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STAMFORD, Conn., January 27, 2021

Gartner Says 95% of CMOs Believe Their Company Should Take the Lead in Solving Key Societal and Cultural Issues

New Research Reveals Misalignment of Consumer Expectations of Brands Versus the Actions Brands Have Taken

Ninety-five percent of chief marketing officers (CMOs) believe their companies should take the lead in finding solutions to key societal and cultural issues, according to a survey by Gartner, Inc.

Gartner surveyed 381 CMOs and senior marketing executives during September and October 2020, and found that their organizations have already taken concrete action (see Figure 1) to demonstrate a firm commitment to societal change.

“CMOs play a unique role in helping their organizations understand and respond to societal, cultural and political trends,” said Jay Wilson, vice president analyst in the Gartner Marketing practice. “As a result, marketing has taken on the responsibility of using the brand’s platform to build awareness of societal issues and communicate support for movements. However, there is some misalignment of consumer expectations of brands and the actions they report having taken.” 

Gartner found that 44% of consumers report that their highest expectations of companies is for them to ensure their own policies and practices align with a cause, but only 37% of CMOs report taking that action. Twenty-four percent of consumers say one of brands’ top two priorities should be donating money to cause, yet 46% of CMOs report donations as a top action taken.

Figure 1: Actions Taken in Societal Issues Over the Past 12 Months

Source: Gartner (January 2020)

“If part of a brand’s motivation for taking action on social issues is to align with what consumers want from brands, CMOs may need to review their priorities,” said Augie Ray, vice president analyst in the Gartner Marketing practice. “Taking any action comes with risk in an increasingly polarized society. However, such risks are typically offset by having furthered or fulfilled the brand’s purpose.”

To successfully lead in solving key societal and cultural issues, Gartner recommends that CMOs take the following actions:

  • Spearhead efforts to ensure company policies and practices reflect the ideals of target consumers, especially as it relates to diversity, equity and inclusion.
  • Take a leadership role and implement a process for monitoring and engaging with societal issues. An organizational decision criteria is needed to ensure consistent, defensible decision making. 
  • Understand the benefits and risks of taking a stand on issues, and have a solid grasp of brand values and a crisis management plan before taking a stand on societal or political issues.

Gartner for Marketers clients can learn more in the report “CMO Strategic Priorities Survey 2020-2021: Ambitions Threatened by Capacity, Capital and Capability.”

About the Gartner Marketing Symposium/Xpo

Gartner analysts will discuss the key issues facing CMOs during the Gartner Marketing Symposium/Xpo, taking place virtually August 17-19. This conference provides marketing leaders actionable advice about the trends, tools and emerging technologies they need to deliver business results. Gartner analysts address the biggest opportunities, challenges and priorities marketers face today, including data and analytics, customer experience, content marketing, customer insight, marketing technology (martech) and multichannel marketing. Follow news and updates for the event on Twitter at #GartnerMKTG.

About Gartner for Marketers

Gartner for Marketers provides the objective, expert advice, and proven tools that CMOs and other marketing leaders need to seize the right opportunities with clarity and confidence, and to stay ahead of the trends that matter. With in-depth research and analysis, Gartner for Marketers helps you focus on the opportunities with the greatest potential to deliver results. More information on Gartner for Marketers is available online at Follow news and updates from the Gartner Marketing practice on Twitter and LinkedIn using #GartnerMKTG.

About Gartner

Gartner, Inc. (NYSE: IT) delivers actionable, objective insight to executives and their teams. Our expert guidance and tools enable faster, smarter decisions and stronger performance on an organization’s mission critical priorities. To learn more, visit