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Early 2021 Marketers’ Confidence Index Results Show Sharp Rebound

Early 2021 Marketers’ Confidence Index Results Show Sharp Rebound

Joris Zwegers

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Marketers are ready to move on from the pandemic—the latest MCI findings show cautious optimism for the near future

Over the past five years, the AMA and Kantar have measured marketers’ confidence in the strength of the U.S. economy and their organizations’ spending efforts. Unsurprisingly, in mid-2020 the Marketers’ Confidence Index reached its lowest point yet: 82. Since then, however, the outlook of the economy and marketers’ perceptions have improved drastically, resulting in an index of 111 measured early this year. This is a significant rise from last year and indicates marketers are cautiously optimistic, with media, innovation and creative expected to reap most of the benefits.

Marketers' Confidence Index results since January 2016

Things appear to be looking up, but how does this break down into the different areas that make up the Marketers’ Confidence Index? The survey was constructed of questions on:

  • Perceptions of past and future six-month consumer spending
  • Perceptions of the current investment climate
  • Past and expected six-month changes in marketing budgets

Consumer Spending

Although perceptions of the past six months are understandably quite negative, the high-level outlook for the next six months is back to pre-pandemic levels. 

Past 6 months of customer spending
Future 6 months of customer spending

Investment Climate

Short-term marketing budget cuts were unavoidable for many organizations during the pandemic and investments were scaled down. However, half of marketers surveyed didn’t feel it was time to cut back investment. Since the middle of last year, that optimism has grown, although it is not yet back at pre-pandemic levels.

Investment climate results

Marketing Budgets

During the pandemic, marketing budgets were cut by a majority of organizations and major events or initiatives were postponed or canceled. The outlook for the next six months shows a lot of optimism. Marketers’ outlook on what will happen to their budget in the next six months is similar to pre-pandemic levels.

past 6 months of marketing budgets
future 6 months of marketing budgets

The anticipated big winners for the increased marketing spend can be found on the media, innovation and creative side. For spending on media and creative, this might simply mean a return to pre-pandemic investment levels, but for innovation this might mean an actual increase.   

Early on during the pandemic a majority of marketers had postponed or cancelled major initiatives with new campaigns and sponsorships or collaborations being a frequent victim. Based on the current outlook, it appears that interest in jumping back into sponsorships is still modest at best. 

If your organization's marketing budget was suddenly increased by 10%, where would you allocate the additional budget?

Impact on the Role of Marketing

The pandemic undoubtedly had a significant impact on consumer behavior and raised many questions on how to best engage with customers moving forward. Although it might have raised interest in customer insights at the board level, marketers don’t think it has done much yet to raise the expected influence of marketing in the organization. 

Will the power and influence of the marketing function increase or decrease over the next few years?


Overall, marketers are cautiously optimistic about the near future and increasingly expect to see higher marketing budgets again. The increases, should they arrive, are most likely to be focused on media, innovation and creative. For media and creative this might mean just going back to pre-pandemic spending levels but innovation might’ve become more of a focal point than before.

Illustration by enjoys25 via Adobe Stock.


Joris Zwegers is a Partner at the Consulting Division of Kantar