CMOs feel unready to deal with data deluge: Deloitte

Report shows marketers feel unprepared for what's coming next

Thanks to big data, chief marketing officers are facing a new and daunting task at work, one that many say they haven’t been prepared for during their careers.

A new study released by Deloitte Canada, and presented at this week’s Advertising and Marketing Week conference, showed that 82% of more than 300 surveyed CMOs have been asked to interpret consumer analytics data and admitted that they felt unqualified to do so based on previous experience.

The perceived skills gap is especially problematic as brands begin to rely more on consumer data to make spending decisions; over 70% of those polled said their employers demand marketing decisions be based on consumer analytics, and that they are expected to treat data as the “voice of the customer.”

In a Q&A session following Deloitte’s Ad Week presentation, its national retail leader, Jennifer Lee, said she was surprised by the survey’s findings, especially in relation to the changing role of the CMO.

“The path to getting to the CMO [postition] has changed,” said Lee. “Most of the leading CMOs are starting to have analytical capabilities and they come from quantitative backgrounds.” CMOs are now being challenged by shareholders to demonstrate the “operational efficiencies” and effectiveness of their campaigns.

Canada has lagged the U.S. in this respect, she added, but the domestic industry has started to catch up.

The changing role of the CMO may also have a big impact on the relationships between brands and their agency partners. Nearly 70% of Deloitte’s survey respondents said that agencies will play a key role helping them analyze and interpret data, a finding that intrigued Deloitte’s own CMO and co-presenter Colleen Albiston.

“When I look at what I use agencies for, it isn’t [data analytics],” she said. “I don’t expect my data expert to come from my public relations agency.” Still, different brands have different demands, and may have different expectations of their agencies, Albiston noted. As the lines between public relations and media strategy get even more blurry, data interpretation may be a request that agencies start to see more in the coming years.

Deloitte conducted its research in December 2014.

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