Superheroes will be needed in marketing in 2024

Serviceplan Group's "CMO Barometer" shows a surprisingly optimistic economic outlook for 2024, AI will be THE top marketing topic

2024 will be an exciting year for all CMOs, marketing teams and agencies. After a challenging 2023, the Serviceplan Group's new "CMO Barometer 2024" documents more optimism again and often also holds out the prospect of growing budgets. 767 international marketing decision-makers (430 of them from the DACH region) took part in the extensive study, which was conducted for the first time in collaboration with the University of St.Gallen (HSG). Less surprising: marketing professionals agree that artificial intelligence (AI) will be THE top topic for them in the coming year.

Munich, November 29, 2023 - The year 2023 has been and continues to be characterized by crises that have repeatedly presented the economy with enormous challenges. No wonder that many market participants are rather cautious about future expectations and are treating investments with caution. CMOs sit at the central levers of companies and have a good sense of where the marketing journey is heading in the future. Their professional assessment serves as a valuable seismograph for the business mood in companies and agencies, documents the most important trends and formulates relevant requirements.

The three key findings of the current study, which was conducted in 11 countries in September this year, already provide an exciting outlook for the marketing year 2024:

34 percent of international CMOs (DACH region: 28%) are optimistic about 2024, while 40 percent of the decision-makers surveyed (DACH region: 32%) even expect marketing budgets to increase.

The use of new technologies, above all AI, will be THE top topic in marketing in 2024. Successful companies and brands will create connections between artificial and emotional intelligence in the future.

The most important skill for CMOs will be openness to trends and new technologies. Marketing teams must become high-performance organizations. Clients expect a challenger mindset from their agency partners.

Florian Haller, CEO of the Serviceplan Group, is confident about the new year based on the findings of the new "CMO Barometer": "Although the results still show caution with regard to the economic situation and investments, the trend is clearly moving towards optimism. We will face these challenges together and grow with them. We have an exciting new tool at our side: if used correctly, artificial intelligence can make our day-to-day work easier, offer solutions to complex issues and take innovation to a new level. Not surprisingly, AI will be the dominant topic among CMOs in 2024."

In addition to artificial intelligence as the central top topic for the marketing year 2024, which 32% of the 430 decision-makers surveyed in the DACH region voted in first place, sustainability follows in second place with 11%.

Corina Kurscheid, Global Associate VP Personal Care at Beiersdorf AG, confirms the two central challenges: "I see two hot topics for the coming marketing year: firstly sustainability, specifically greenwashing vs. greenhushing, and secondly AI, the integration and use as well as the avoidance of misuse."

Marco Buschmeier, Director Global Marketing (CMO), delta pronatura Dr. Krauss & Dr. Beckmann KG, also refers to the changing expectations of customers: "The topic of sustainability will increase massively in speed. Consumers increasingly have clear expectations of brands that they must be sustainable. The consequences of the Green Deal, CSRD, etc. will be massive."


Automation in marketing will continue to advance dynamically in 2024

Nils Klamma, CMO of Lexus Germany, outlines the marketing to-dos for 2024: "Brand will be THE success factor in the future. It is important to define the right journey for your brand. In 2024, everything will therefore revolve around optimizing the journey, including data, AI and stack. This is not new, but it is developing rapidly and is an absolute priority. It is also important to find out how to achieve sustainability. Even if the target groups are not yet buying because of this. In the future, this will be a hygiene factor that every brand needs."


Over half of the CMOs surveyed see artificial intelligence, machine learning and marketing automation as the key marketing trend in 2024.

Roger Strack, CMO at ADAC, explains the associated challenges: "In 2024, further automation through new, additional applications will be central to marketing. And in all areas: whether content creation, targeting or analytics. New tools and applications will be used with the aim of communicating more personally, efficiently and effectively. We need to test flexibly and agilely in order to translate learnings into operational action in a timely manner."


An international perspective reveals exciting differences

The international study conducted by the Serviceplan Group in collaboration with the University of St.Gallen also provides an exciting comparison of countries. This clearly shows that marketing teams will be equipped differently from market to market: The UK and the Netherlands, for example, focus on greater relevance with the right formats rather than creating new processes and structures. In contrast, there is international consensus on the two dominant marketing trends in 2024: AI and sustainability.


Simon Philip Rost, Chief Marketing Officer, GE Healthcare Solutions for Enterprise Imaging, explains what will be important for successful target group communication in the future: "2024 in a nutshell: Hyper-personalization, advanced analytics and generative AI. And always in the context of strengthening brand purpose, sustainability and social responsibility."


CMOs will need superpowers in view of the challenges in 2024

It is always interesting to compare the current "CMO Barometer" with the last survey: Looking ahead to 2023, the CMOs surveyed at the time still tended to mention general leadership skills in terms of strengthening future viability. For 2024, the study revealed that prudence, foresight and implementation skills will be in demand in the future.

Kerstin Köder, Head of Marketing EMEA at SAP, describes the required superpower of CMOs as follows: "Being the connector and orchestrator of the end-to-end customer journey, even if we don't own all the touch points ourselves! Who else ensures that customers experience an inspiring journey? CMOs juggle external market data, internal process knowledge and employee management, are always close to the customer and close to stakeholders and always combine the necessary technical expertise with creativity."

The results of the comprehensive study also show that CMOs will have to be even more managers of complexity in 2024 than before.


Proactive, strategic and creative: the expectations of agencies are complex

The "CMO Barometer" also reveals very clear findings with regard to the expectations of clients towards their communication service providers. In 2024, agencies must have a challenger mindset at eye level in order to recognize customer challenges and proactively solve them strategically and creatively. The expected impetus and the required skills are broadly diversified. It is therefore not surprising that representatives on the customer side have different requirements:

Sandra Viertauer, Head of Global Marketing & Communications at Rosenthal, wants her agencies to "respond individually to each client's situation - not one fits all." Philipp Langenbach, Chief Representative and Head of Marketing & PR at UmweltBank AG, expects measurable results above all: "That's what I expect from agency partners: To think in terms of key figures instead of creation."

Julia Zimmermann, Partner Brand Strategy & Positioning at Future Marketing (part of the Serviceplan Group) recommends agencies: "The key to a true partnership between agencies and CMOs is an open discussion about the company's current and future challenges with a clear focus on future viability and securing economic success. In the future, agencies must help to set up business models that are resilient and scalable. Otherwise they will miss out on the necessary step into the future."

Felix Bartels, CMO of the Serviceplan Group, accepts the central wish expressed in the study regarding the future role of agencies and says: "For CMOs, agencies as challengers are crucial. The clear expectation is to correctly classify the new trends and developments, identify concrete opportunities and generate real impact through intelligent implementation strategies."

For the University of St.Gallen, which worked together with the Serviceplan Group for the first time on the implementation and evaluation of the "CMO Barometer", its Executive Director, Professor Dr. Sven Reinecke, outlines what he considers to be the relevant formula for success in marketing: "Marketing excellence = marketing strategy x craftsmanship x creativity. All three elements require constant further development in order to continuously lay the foundation for top performance."

The detailed results of the "CMO Barometer 2024" with a classification by experts from the Serviceplan Group as well as further CMO opinions can be found in the presentations in the appendix.


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Markus Mazuran
House of Communication
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