Dentsu Creative's CMO Report Finds Purpose a Priority, But Are We Forgetting How To Sell?

Survey highlights a pivotal moment where climate change, AI, diversity, and ethics drive innovation and change

By Creative Salon

Apparently 69 per cent of CMOs agree that we are all so focused on purpose, we have forgotten how to sell, according to a new report by Dentsu Creative which surveyed over 700 CMOs in eight key markets around the world.

The report concludes, however that this doesn’t mean an end to purpose, but rather an end to purpose as a side project and a pivot towards purpose as a core driver of sustainable business growth.

For the Creativity At A Crossroads report, Dentsu Creative spoke to senior marketers in the US, UK, Australia, Brazil, Canada, India, Italy and Spain, and from the findings identified key eight themes that show an industry at a crossroads, yet empowered by creativity and technology.

Patricia McDonald, Dentsu Creative’s Chief Strategy Officer, EMEA and lead author on the report added: “To own the audience, we need to connect in the spaces and places that matter most to them. The challenge is that audiences are changing: they have new expectations, new behaviors, and new values shaped by a deeply connected world. Their expectations have soared while their attention has polarised-they can dive deeper than ever into the things they love and find it easier than ever to ignore the things they don’t. So, brands must be built in new ways through experiences, through culture, and through action. The choice is simple: engage or be ignored”.

Written in collaboration with leaders across the Dentsu Creative global network, the report’s eight themes allow CMOs to benchmark their areas of focus against their peers, such as whether their investments in technologies and platforms are keeping pace with the industry, and whether they hold similar views on the fundamentals of marketing in 2023 and beyond.


In a world where every industry is facing radical climate-accelerated disruption, a brand’s approach to climate and its commercial success will be inextricably linked. The report found that 78% of marketers believe that when economic volatility is accelerated and exacerbated by climate volatility, there is no longer any disconnect between what is good for society and what is good for business. “As we see all too plainly around the world, the cost of inaction on climate change will rapidly outstrip the cost of action as governments legislate against industries with the most damaging footprint,” the report states.

As we have seen across 2023, businesses in every sector are impacted by extreme weather and its ripple effects on supply chain and business continuity. Dentsu found that 81% of CMOs agree that their business will undergo a fundamental pivot in response to climate change while 78% state that every brand should possess an ethical purpose or a socially conscious mission. This thinking is even more pronounced in the United States, where an overwhelming 94% of marketers share this perspective.

“Yet it is becoming more challenging today for brands to take an ethical stand or make bold claims about their carbon footprint,” the report argues. “On the one hand, we see an emerging and vocal backlash, on the other we see concerns and regulations around over-enthusiastic claims or ‘greenwashing’.” Creative agencies have a vital role to play in helping clients navigate these difficulties and make lasting change.

The report argues that sustainability can no longer be a side project or nice to have: “In a world where an increasingly volatile climate is having a direct and material impact on businesses across every category, the only long term-growth is sustainable growth.” Systemic change is needed but is hard-won, so the Dentsu’s global sustainability accelerator, Dentsu Good, uses methodology that urges brand teams to think about the symbolic actions that will signal change and become a beacon and rallying cry for the organisation. The report concludes: “While we are confronted every day with ever more alarming headlines on climate change, we have huge power as an industry to inspire hope in a sustainable future and inspire the action needed to make change possible. While infrastructure and innovation are needed, only through the power of emotion can we affect lasting behavioural change.”

The report also considers the impact of AI on marketing, the role of media platforms in elevating diverse voices, how brands are creating cultural moments, and explores new ways of connecting with new audiences and business partners. Read the report here.


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