book implies that the marketing profession is struggling with social media. Is that really so? Are professionals maybe in denial of the new normal? Good questions. It seems like many of them might be scrambling, indeed. At least that is the finding of the 2011 IBM CMO study. IBM conducted interviews with 1734 different Chief Marketing Officers (CMOs) from 64 countries. The results are very interesting and I highly encourage you to download and read the study. But let’s focus on the social media aspect today.


The IBM CMO Study shows that CMOs share a feeling of unpreparedness. Take a look at the following chart:

2011 IBM CMO Study
CMOs are unprepared. Data provided by the 2011 IBM CMO Study

Interesting! Social media ranks second. However, many of the other factors are related issues (customer collaboration & influence, for example)

It’s about the customer!

CMOs feel unprepared when it comes to social media. And social media are obviously extremely powerful when it comes to connecting with customers. Interestingly enough, the study found that most CMOs have understood this new dynamics. They are thinking hard about how to get closer to their customers:

“The first imperative for CMOs is to deliver value to empowered customers. That means finding out who these customers are, what they want and how they would like to interact with the organization. It’s not just a question of understanding their immediate needs and preferences. It’s also a question of understanding what they value and how they behave.”  – IBM CMO Study 2011

Those are great intentions. But………. Take a look at this chart. It outlines the data sources CMOs leverage to prepare and make decisions.

IBM CMO Study 2011 - Strategic Decisions
Sources used to influence strategy decisions. The 2011 IBM CMO Study

Shockingly, social media related data sources rank extremely low. The list is indeed dominated by traditional data sources such as market research, corporate strategy and competitive benchmarking.  What about getting closer to the customer? I doubt that the corporate strategy manual contains valuable customer insights. What about blogs (second to last!)?


Are CMOs is denial of the new normal? I highly doubt it. But they still have to learn a lot about social media. We all do. And a lot of it has to do with measurement. Many are tempted to equate Likes, Friends, RTs and such with success. Let’s face it – Likes and RTs do not pay our bills! And it is therefore not surprising that the IBM CMO Study also found that proper ROI measurement is a big priority for the marketing profession. But I strongly believe that companies need to make serious investments in skills and technology. In the past, it was difficult to collect data and to make sense of it. But solutions like Cognos Consumer Insights can help marketing make more sense of customers and markets. Exciting times are ahead of us!

P.S.: I highly recommend that you read the IBM CMO study. There are really interesting insights. You can download and read more about the study on





3 responses to “Are CMOs in denial of the new normal? The IBM CMO Study”

  1. Hi Christoph,

    Thanks for sharing this awesome report. The report is in-depth, 72 pages of insights, great job. However, I’ve taken a shot at simplifying it with visuals as I feel people might be put off reading 72 pages.

    Looking forward to hearing your comments.


    Sanjay Shetty

    1. Anonymous

      Nice job, Sanjay! Yeah, 72 pages contain a lot of materials. There is also an executive summary, btw. In any case – studies like these provide a ton of awesome insights. And it’s sometimes tough to find it. I do like your blog! Been following it for a while.
      Regards, Christoph

  2. I’m sure social media will soon become a major source to influence strategy decisions. Thanks for the insightful information.