CMO Outlook: Making sense of marketing together
A view from Greg Paull

CMO Outlook: Making sense of marketing together

R3 principal and co-founder Greg Paull invites marketers to participate in a new study.

In November last year, UBS released a 400-page market report which started with: “Things will get worse before they get better.” The flagship report of the United Nations trade and development body, UNCTAD, described the global economy as “a spluttering north, a general slowdown in the south and rising levels of debt everywhere”. These were pre-coronavirus projections and neither organisation had any idea of how bad the situation was going to get. 

What a difference a few months can make – a fitting reminder of how quickly things can change. Marketers everywhere are now working towards increasing their operational fitness and agility. The brave are fighting FOFO (the fear of finding out) and facing challenges head on. The more conservative slow their pace while trying to determine what might be up ahead.

Regardless of which training camp you belong to, everyone needs a plan. 

Long-term projections and estimates have their place in shaping marketing strategy and direction, but with economies so volatile, short-term outlooks can be a much-needed pause, where we check in and chart our position on the course.

What Is CMO Outlook?

This insight is the basis of CMO Outlook, a biannual study by Campaign and R3 that has the intention of helping marketers block out the noise and focus on the things that will impact immediate decision-making.

CMO Outlook is not about aspirational goals. We are not set on fueling the imagination with more “new ideas”. We are not looking to predict what will happen two years from now, nor will the findings deliver a bullet-point list of trends. 

The purpose of CMO Outlook is to provide useful information to marketing leaders that will help them make decisions in the short term. Consider that the average chief marketing officer tenure is now 43 months. Agency reviews can take anywhere from a few weeks to close to a year. A company’s digital transformation takes about five years. Implementation demands time, but shifting gears is action that marketers can take now.

Not just another CMO survey

Although this is the first time we are launching CMO Outlook in EMEA, the study is in its third wave across Asia. What we have found from interactions with marketers is that CMO Outlook is different as a survey in three important ways.

1 We are peer-led, not industry-shaped

The findings in CMO Outlook are an aggregate of individual opinions of people working in similar contexts and working through related concerns. We are not comparing apples with oranges, and with geographical nuances becoming more important as a result of the pandemic, regional focus delivers valuable insight.

2 We share knowledge, not send information

Information is only valuable in its scarcity. With inboxes filling up with more data than we can attend to each day, the desire is about narrowing things down to insights that help marketers make better decisions. This is why CMO Outlook was established. A marketer trying to come to a resolution or make a decision about a specific issue would be better to receive shared knowledge from their peer group than interesting but irrelevant soundbites. 

3 We want to be forward-thinking, not retrospective

After a few years of data is collected, we will be able to map a narrative of marketer thinking during these changed times, but CMO Outlook is not a retrospective study. It is not a navel-gazing exercise. We are focused on the future, trying to understand what might lie before us as an industry and how best to act in the short term. The questions we seek to answer are “What do we need now?” and “What should be done soon?”.

An invitation to join CMO Outlook

As we kick off our regional study, Campaign and R3 are inviting senior marketers from across EMEA to be part of this unique regional network. Full results and findings will only be shared within the participating group and this will exclude agencies and vendors. Insights are anonymised to maintain privacy, but for those who would like to share their thoughts publicly, there will be a platform for interviews and discussion. All senior marketers are invited to join across categories. 

To register, please contact Martha Evans at

Greg Paull is principal and co-founder of R3
Picture: Getty Images