Impact of big data and social media #1 – IBM CMO study

by Justin Souter on November 17, 2011


I had seen an advert for this study highlighted in the media, and investigated. You could argue that the IBM reports play to the strengths of IBM as a company – and you’d be right.

That said, it is a fascinating insight into the mindsets and priorities of Chief Marketing Officers, and so I’m sharing the copy on Scribd below along with related reports, and highlighting what I consider to be key passages.

This is number 1 of a two-part series – I’m planning another post on articles from The McKinsey Quarterly about ‘big data’.


This is the introduction from the IBM microsite:

Hear from more than 1,700 Chief Marketing Officers

Today’s customers can shop around the globe, find out more than ever before about the organizations they’re dealing with, and share their views with hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of fellow customers. The expectations of consumers, citizens and business customers are soaring. And they can make or break brands overnight.

After face-to-face interviews with 1,734 CMOs, spanning 19 industries and 64 countries, we know CMOs are feeling stretched, but we also heard great excitement about the future of marketing. These conversations and our in-depth analysis of study findings underscore the need to respond to three new realities:

  • The empowered customer is now in control of the business relationship
  • Delivering customer value is paramount — and an organization’s behavior is as important as the products and services it provides
  • The pressure to be accountable to the business is not just a symptom of hard times, but a permanent shift that requires new approaches, tools and skills.

Ibm Cmo Study

Other reports in the series are on Scribd.

Key points

This section has a number of quotes, and also graphics from the report (which are not necessarily related to the text they sit alongside!). Clicking on them will take you to the original graphic, so you can see them in better detail!

Excerpt from the Exec Summary:

How prepared are CMOs to manage the data explosion, social media, and the growth of channel and device choices?Our interviews reveal that CMOs see four of these challenges as pervasive, universal game-changers: the data explosion, social media, proliferation of channels and devices, and shifting consumer demographics. Additionally, most CMOs are struggling in one vital respect — providing the numbers that demonstrate a return on investment (ROI) for marketing.

The most proactive CMOs are responding to these challenges by trying to understand individuals as well as markets.1 They are focusing on relationships, not just transactions. Outperformers are also committed to developing a clear “corporate character.”

In the course of our conversations with CMOs worldwide, an overwhelming consensus emerged. The vast majority of CMOs believe there are three key areas for improvement. They must understand and deliver value to empowered customers; create lasting relationships with those customers; and measure marketing’s contribution to the business in relevant, quantifiable terms.

Marketing and IT

For the market factors they deem most important, how prepared do CMOs say they are? However, CMOs who need to make decisions about technology investments may find themselves in unfamiliar territory. This would explain why worries about implementing new technologies loom so large. Four of the remaining eight obstacles CMOs cite are related to IT and marketing’s relationship with the IT function.

‘It’s easy to see the potential of many new tools, but it’s rarely simple to integrate them with the organisation’s existing systems,’ a food, beverage and tobacco CMO in the United Kingdom warned. ‘The complexity of integrating [a new system] with other systems too often destroys the ROI of the new system,’ she added.

Concerns about the level of skill and lack of technology ownership within the marketing function also suggest CMOs will have to work much more closely with CIOs in the future. An industrial products CMO in the United States spoke for many when she said: ‘I don’t see how we can go forward without embedding IT into marketing.’

How to earn customer loyalty

What new capabilities can CMOs develop to help expand their personal influence? ‘We need to take measures that improve the customer’s points of contact and customer loyalty and enlarge our fan base,’ a telecommunications CMO in Japan told us. ‘Loyalty and customer satisfaction are critical because advocates online provide you with immeasurably valuable free marketing,’ a banking CMO in the United States elaborated.

The question is: how do you earn that loyalty? More than half of all CMOs think social media is a key channel for engaging with customers, as Figure 9 indicates. Yet, an earlier study by IBM shows that many executives don’t understand what triggers customers to ‘follow’ their organisations. Nearly 70 percent assume that customers interact with them via social media to get information, express an opinion and feel connected to their brand – whereas, in reality, customers are most interested in receiving tangible value. Indeed, when asked why they choose to follow a company, the top reasons consumers cite are ‘getting discounts’ (61 percent) and ‘making purchases’ (55 percent). Only 33 percent seek out companies to ‘feel connected.

Moreover, engaging with customers is not just about communicating with them. It’s also about helping them enjoy the products and services they’ve bought and collaborating with them to co-create new products and services. But our research shows less than half of the organisations surveyed currently use social media to perform these activities.

Plenty of food for thought there!


I’m conscious there is a lot of material in the four documents, but if you’re thinking of how does the era of social media and big data affect the role of a CMO, then this is a tremendous place to start – the material comes across as well-written, well-researched, and an actionable set of insights.

In summary – fascinating to see how social media has changed the dynamics of mainstream businesses – who arguably need to adopt the mindset and practices of ‘social business’.

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