The 7 Biggest Issues Keeping CMOs Up At Night

What do marketing professionals really care about? What’s on their wish list? The Marketing Science Institute (MSI) is a consortium of over 75 major firms from all industries that provide an interface between practitioners and academics. Every other year, the MSI goes through a process to identify the priority issues marketing practitioners are facing in order to provide guidance to academic research. The 2014 results are out.

There are two tier one issues, five tier two issues, and four tier three issues.


Understanding customers and the customer experience.

What behaviors have emerged in the multi-media, multi-screen and multi-channel world? How has social and digital changed the customer experience and path to purchase? How should customer engagement be defined and measured? How does social media create engagement? What methods provide insight?

Big data and analytics.

What analytical skills will be necessary in a data-rich environment? What new marketing mix and predictive modeling will emerge? How can they be evaluated? How can social data be harnessed to provide insights? How should individual data be used? How can real-time decisions be influenced by big data?


Marketing Accountability.

How should short-run response and long-turn brand building be measured? How should the ROI of digital and social be measured? What is the ROI of internal marketing activities?

Developing marketing excellence.

What skills will marketers need in the future? How do you create a consumer eccentric culture? How do you communicate the brand internally? What is the role of visualization or storytelling? How can firms sense and respond to the external environment?

Leveraging digital/social/mobile technology.

What are the guidelines for websites, search campaigns, online ads, promotions and customer social media engagement? How should mobile and social media marketing be used and linked to customer relationship management? How can digital, mobile and social be used to gain insights? How should they be monitored?

Creating and communicated enduring customer value.

How should customer product perceptions be measured? How can customer value drivers be identified? How can marketing influence and frame customer value perceptions? How should customer lifetime value be captured and incorporated into marketing decision making? What are the implications of promotional pricing policies?

Developing and delivering integrated marketing.

How can the elusive integrated marketing communication (IMC) be delivered? What frameworks model the full range of consumer contacts and touchpoints including online and consumer driven and mobile? How do you deliver IMC in today’s media and social environment? What organizational processes help IMC?


The four tier 3 priorities reflect issues that have been with marketing for a long time and have been priorities in the past and received a lot of attention. They include innovating products and services, global marketing, segmentation, and optimizing social contracts. It may be that enough progress has been made, so they are no longer the hot issues that are top-of-mind.

The first tier priorities not only are important in and of themselves, but they also provide themes and motivations for several of the others as well. If there is one theme that concerns me the most, it is how to get digital/social/mobile programs right. Those programs encompass almost everything including customer experience, big data analytics, marketing accountability, marketing capability, customer value propositions and integrated marketing.

In all cases, the complexity of digital/social/mobile and the opportunity that goes along with it seems to permeate the thoughts of all CMOs and senior marketing professionals. What questions keep you up at night?

David Aaker is a best-selling author and Vice Chairman at Prophet, a strategic brand and marketing consultancy. He blogs weekly at and can be found on Twitter @DavidAaker.

His next book, Aaker on Branding: 20 Principles That Drive Success is available for pre-ordering now. For a limited time, purchase 25 or more copies of Aaker on Branding and save 42%. Click here for more information.


AICEX Customer Experience Italian Association


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