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CMO Survey Special Edition: 30% of Marketers Report No Change in Overall Marketing Budgets During COVID

CMO Survey Special Edition: 30% of Marketers Report No Change in Overall Marketing Budgets During COVID

Sarah Steimer

COVID-19 and the state of marketing

CMOs report 9% of marketing jobs have been lost, on average, during the pandemic

Optimism about the economy among surveyed CMOs fell to 50.9 out of 100, compared to 62.7 three months ago, according to a special edition of The CMO Survey. The figure isn’t far from the 47.7 rating from February 2009 that followed the 2008 recession. Marketers’ optimism about their own companies (68.8) is higher than their faith in the general economy, but also hedges close to post-2008 recession optimism (64.2).

How will COVID-19 affect marketing? Register to listen to Professor Christine Moorman, founder and director of The CMO Survey, for a special webinar covering these and many more findings reflecting the views of senior marketers.


Marketing leaders also reported a 9% loss in marketing jobs, with 24%—the largest percentage of respondents to the question—saying they don’t expect these jobs to return. Despite these negative figures, 30.3% of respondents reported no change in their overall marketing budgets during the pandemic.

chart depicting marketing budget winners and losers in pandemic

As much in-person shopping has shifted to digital during the pandemic, marketers report an openness among customers to new digital offerings (85%), an increased value placed on digital experiences (84%) and a greater acknowledgement of companies’ attempts to “do good” (79%). As a result, 60.8% of respondents said they have “shifted resources to building customer-facing digital interfaces” and 56.2% are “transforming their go-to-market business models to focus on digital opportunities.”

the largest segment of marketers do not expect jobs to return

Most survey respondents (62.3%) also reported that that the marketing function has increased in importance during the pandemic. The use of social media as seen a lift, with investment social media budgets increasing 74% since February. This marks an increase in social as a percent of marketing budgets from 13.3% to 23.2%.

social media's contribution toward company performance

Other key findings include:

  • Marketing objectives during the pandemic have focused on building brand value and retaining customers, versus growth objectives, as 69% of CMOs reported marketing employees were asked to focus more on “getting active online to promote the company and its offerings” and 65% reported the focus was on “reaching out to current customers with information.” This compared to “generating new products and service ideas” (44%) or “building partnerships” (41%).

  • Online sales have grown to the highest level in CMO Survey history, making up 19.3% of sales—a 43% increase over three months ago.

  • CMOs reported sales revenue fell 17.8% on average, with 16.9% of marketers reporting the loss of more than 50% of their revenue.

  • Marketers expect these sales revenue to increase 4.2% in the next year. They predict consumers’ decreased likelihood to purchase (67%) and unwillingness to pay full price (43%) will return to pre-pandemic levels within 6-12 months.

  • The number of marketers indicating a willingness to change their products or services to reduce their negative environmental impact has dropped from 72.9% before the pandemic to 52.7%.

The CMO Survey, sponsored by Duke University’s Fuqua School of Business, Deloitte and the AMA—was conducted from May 5 to May 27 and includes responses from 274 senior marketing executives at for-profit U.S. companies. Read more about the special edition of The CMO Survey here. And, register for our special CMO Survey webinar discussing these and other findings from the report.

Image via The CMO Survey.

Sarah Steimer is a writer, editor, podcast producer, and yoga teacher living in Chicago. She has written for Marketing News, Chicago magazine, Culture magazine, the Pittsburgh Post- Gazette, and other outlets.