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Marketer Optimism Hits Seven-Year Low, Spending Continues to Grow

Marketer Optimism Hits Seven-Year Low, Spending Continues to Grow

Hal Conick

The CMO Survey - February 2019

Top marketers are far less confident in the economy than they have been, but most are still investing in growth

Top marketers have lost confidence in the U.S. economy, according to The CMO Survey.

Marketplace dynamics – February 2019

The survey, released in February, says marketers’ optimism has dropped to its lowest level since 2011. Top-level marketers rated their optimism about the overall U.S. economy on a 0-11 scale; the average in this latest survey came to 57, a big drop from 66.8 in August 2018. The CMO Survey—disseminated by Deloitte, Duke University’s Fuqua School of Business and the AMA—says that this most recent report is a reversal of a “two-year bull growth cycle” in confidence.

Despite marketers’ dropping confidence, they continue to try to drive growth. Marketing penetration is their top concern, according to a Forbes post from Christine Moorman, founder of The CMO Survey and a professor of business administration at Fuqua.

“Over time, marketers appear to be shifting away from new product/service development toward existing market penetration, with the percentage spend on penetration reaching a two-year peak,” Moorman writes. “This finding exists across industries, with B2C services companies focusing most intently on market penetration for growth, spending on average 70.8% of their budgets on this goal.”

Investment in growth strategies (% of companies)

The CMO Survey reports that marketers have tried to increase growth by spending on these strategies in the past year:

  1. Market penetration (55.1%)
  2. Product/service development (21.8%)
  3. Market development (13.5%)
  4. Diversification (9.6%)

“Spending on existing markets and offerings continues to dominate growth spending,” the report says. “This dominance increases as companies shift away from product/service development toward market penetration. B2C companies, especially services, are most focused on market penetration to grow.”

Expected percent change in marketing budgets, next 12 months

The CMO Survey also highlights growth marketing budgets, which is still positive (up 5%), but the lowest it has been in three years. Marketers expect this to change; the survey reports that CMOs predict the budget to grow 8.3% in the next year.

The CMO Survey received 323 responses, 97% of which were at the VP level or above. Its mission is to “collect and disseminate the opinions of top marketers in order to predict the future of markets, track marketing excellence, and improve the value of marketing in firms and society.”

Hal Conick is a freelance writer for the AMA’s magazines and e-newsletters. He can be reached at or on Twitter at @HalConick.