Boathouse Group has released its 2024 survey, continuing its annual exploration of CEO attitudes toward marketing strategies and the effectiveness of Chief Marketing Officers (CMOs). The survey seeks to unpack the perceptions of CEOs regarding the strategic contributions of their CMOs and the broader marketing functions within their organizations. A fully comprehensive sample size of 150 CEOs from mid-to-large sized enterprises contributed to the survey, providing a comprehensive perspective across various industries.

Key findings of the survey

1. Return to basics in marketing

In a significant pivot from previous years, CEOs now emphasize financial performance over initiatives like Diversity, Equity, Inclusion (DEI), Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR), Environmental, Social, and Governance (ESG) standards, and employee-related concerns. These areas, once at the forefront, now rank in the middle in terms of priority.

Many CEOs may be responding to the pressure to demonstrate strong financial results as the global economy seeks stability post-COVID-19. A possible reevaluation of priorities suggests a recalibration where direct financial outcomes take precedence over broader social commitments. Whether this reflects a long-term change or a short-term response to current economic conditions remains an area for further observation.

2. Trust in CMOs

While CEOs recognize that CMOs enjoy a high degree of trust across their organizations, they express a reserved trust in these top marketing executives personally. Such a dynamic points to a complex interplay between perceived loyalty and actual trust.

A striking 80% of CEOs believe their CMOs demonstrate extreme loyalty, willing to make significant sacrifices for the CEO and the company. This perception highlights the expected dedication and alignment of CMOs with the highest leadership levels.. This is complemented by an impressive 94% of CEOs reporting that their CMOs regularly attend board meetings, signifying the critical nature of marketing strategies in overall corporate governance and strategic planning.

Challenges in delivering vision/strategy

With only 11% of CEOs confirming they have achieved their organizational vision and strategy, there appears a stark gap between aspiration and realization in corporate objectives. This low success rate prompts a reevaluation of strategic planning and implementation processes within companies.

Despite the low success rate in achieving strategic goals, 87% of CEOs believe their CMOs fully grasp the corporate vision and actively engage in initiatives to realize it. The apparent discrepancy between the belief in CMOs’ understanding and the actualization of the vision suggests potential issues in other areas of execution or strategy.

Faced with these challenges, CEOs acknowledge the necessity for improved alignment and cooperation between themselves and their CMOs. Strengthening trust, improving communication, and making sure of consistent execution are seen as essential steps toward bridging the gap between strategy development and its successful implementation.*

Integration and impact of AI

A substantial 76% of CEOs have introduced AI into their operations, with a particular emphasis on marketing applications. The integration of AI in marketing reflects the growing trend of digital transformation and highlights the strategic importance placed on technology-driven marketing solutions.

CEOs must focus on deploying AI to boost performance without sacrificing quality. In a market where efficiency and effectiveness are a top priority, AI technologies offer substantial advantages by analyzing extensive data sets to inform decision-making and strategy refinement.

Performance AI dominates in its application, valued for its ability to sift through and interpret large volumes of data to drive strategic outcomes. On the other hand, generative AI, known for its capacity to mimic human interactions, faces more scrutiny. CEOs are cautious about its role, considering the potential impact on customer relationships and the intrinsic value of human touch in business interactions.

Overall implications and considerations

Economic and social balance:

CEOs are navigating the delicate balance between achieving robust economic performance and maintaining a commitment to social impact and ethical governance. The shifting priorities that favor financial outcomes also necessitate a thoughtful approach to integrating social responsibilities such as DEI and ESG initiatives.

CEO-CMO relationship:

The dynamics between CEOs and CMOs cannot be understated in their importance, with an increasing need for a strong, trust-based relationship. As strategic roles evolve, particularly in a technology-driven market, bringing a closer partnership can lead to more effective leadership and better alignment on strategic goals.

Evolving role of AI:

The role of AI in marketing and strategic management continues to grow, influencing how companies approach everything from customer engagement to operational efficiency. CEOs must stay abreast of AI developments, making use of these technologies to improve competitive advantage while also managing the ethical implications of their use.

Social issues management:

Despite a current emphasis on financial metrics, the management of social issues remains a pertinent agenda item for many organizations. Maintaining engagement with DEI, ESG, and similar initiatives is necessary, reflecting the expectations of stakeholders and the broader community for corporations to uphold high ethical standards.

Alexander Procter

April 26, 2024

4 Min