‘The CMO Coming of Age Story’ Highlights the Evolving Role of Marketing

According to a new EssenceMediacom study, 62% of CMOs say that the customer experience has shifted from sales-owned to marketing-owned.

‘The CMO Coming of Age Story’ Highlights the Evolving Role of Marketing

According to a new EssenceMediacom study, 62% of CMOs say that the customer experience has shifted from sales-owned to marketing-owned.

According to a new study, 62% of CMOs say that the customer experience has shifted from sales-owned to marketing-owned, while 60% of CMOs say that proving marketing impact has increased in importance more than any other responsibility.

These findings are part of EssenceMediacom’s new report ‘The CMO Coming of Age Story: How digital transformation has elevated marketing to a C-suite growth driver’.

The report, based on a global study of 188 senior business-to-business (B2B) marketing leaders in companies with a revenue of at least $250 million, identified an increasingly complex set of requirements for this role.


According to EssenceMediacom findings, the CMO role, traditionally an enabler to sales teams in B2B organizations, now spearheads a multi-disciplinary growth engine within businesses.

“They are expected to take ownership for driving revenue from multiple sources, including acquisition, retention, renewal, and up and cross selling, while also owning data responsibilities, utilising technology in ever more innovative ways,” said a release.

Kristin Gower, Global B2B President, EssenceMediacom, added: “Today, CMOs must navigate three core challenges as they become what we’re terming ‘Growth Orchestrators” within their organisations.

These include the reality that marketing departments often outpace their organisations and must use this opportunity to drive cross-organisational innovation; the rising importance of delivering customer-centric experiences to the B2B buyer; and the need to rewrite the rulebook as marketers face increasingly complex ecosystems for gaining buyer attention.”


Report Highlights

EssenceMediacom put together the following summary from the report

Marketing outpaces lagging organisations 

The role of the CMO has expanded and they are now responsible for the entire customer journey: nearly two-thirds (62%) said the customer experience has shifted from sales-owned to marketing-owned. Marketing departments need to understand the full picture of the customer at each stage of their lifecycle with the business; doing so requires cross-departmental orchestration for insight and action. To meet these demands, marketers need more advanced tools for data utilisation and audience segmentation.

Accordingly, 70% reported an increased marketing budget in the last three years, primarily allocated to data and technology. Talent is also critical; half of the marketing leaders expect to expand their teams and 29% will see the most growth in data and technology teams. 

However, marketers often face complex barriers to digital transformation within their own businesses, with differing parts of the organisation better prepared than others to enable data sharing and technical coordination.

Customer-centricity: More rhetoric than reality

As in B2C marketing, today’s B2B customer expects experiences tailored to their needs. The vast majority (80%) of respondents stress the growing significance of customer centricity, surpassing ROI. This is in large part due to changes in the buyer profile — who today prefer self-directed research over traditional sales pitches. With more decision-makers involved, B2B marketers must engage a growing and more diverse set of individuals at buyer organisations, increasing the need for personalised approaches.

“Budgets for marketing are going up steadily since management understands the spend will generate ROI. Top management is getting extremely cognizant of the power of brand.“

While organisations may understand the importance of customer centricity, few are able to support their marketing departments in delivering it. The second biggest global challenge for marketers (number one in the US and APAC) is understanding buyer needs — perhaps because only half say their organisations prioritise sharing audience data, while less than a quarter utilise AI to understand, segment and target buyers. In fact, with marketers given limited control over the organisation’s tech infrastructure, the majority perceive their tech stacks as not fully mature.

The new B2B marketing playbook 

As the role of the CMO expands, their toolkit and skills must evolve. However, many still rely on outdated B2B marketing approaches that don’t align with today’s dynamic market. This challenge limits creative differentiation in a competitive landscape. Without organisational transformation, departmental silos hinder marketing teams and force them to rely on legacy practices.

The survey results reveal content development and distribution as a core marketing responsibility, second only to measurement. This highlights the increased need for captivating content across the customer journey. To support this demand, marketers are actively leveraging data and technology, with 60% using generative AI for content development. Many also turn to content development agencies, using them as an extension of the marketing team, to ensure a steady flow of content.

As B2B buyer requirements change, so too must the marketing playbook. Innovation and experimentation with new tactics and tools is key to helping CMOs cut through the noise with impactful, customer-centric content.

Nick Lawson, Global CEO, EssenceMediacom, said: “I am extremely proud of our first of its kind CMO survey, which underscores the pivotal role of marketing in driving growth and digital transformation in the B2B landscape.

This work is a testament to our commitment to delivering breakthroughs for brands in the new communications economy. Emphasising our role in reshaping the B2B marketing playbook and supporting all CMOs in their journey to orchestrate a multifunctional growth engine within their organisations.”

Regional Summaries

South and Southeast Asia (India and Malaysia)

  • Recruiting people with the necessary data and technology skills got the most rank 1 votes for the biggest challenge among marketing leaders in India and Malaysia. Increased in specialized skills required is driving more complexity in the marketing leader role as well (26% vs. 17% for the total population).

“With digital marketing, we’re more in-depth in terms of measuring for optimization and efficiency.“
– Telecom industry, Malaysia

  • Understanding the B2B buyers’ needs across the buyer journey got the most total votes (including rank 1, 2 and 3) as a top-three biggest challenge.
  • Marketing budgets in India & Malaysia saw the largest increases in the past 3 years with 50% of respondents seeing growth of >10% (vs. 42% for the total population). They are spending more on data and technology and on content and creative development vs. overall survey respondents.

“Budgets for marketing are going up steadily since management understands the spend will generate ROI. Top management is getting extremely cognizant of the power of brand.“ – Logistics industry, India

  • Nearly 60% of those surveyed in the India & Malaysia region expect for their marketing teams to increase in the future and 30% expect for that growth to be concentrated in data and technology.


  • Like India and Malaysia, recruiting people with the necessary data and technology skills is a major challenge for marketing leaders in China. Increase in specialized skills required is the biggest driver of increased complexity in their roles.

“There is more online activity compared to face-to-face, and especially for China, it is very much a relationship based industry. To be able to shift to online where there’s a little bit less personal interaction is a big leap that we’re seeing overall.” – Pharma industry, China

  • Like the overall population of respondents, marketing leaders in China rated content development and distribution as having increased second-most in importance among their responsibilities.

“The content delivery hasn’t changed, but the format of it, how you customize it into a bite size in the digital friendly manner has changed.“ – Pharma industry, China

“I’ve put more budget into digital communications like short videos. It’s more accessible to potential customers, especially the younger generations.“ – Technology industry, China

Total marketing budgets in China have seen a smaller increase compared to other geographies

Australia and New Zealand

  • Customer-centricity has become much more important to a bigger percentage of marketing leaders from this region (39% vs. 31% for overall survey respondents). A greater percentage of respondents from this region are putting an increased focus on personalization and on customer experience mapping. Focus on customer-centricity and personalization also got the most votes (rank 1-5) for largest macro shifts.

The shift in focus from customer acquisition to customer LTV got the most rank 1 votes as the largest macro shift in recent years, which was unique to the AU/NZ market.

  • Marketing executives in Australia/NZ have seen the least increase in collaboration with specialist agencies overall compared to the total population.
    • A Director from a consulting firm in Australia explained that the economic model isn’t stabilized for agencies to be able to offer fully independent advice outside of buying media because they’ve been offering it to clients for free with their media buying, versus consultancies, which charge for their time.

See more from the report here.

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