Press Release


STAMFORD, Conn, April 27, 2021

Gartner Says 35% of Digital Marketing Leaders Believe the Biggest Challenges in 2021 to Come from Within Their Organization

Digital Marketing Leaders Must Focus on Building Collaborative Relationships Inside Their Organization in Order to Succeed in the Year Ahead

Disruptive external events presented the largest challenges for organizations in 2020, however 35% of digital marketing leaders believe their biggest challenges in 2021 will come from within their organizations, according to Gartner, Inc.

Gartner surveyed 350 marketing executives in November 2020 through December 2020 and found that building and maintaining cross-functional partnerships in the organization will be increasingly important for digital marketing leaders in the year ahead. Another top concern for digital marketing leaders is elevating the role digital marketing technologies and data play (see Figure 1).

“Digital marketing leaders perceive their ability to deliver results in the face of disruption as dependent on effective, cross-functional alliances,” said Noah Elkin, vice president analyst in the Gartner for Marketers practice. “Digital marketing leaders must think and act multidimensionally, bringing an equal measure of strategic, tactical and relation-building skills to the marketing team and the organization as a whole.”

Figure 1: Activities Most Anticipated to Be Challenging in 2021 Due to Long-Term Impacts of Disruptions

Source: Gartner (2021)

Building on existing relationships with IT and communications groups will be critical to elevating the role of digital marketing activities, technologies and data across the organization. Likewise, leveraging support from the CEO and improving relations with finance leaders will similarly be important as marketers wrestle with managing budget and resources to meet strategic priorities.

This is increasingly important as digital marketing leadership roles continue to evolve in scope and responsibilities. “The degree to which digital marketing leadership now more closely aligns with overall marketing leadership is a direct result of the expansive remit digital now holds in overall marketing strategies and objectives,” added Mr. Elkin.

Gartner research shows that 36% of digital marketing leaders now hold the title of chief marketing officer (CMO) and another 49% hold the title of vice president or higher. In addition, 75% of digital marketing leaders report their span of responsibility extends to the entire organization – with only 25% limited to just the business unit or regional division level.

To overcome internal challenges in the year ahead and keep their objectives on track, digital marketing leaders need to focus on merchandising their plans to key organizational stakeholders that can help them achieve strategic goals and elevate the role digital marketing data and technologies play across the business.

“The key to effectively managing disruption lies at that nexus of people, process and technology,” said Mr. Elkin.

Learn more in the Gartner Webinar, "The Digital Transformation of the Modern Marketing Leader," May 27, 2021. Gartner for Marketers clients can learn more in the reports Digital Marketing Survey 2021, Part 1: Agile Planning and Clear Leadership Mitigate Disruption and Digital Marketing Survey 2021, Part 2: Old Challenges Persist as New Disruptive Forces Emerge.


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