How CMOs should prepare for digital disruption

In our latest C-suite study “Redefining Boundaries,” IBM interviewed more than 700 Chief Marketing Officers worldwide. One of the most striking findings to emerge from the study is the emergence of technology as the main external force impacting the enterprise. CEOs had identified this trend back in 2012, but for the first time in the 12 years the study has run, the entire C-Suite has picked technology factors as the main game-changer.


In order to prepare for the digital disruption coming across industries, both from established players and unexpected digital invaders, CMOs have to approach both digital and traditional as holistic components of an overall marketing strategy. Leading CMOs need to look to their customers as the vanguard of trend identification and embrace cognitive technologies in an agile fashion.

Digital vs. traditional

The future will belong to the always-on campaign; there is no separation between digital and traditional anymore. 80% of CMOs interviewed in the C-suite study believe the business landscape will change to include more digital, virtual interaction in three to five years:



As a CMO in our IBM CMO Council put it: “The customer is an ‘always on’ shopper now—as brands we also need to be in ‘always on.’ We have to be relevant to the customer in the context of her life.”

Look to customers

Customer centricity is emerging as one of the main precursors to success. Although only about half of the enterprises look to their customers for insight, torchbearers in the C-Suite study place more emphasis on their customers:


In a joint study with the CMO Club earlier this year, IBM also identified that leading CMOs also focus on the entire customer lifecycle as they distribute their marketing budgets. Strikingly, leading CMOs invest 27% of their budget in the post-purchase period, creating advocates out of customers.


Cognitive computing will change marketing

One of the CMOs in our C-suite study remarked:

 “Cognitive computing will allow us to analyze customer data, create predictive models and track the changing needs of customers. This will provide new upselling and cross-promotion opportunities” – CMO of a Polish oil company

Cognitive computing will enable a revolutionized way of marketing. It will enable enterprises to know their customers, create personalized experiences and optimize marketing operations. Cognitive applied to marketing will help us understand not only what but also “WHY” someone is doing what they are doing, giving us deeper insights to our customers. Just think about how much uplift a company could see in their coupon campaign if it analyzes its followers via IBM Personality Insights in order to find out those most likely to respond to coupons. Or how an enterprise could use IBM Tone Analyzer to predict how well its content (e.g., blog posts, emails, etc.) will resonate with key clients. Retailers can now use the just-launched IBM Watson Trend app to see what is trending this holiday season and why.

Are you interested in how other CMOs in your industry or region answered key C-suite study survey questions? Find out via the interactive app!

CMO Role Market Development Lead IBM Marketing

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