AI’s impact on marketers and brands, according to 500 CMOs

AI’s impact on marketers and brands, according to 500 CMOs

We surveyed 500 chief marketing officers (CMOs) in the US and the UK to get a pulse on how the rise of generative AI is impacting their brands. Their responses paint a picture of excitement and caution: 74% of CMOs reveal that an unsolicited “fake brand partnership” would be their worst nightmare.

CMOs have an AI challenge on their hands. They need to figure out how to incorporate the technology into their techstack and understand the impact that viral (and fictional) collaborations like this IKEA and Patagonia mashup could have on their brands.

The rise of generally available AI tools also poses risks and opportunities to CMOs regarding brand asset control and management.

We’re only at the beginning of incorporating AI in our workflows: We’ve yet to figure out where AI can support and where it can replace. To assess where things stand right now, we surveyed 500 CMOs across the US and the UK. We wanted to understand how the rise of generative AI impacts them, their teams, their brands, and the creation of their brand assets. Here’s what they told us.

CMOs are mostly excited about the rising use of AI in the creation of brand assets

75% of CMOs stated they were excited about the rising use of AI in the creation of brand assets. An additional 60% plan to invest in AI for their marketing function this year.

David Sandström, CMO at Klarna, stated: “I’m very excited to see what will happen very soon when access to high-quality AI-powered production is in everyone’s hands. As YouTube and social media democratized reach for the individual, glossy production quality will now be in the hands of both individuals and smaller brands, unleashing the creativity of more lone geniuses and smaller teams and allowing them to take on global brands with equal or greater firepower.”

As for CMOs who aren’t planning to invest in AI yet, their rationale stretched across a wide spectrum: About a third of participants mentioned higher-minded ideals such as not aligning with values (33%) and concerns about the negative effects of automation on their teams (28%). But practical barriers are also on CMOs’ minds: A lack of budget (21.93%), loss of creative control (18%), fears of legal and IP implications (18%), and just a lack of not knowing how to use the technology (17%) are reasons to not yet include AI in the budget.

Nevertheless, when asked about specific tools like ChatGPT and Midjourney, 64% agreed that they’re the future of creativity and asset creation.

Will AI tools like ChatGPT and Midjourney become long-term tools marketers use?

Most CMOs want greater AI governance to protect brands

As the volume of generative AI brand spoofs rises, three-quarters (74%) of CMOs reveal an unsolicited “fake brand partnership” would be their worst nightmare. It’s no surprise that 73% also think there should be greater AI governance to protect brands. This development appears to be affecting the CMO role itself, as 9 in 10 (90%) CMOs argue that protecting their brand has become even more important to their job role.

To get a glimpse of the creative collaboration attempts, we created a Real or not real? quiz to gauge the ability to identify these fake partnerships. More than 17,000 people have taken the 10-question quiz so far. The average score is 6.5 out of 10, which illustrates how difficult it is to spot the difference between real and AI-generated brand assets.

Speaking of fake brand partnerships, CMOs fell across a spectrum of responses.

What, if anything, would you do if someone had used AI to create a fake partnership using your brand?

  1. Tap into social discussions and engage with the new audiences this will have reached (34.9%)
  2. Contact the legal team for advice (28.5%)
  3. Find a way to contact the creator to take this down (17.7%)
  4. Lean into the creativity and potentially think about making this a reality (10.4%)
  5. Refuse to engage or comment on the work (6.2%)
  6. Would do nothing (2.3%)

CMOs must protect their brand without stifling creativity

As AI grows in influence across the marketing industry, almost three quarters (73%) of CMOs agree that striking the right balance between protecting the brand and stimulating creativity is key. As noted above, over a third (35%) of CMOs would use an unsolicited user-generated brand partnership to tap into social discussions and engage with the new audiences this may have reached. One in ten (10%) say they would even consider using the unsolicited creative in their own campaigns.

Managing this balance comes on top of managing the day-to-day creation of brand assets, which is substantial. Nearly half (49.70%) of CMOs spend 11–15 hours a month organizing and managing their brand assets.

To what extent do you agree with the following statement? As AI grows in influence across the industry, finding the right balance between protecting your brand and not stifling creativity is key.

Balancing creativity and control with brand management software

Finding the right balance between “natural” creativity and artificial intelligence will be one of the challenges for marketers in the next few years. And it’s one reason why more brands are turning to brand management software. “Now that anyone with a browser can access publicly available AI tools, the million-dollar question for CMOs is how they can unleash the creative potential of AI while protecting the equity of their brand,” said Roger Dudler, CEO and Founder of Frontify. “CMOs want brands to be at the center of the conversation, but there’s a need to tread carefully. AI means creative control is more important than ever, and this is where a brand management platform, like Frontify, can play an integral role in achieving the correct balance of creativity and asset creation.

Digge Zetterberg
Digge Zetterberg
Director of Content & Communications