UK marketers are highly pessimistic about Brexit, according to the inaugural UK CMO Survey, which provides a telling snapshot of an industry rocked by the Covid pandemic and facing up to the mounting challenges of leaving the EU.
The research, which was conducted by London Business School in partnership with Marketing Week is based on the views of 126 UK marketers at for-profit UK companies, 94.5% of whom are vice president-level or higher. The study takes its cue from the annual US CMO Survey, which has been running since 2008.
Exactly half of respondents expect Brexit to have a negative impact on their business, with this rising to 72% when looking at B2B marketers alone. Just 3.6% of all marketers are confident Brexit will prove a positive development. More than 30% of marketers are bracing themselves for a drop in sales.
The vast majority (90%) believe Brexit will not have a direct impact on their role within their company’s marketing function. More than half (59.3%) say marketing has tended to play a supporting role in their company’s overall Brexit preparations, with just 1.9% saying marketing took a leading role in such preparations and 29.6% playing no role at all.
Expectations that Brexit will loom large over future marketing decisions are high, with 47.1% predicting a significant impact on pricing, 41.4% on channel or distribution, 28.7% on communications and 13% on product-service portfolio.
Economic optimism took a significant dip compared to industry counterparts in the US, standing at 50.7 (on a scale of 0 to 100). Across the Atlantic, marketers are notably more confident about the near future, netting a score of 66.3 in February.
Marketing increases in importance
Turning attention to the pandemic, 73% of UK respondents say marketing has increased in importance over the past year, with 34.5% citing building brand value as the most important objective, followed by acquiring (21.2%) and retaining (20.4%) customers.
With this in mind, 78.9% of marketers have been focusing on improving customer-facing digital interfaces during the pandemic, while 56.1% have shifted towards creating better end-to-end customer tracking.
Marketing spend is down by 17% over the past year, although digital marketing spend enjoyed a 9.6% uptick. Respondents expect spend to increase throughout 2021, predicting an overall 10.6% rise, again with digital leading the way, predicted to be 18.7% up on last year, and a 15.1% increase in brand building.
Traditional television advertising is expected to fall by 4.1%, despite enjoying a healthy revival under the pandemic.
Elsewhere, marketers say there has been an 8.9% increase over the past 12 months in spend on diversity, equity and inclusion, with 52% reporting some success in improving the diversity of marketing employees.
These figures dovetail with the findings of Marketing Week’s Career and Salary Survey, which reveals some progress in tackling issues around the lack of diversity within the industry.
One final thought-provoking stat, and another echo of Marketing Week’s salary survey: job losses stood at 8.8% last year, of which 22.4% were senior roles, while new jobs were at 5.5%, among which 33.7% were senior roles. That marks a 3.25% drop in growth in marketing jobs across the UK industry.