Marketing needs new superheroes: CMO Barometer 2024 Results
Posted on 2024 Apr,30

Around 800 CMOs from 11 countries shared their industry forecasts for 2024 in a joint survey by Serviceplan Group and the University of St. Gallen. For the first year, the MENA region was included in the survey, with a clear difference in its results compared to their global CMO counterparts.

What will be the defining trend in marketing in 2024? Will budgets face drastic cuts, or can we anticipate a slight increase? What skills will become indispensable in 2024's landscape?

For its annual study, the Serviceplan Group partnered with prominent Swiss academic institutions, the University of St. Gallen and The Marketing Society, to gather exclusive insights from international brand and marketing managers.

This year, the study did not only expand to include the MENA region but also ten other countries, extending beyond Europe. On the list are Austria, Belgium, Germany, France, Italy, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Switzerland, Spain, and the United Kingdom. The foundation of the study conducted in September 2023, is an online survey followed by an analysis of data from 767 international CMOs and marketing decision-makers.


Key learnings from the CMOs responses in the region and key differences to other markets:

  • Artificial intelligence (AI), emotional branding, and content creation will dominate the agenda for CMOs in 2024.
  • Craft and a good balance of automation, intelligent language models, and emphatic brand measures will be 2024’s most resonant topics in the Middle East.
  • Hiring and staffing, as well as budget planning, cause sleepless nights for Middle East CMOs.
  • Resilient and Strategic Superheroes: Adaptability and strategic leadership skills are the best representations of the marketing powers of Middle East CMOs.


A distinctive marketing success formula in the region

The use of new technologies, especially AI, will be of paramount importance in 2024. A striking 71% of CMOs regionally identify AI as the pivotal trend, a dynamic force continuously expanding and refining.

Mediaplus Middle East’s Managing Partner Azhar Siddiqui interprets this learning: “Beyond the hype, we believe that CMOs are a lot less concerned about the gimmicks but a lot more invested in the possibilities of utilising new AI tools to boost productivity and even enhance creativity and marketing efficiency. The fact is that machine learning, which is closely linked to AI and comes second, attests to this need for efficiency.”

While AI takes the spotlight, the broader landscape of 2024 trends unveils a mixture of technology and emotional branding. The future of successful marketing lies in bridging artificial and emotional intelligence and delivering resonant brand content. Thus, the combination of content creation, AI and marketing automation, and emotional brand building emerges as the formula for success among marketing and brand managers in the region.


CMOs in the region are far more optimistic than their global counterparts.

A notable disparity emerges between the perspectives of the Middle East and the global community. In the Middle East, optimism abounds, with 52% anticipating an improvement in the regional economic situation. Conversely, globally, CMOs and marketing decision-makers lean towards optimism yet exhibit a cautious outlook for the financial year 2024.

In the Middle East, marketing investments are not expected to significantly decrease, as 53% of CMOs foresee a budget increase of 5 to 10%, while 33% plan to maintain current levels. Globally, there is evident prudence in spending plans, with 38% aiming to maintain previous levels and 40% projecting modest increases of 10% or less.

Serviceplan Middle East Managing Partner Natalie Shardan comments: “For us, this might seem nothing new, but more than the numbers, we are curious to understand where these planned budget increases will be channelled to. Will be on new tools, on brand actions, on product actions, or on people's investments.”


The people are what keep CMOs awake at night.

AI may be the biggest buzz, but people and teams remain the backbone. We see this clearly on the topic of what keeps Middle East CMOs awake at night. Talent recruitment and talent upskilling combined are robbing Middle East CMOs of their sleep.

Serviceplan Arabia Managing Partner Rami Hmadeh comments: “This I particularly understand, especially with my ongoing experience opening offices in Jeddah, and soon, Riyadh) The usual urgencies like budgets, deadlines, and decisions seem to be the usual hurdles, but not as pressing as the fight for talent.”

Winning Superhero marketing teams in the Middle East drive business success through a good balance of critical analytical thinking and business knowledge, with strategic thinking at 18% and business understanding at 18%. But this is where we see a huge divide between global and regional thinking, because while CMOs in the Middle East believe in a healthy balance of technical skills (at a total of 36%), they also recognise the need for soft skills (at an aggregate of 36% for creativity, teamwork, and communication combined). Clearly, aptitude and attitude go a long way in this region.


Business resilience makes for super CMOs in the region.

While open-mindedness, flexibility, and leadership skills that adapt to highly volatile environments will make for strong global CMOs in 2024, adaptability and strategic leadership will make for regional super CMOs. Reflecting the rapid pace of progress in the region, CMOs in the Middle East will be expected to lead their brands and their teams with a sense of business acumen and the ability to reorient quickly, without sacrificing the indispensable aspects of strategy and innovation.

“CMOs generally need to be jacks-of-all-trades who can be both creative right-brain thinkers as well as analytical left-brain thinkers. The ability to bring together art and science in business is not a skill that everyone has, especially when stepping into conversations in the boardroom.” comments Ahmed El Gamal, Senior Marketing Director, Jumeirah Hotels, AE.

Kerstin Köder, Head of Marketing EMEA at SAP, describes the required superpower of CMOs as follows: “Be 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 exciting journey? CMOs, who juggle external market data, internal process knowledge, and employee management, are always close to the customer and close to stakeholders, always combining the necessary technical know-how with creativity.”