That’s the question we set out to answer with APEX’s new CMO Lab project – and the results are well, surprising. Despite radical shifts in consumer behaviour, growth of digital and the decline of conventional media, only a third of CMOs have changed or evolved their strategies in the last few years. Yikes.

This finding is among a number of insights gleaned from our recent survey of more than 100 Canadian CMOs and senior-level marketers. The results provide an insider-view of how businesses and brands are responding to change and disruption while gauging how Canada’s marketers are coping with new responsibilities for technology, data and analytics and corporate reputation.

We’ve grouped the insights together in an exciting new initiative we’re calling CMO Lab. In addition to the quantitative research, CMO Lab will be featuring a content hub with first-hand insights in the form of podcasts, articles and videos highlighting how some of Canada’s top marketers are responding to change.

Here are a few of the most interesting findings:

  • Marketers are still tied to traditional: Despite massive change, new competitive pressures and technological disruption, only a third of CMOs have changed their approach to marketing in the last few years.
  • A (Not So) Integrated Approach: When it comes to an organization’s marketing, less than half of CMOs include PR, corporate culture or HR in their communications plans. Most CMOs are ignoring employee and organizational communications entirely, leaving out some their brand’s most vocal and authentic advocates.
  • Reputation Matters: A full 90% of CMOs believe brand and organizational reputation has become more important in the last few years. However, just half say they could have been more proactive when managing a reputational risk that impacted their organization.
  • Valuing Exposure: Just over a quarter of CMOs’ organizations value positive exposure in viral or engaging social media the most – above all else.
  • Driving Innovation: Half of CMOs say marketing innovation comes from inside their organization and half partner with other organizations to acquire new skills.

Are Marketers Losing the Race?

Conventional marketing no longer delivers the audience, engagement or impact that brands need today and it’s clear from the results of our study that marketers who are unable to shift from traditional tactics to a strategic and integrated approach are putting their organizations’ brand reputations at-risk.

But despite this less than rosy picture, all is not lost and there are some insights from the research that show that a set of marketers are starting to adopt an integrated approach that promotes a consistent message with their audiences while navigating today’s reputation risks and opportunities. For example, of the one third of marketers who have changed-up their approach, half are increasing their investment in new forms of media and making an effort to integrate different campaign elements.

What Can Agencies Do About It?

It’s clear that PR agencies and other communications professionals must do a better job in demonstrating the value of integrated communications across a diversity of channels and audiences to marketers.  Ad agencies have traditionally monopolized the attention of the CMO, but in order to help CMOs move beyond traditional areas, such as employee and stakeholder engagement, brand reputation management and corporate social responsibility to name but a few, PR professionals need to insert themselves into the conversation. We can’t ultimately expect marketers to single-handedly navigate an entirely new territory of programming if we don’t ourselves help them along the way.

The Road Ahead

It’s been a long road, but Canadian Marketers have successfully expanded their roles beyond brand communication to include data and insights, customer experience, workplace culture, corporate reputation and new technologies. But our CMO Lab research suggests that by not adapting to change, Marketers could be holding themselves (and their brands) back from even greater success. Looking ahead, Canadian CMOs should expand and extend their use of integrated communications to optimize programs and budget and reach more audiences. By doing so, they will achieve greater consistency of brand messages, enhance consumer, public and employee engagement while driving sustainable growth.

Stay on the lookout for new CMO Lab content from the APEX / ruckus Digital team and follow the conversation on social using the #CMOLab hashtag.