In the dynamic marketing realm, International Marketing Day is an occasion to reflect on the evolving landscape and the innovative strategies employed by Chief Marketing Officers (CMOs) around the globe. Amidst the sea of challenges and opportunities, CMOs are turning to generative AI to enhance their creativity and connect with audiences in profound ways. A recent Dentsu Creative report, ‘Creativity at a Crossroads,’ offers essential insights into the minds of today’s marketing decision-makers.

The Dentsu Creative 2023 CMO Report: Catalyst of Creativity

Published on September 11, 2023, the Dentsu Creative’s Global CMO Report, titled ‘Creativity at a Crossroads,’ unveils a renewed sense of optimism among CMOs despite the ever-evolving landscape of marketing. The report is based on a comprehensive survey conducted with 700 CMOs and senior marketers across nine countries, including the US, UK, Australia, Brazil, Canada, China, India, Italy, and Spain.

One of the key takeaways from this report is the overwhelming agreement among CMOs that creativity is the driving force for reaching audiences and fueling economic growth. An astounding 85% of respondents believe that creativity plays a pivotal role in shaping the future of marketing.

CMOs’ Primary Concern: Connecting with Audiences

In a world marked by volatility, including factors such as climate change, inflation, and geopolitical instability, CMOs are honing in on what they can control. Their primary concern for 2023 and beyond is owning and connecting with their audiences. CMOs recognize the shifting landscape where third parties often seem to hold the keys to audience engagement.

Patricia McDonald, Dentsu Creative’s Chief Strategy Officer, emphasizes the importance of connecting with audiences on a deeper level. As audience expectations evolve, brands must adapt to meet these new expectations. It’s all about creating experiences, engaging with culture, and taking meaningful actions. The choice is clear: engage with your audience or risk being ignored.

Augmented Humanity: Blurring Boundaries

The modern CMOs demand experiences that seamlessly integrate technology with human elements. A staggering 87% agree that brands today are built through experiences, and 88% stress the importance of ensuring the customer experience aligns with the brand’s promise. To achieve this, CMOs are embracing new interfaces, from voice and gestures to AR and AI. These innovative technologies are blurring the lines between online and offline, content and commerce, delivering ideas that are not just distinctive but also deeply human.

Cultural Capital: The Role of Entertainment

CMOs recognize that entertainment plays a crucial role in brand building. They are investing in platforms, from podcasts to programming, to engage audiences who are increasingly challenging to reach. Around 79% of CMOs acknowledge that advertising is becoming easier to ignore. Additionally, 80% believe that technologies like live streaming are redefining the boundaries between content and commerce. Humor is making a comeback, with 58% of marketers looking to create moments of joy in their advertising, aiming to stand out in a crowded sea of promotional messaging.

Purpose-Driven Marketing: Beyond “Purpose Washing”

The way marketers approach purpose is evolving. While 69% of respondents agreed that the industry needs to be more focused on purpose to the detriment of sales, it is clear that purpose must transition from a side project to a fundamental element of business strategy. Marketers believe there is no longer a disconnect between what is good for society and what is good for business, with 78% asserting that, in a world marked by economic and climate volatility, renewed innovation and infrastructure are imperative. The power of emotion is seen as the key to effecting lasting behavioural change.

Funding Fears and Responsibility

Signifying a growing awareness of their industry’s role in balancing purpose and profit, CMOs express concerns over the polarized and sometimes toxic media landscape they may inadvertently fund through their campaigns and investments. A substantial 62% of CMOs worry about the potential adverse consequences of their campaigns on the environment and society. Additionally, 64% express concerns that their media spending might contribute to political polarization, highlighting the important role of advertising in shaping public discourse. However, marketers remain convinced that advertising can be a force for good, with 81% agreeing that brands can use their budgets to amplify independent and diverse voices.

AI: A Frenemy at the Gate

AI represents a cautious but exciting frontier, with 87% of CMOs believing it is the future of advertising and marketing. While they welcome the efficiencies it offers, they wonder if AI-generated content can truly move their customers. An overwhelming 81% of respondents agree that customers will be willing to pay a premium for human-created content. Despite concerns about the future of Generative AI in their roles, 75% believe it can only partially replace the essence of human creativity.

Connected People: The Power of Diversity and Flexibility

CMOs seek flexibility and diversity in the talent they collaborate with. Around 86% desire agencies and partners that can connect the right talent at the right moment, regardless of where it resides within the network. The report suggests that 83% believe brands benefit from consolidating their efforts within a single agency holding company, given the power of the network in a data-driven world. However, they also value diversity of thought, with 85% seeing the value in partnering with multiple agencies. The ideal team for today’s dynamic world doesn’t fit a predefined mould, and CMOs are looking for the convenience of a single agency with the innovation of many.

Thriving in a Connected World: The Power of Creativity

CMOs are acutely aware of the heightened expectations of brand integrity and customer experience from their audiences. In response, CMOs remain committed to the transformative power of creativity, with 85% viewing creativity as a catalyst for economic growth. In today’s connected world, creativity, brand, experience, and culture converge to unlock new opportunities for brands and businesses to connect with modern customers meaningfully.

A New Dawn for Marketing

As we celebrate International Marketing Day 2023, we witness CMOs embracing change and innovation. The convergence of creativity and technology, the quest for personalisation, and the responsible use of AI highlight the path forward for marketing. CMOs are reimagining the marketing landscape, fueled by creativity and a profound commitment to connecting with their audiences meaningfully.

Download the full report here.