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Making change real in order to make real change – Findings from the 2019 Dentsu Aegis Network global CMO survey

22nd October 2019

Author John Bessey

2019 could be a watershed moment for marketers, says the latest Dentsu Aegis Network CMO survey of more than 1,000 CMOs globally. It’s the age of experience and opportunities are endless – for those bold enough to navigate the challenges.

Marketers have always faced the challenge of balancing performance and results in the here and now – quarter by quarter, campaign by campaign – with a longer-term focus on brand investment and sustainability into the future.

But as Will Swayne, Global President Client Solutions at Dentsu Aegis Network puts it, in the latest CMO Survey, it’s no longer enough.

Not only are the pressures to perform in the now ever increasing, with the pace of change always on the up, but now, Swayne says, “The new challenge for CMOs is to balance those pressures with the existential need to put the marketing function at the heart of customer led-business transformation.”

Marketing leaders can be the rug that ties the room together, as the Dude would say in the Big Lebowski. Highly engaged and driven CMOs have an opportunity to mobilise the executive and ensure a customer-first focus to a business or agency’s transformation.

CMOs have a vital, catalysing role to play as integrators amongst the C-suite. If they can play the ‘integrator’ and build a reputation for being a ‘mobiliser’ this can only benefit the customer transformation.

The dance card of the CMO is too full to go it alone, the report tells us, and the change mandate is too big for just one role. With the CMO in the role of integrator, bringing together the voices around the top table, the C-suite has the opportunity to “fuse together agendas behind a broader movement for change.”

At the end of the day, the report tells us, “We’re leaving value on the table and 2019 feels like a watershed moment for marketers… A moment to take stock, chart a new course and make digital transformation real.”

For those bold enough to take up the mantle of change agent in this integrator role, the function of marketing is perfectly placed within the organisation to be an engine of innovation and transformation, helping to “harness consumer insight, tech and creativity to develop products and experiences that delight consumers and drive growth.”

What do CMOs need to focus on in order to effect real change?

The report finds that it’s a balancing act between:

Openness and control

In a world where there’s “scrutiny at scale”, and brand is largely in the eye – and often in the power – of the beholder, how much brand control can and should organisations hold onto? How transparent is transparent enough for the customer and failsafe enough for the organisation? Where’s the happy medium?

Foresight and insight

Data, data, everywhere… But how to really, properly unlock and realise its true value to achieve customer intimacy and constantly enhance the customer experience? More than half of CMOs find it hard to extract insight from data, even though data is more readily available than ever before. The report tells us that marketers increasingly need to combine behavioural insight with emotional insight and get past the “what” to the “why”.

Purpose and authenticity

74% of CMOs from high-growth organisations say social purpose is critical to engaging consumers now and into the future. But authenticity is key here to avoid opportunism and “woke-washing”. Additionally, marketing needs to ensure it measures the societal impact of these initiatives, rather than just sticking to the same old marketing metrics.

Creativity and consistency

85% of CMOs surveyed believe creativity is critical to success, and yet… only 54% believe they’re delivering well on this today.

More than ever in a world of information overload and increasing product homogeneity, marketers feel the need to avoid the “curse of sameness” and to treat customer experience as something more than a commodity. They need break through the noise with big ideas, but still ensure that experiences are delivered consistently across all touchpoints.

Agility and longevity – meeting the needs of today and the needs of tomorrow (and years to come)

Focusing on both the here and now for the quick wins and immediate ROI and beyond the horizon for the future sustainability of the brand means CMOs need to have their eyes on different prizes and “operate across multiple timelines” simultaneously.

You can download the full report here.

Dentsu Aegis Network CMO survey 2019







So, is this your organisation’s watershed year? And, most importantly, what’s the change you are going to make real for your organisation in order to make real change?

John Bessey





John Bessey is Davanti’s Chief Client Officer, focused on helping Davanti’s clients and people achieve their goals. When he’s not helping organisations get closer to their customers, John dedicates his time to football and fitness and providing a private Uber service to three very busy children.