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What are CMOs asking themselves amidst the COVID-19 crisis?

By Michael McCune | March 27, 2020 | 0 Comments

MarketingMarketing Leadership and Strategy

What behavior shifts will persist when we arrive at the new normal?


It many ways, CMOs are asking questions we ask ourselves:


  • Will I keep taking daily walks when I start going back to the office?
  • Will I keep having virtual lunch meet-ups with colleagues?
  • Will our family stop subscribing to four video services?
  • Will we make more meals together as a family?
  • Will those meals still be cheese quesadillas and tuna fish sandwiches?


To a CMO, those questions reflect significant changes in how we behave as customers, consumers, and colleagues. Changes in our behavior that stick with us will require CMOs to shift budget and resources.


CMO Voices


This week, I had the opportunity to facilitate three online meet-ups of CMOs from our client base. Rather than Gartner talking to them about our COVID-19 guidance, the aim was to help CMOs speak to one another as peers.

When introductions were made, everyone shared their commercial context. As one hears everywhere, many leaders said they put the brakes on external spend.



More striking, though was the effort to perceive what shifts in customer and consumer behavior would be lasting.


Don’t Spend Too Long As a Reactive Responder


The reality for some heads of marketing is that PR teams have taken over social channels, CFOs are controlling spend, and acquisition efforts have stopped. They attend the meetings, but don’t control a lot of outcomes. But that doesn’t mean there aren’t critical assessments to be done, and actions to be taken.

Gartner gives a lot of guidance about Winning In The Turns and Cost Optimization (subscription required). That guidance advises business leaders to take action during the downturn that helps position their company for faster recovery and growth than its peer group.

Not that I heard of any clear actions being taken just yet, but many CMOs were concerned about being stuck in a ‘reactive response’ mode. Those leaders spoke about their quest to make decisions about what the new normal would be:


  • Will my virtual customer meetings continue to attract thousands vs hundreds?
  • Will the perceived value of human connection cause more group gatherings in the new normal?
  • Will more devices continue to be bought (and replaced) now that each family member has one?
  • Will social media drive as much eCommerce as it does amidst the crisis?


The CMOs asking those questions want to build out budgets and business cases for the re-allocation of resources. They want determine how to shift budgets, where to shift staff, what technology to add, and what part of the function to trim back to afford those changes.

They want to put themselves in the position to invest in new capabilities that meet the new normal however they think it will manifest.

There will be a new normal. And there is risk in acting too soon (and too late). But it is time to start creating scenarios for what the new normal might be. Those that do will find themselves in a better position to recover and grow faster than their peers.

Other #COVID-19 posts from Gartner colleagues:

The Customer Experience Implications of the SARS-CoV-2 Coronavirus and COVID-19 Disease

Beware of Virtue Signaling or Outright Greed in Brand Communications About COVID-19

Gartner Poll: 65% of Marketers Brace for Budget Cuts Due to COVID-1 

Can You Increase MarTech Stack Effectiveness in a Budget Freeze?

Privacy, Profiling, and Public Safety in the time of Pandemic

How to Make Data from Customer Listening Tools Actionable


The Gartner Blog Network provides an opportunity for Gartner analysts to test ideas and move research forward. Because the content posted by Gartner analysts on this site does not undergo our standard editorial review, all comments or opinions expressed hereunder are those of the individual contributors and do not represent the views of Gartner, Inc. or its management.

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