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The Massive CMO/Consumer Disconnect

Steve Olenski
Master Principal Sales Architect

Since 2008 Duke University’s Fuqua School of Business, the McKinsey Company and the American Marketing Association have conducted The CMO Survey. Released twice a year, it is, as the name implies a survey of CMOs and VPs of marketing. 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."

A few weeks ago they released the most recent of findings. I can tell you as one who reads and consumes many such surveys and studies, this one is near the top of my must-read list each time it comes out. It is always rife with interesting insights into the mind of marketing leaders from Fortune 1000 and Forbes 200 brands. 

The one finding in particular I want to share with you today is what drove me to include such a "grandiose" title as I believe this finding indeed reflects a massive CMO/consumer disconnect. 

The chart above essentially says that the #1 thing CMOs/marketing leaders believe that consumers will want most in the next 12 months is superior product quality.

Now allow me to introduce evidence that highlights the massive disconnect. 

In November 2014 Edelman released the findings of its latest brandshare™ survey in which they queried 15,000 people in 12 countries about the performance of nearly 200 brands within 11 industry sectors. They asked people to evaluate the importance of 14 brand behaviors and evaluate how effectively a selection of brands perform on those behaviors. 

When it comes to the three things consumers want from brands today, in my best Family Feud-esque voice: survey says:

1. Responsiveness

​​• 78% of the respondents surveyed said responding quickly to concerns and complaints was important to them.

2. Involvement

​​• 68% said they think it's important for brands to communicate openly and transparently about how their products are sourced and made.

3. Conviction

​​• 58% of respondents indicated that brands having a clear mission and purpose is important to them while another 52% want to see brands use their resources to drive change in the world.

But Wait, There Is Indeed More

In another study, this one conducted by public relations firm Cohn & Wolfe — of consumers in the U.S. plus 11 other major markets, the top 3 qualities or behaviors which people demand of big brands are:

  1. Communicating honestly about products and services
  2. Not letting customers down
  3. Acting with integrity at all times

Now do you see the disconnect? 

What is the one word that is inherent in every priority identified by consumers yet is devoid completely in the #1 priority identified by CMOs in the CMO Survey? 


The human element is omnipresent to say the least. Every single one speaks directly to the fact that consumers want a real life relationship and interaction and engagement with brands above anything else. They want their experience with a brand to be personal. 

Does product quality matter? Of course it does. However, that should be implied. Of course your product is quality-made otherwise you wouldn't be here in the first place. The bottom line is what a marketer thinks a consumer wants vs. what a consumer actually wants are two very different things. 

And lest anyone think all of this applies only to those in the B2C space, think again. The last time I checked even though it says B2B there's still an H — a human, at the other end of the line. 

No One Said It Would Be Easy

Delivering that personal experience across all touch points is daunting to say the least. Fortunately, there is help. Download the The CMO Solution Guide to Leveraging New Technology and Marketing Platforms and read CMO peer solutions and a collective perspective on how CMOs are tackling this challenge head on. 

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