Editor’s note: Robert Passikoff is founder and president of Brand Keys, a New York-based research firm.

With social networks under siege and social activism at a 50-year high; with mountains of data accumulating in organizational silos and marketing professionals having to deal with brand values infused with political dogma; and with AI and ROI always there, it’s not an easy time for marketers. What issues prey on marketers’ minds and what are the issues keeping CMOs and brand managers up at night?

To answer that question, Brand Keys, a New York-based research consultancy, launched the first a number of studies called Marketing On My Mind to see which issues were most responsible for their loss of sleep. 

Brand Keys asked 558 CMOs and brand managers, “What issues keep you up at night?” Percentages below indicate the frequency of mention among the professionals interviewed. Problem areas that received mentions by 75 percent+ of participants included the following nightmares:

  • ROI and ROMI (97 percent)
  • Big data, big tech and big security issues (95 percent)
  • Establishing trust between my brand the consumer (95 percent)
  • Addressing innovation, AI, technology and marketing automation (92 percent)
  • Consumer expectations regarding privacy and transparency (90 percent)
  • Better managing social networking (89 percent)
  • Creating relevant and engaging advertising content and storytelling (88 percent)
  • Deployment of predictive consumer behavior analytics and technologies (86 percent)
  • Dealing with consumer advocacy, social activism like #MeToo and issues like gun violence (85 percent)
  • Growing consumer expectations and gap between brand promise and expectations (82 percent)
  • Developing a long-term strategy that aligns with corporate growth goals (80 percent)
  • Ability to engage my audiences, not just identify and find them (80 percent)
  • The democratization of the digital world and protecting my brand’s equity (79 percent)
  • Political tribalism and how it affects my brand (77 percent)
  • Being relevant and tweeted, not just tweeted (75 percent)
  • Keeping consumers engaged with my brand (75 percent)
  • Create better cross-platform synergy for my marketing campaigns (75 percent)
  • Being replaced by a chief revenue officer (75 percent)
  • Creating an unlearning curve to move away from legacy marketing metrics (75 percent)
  • Creating marketing synergy among different generational age cohorts (75 percent)

Nightmares about ROI have been around since the 1960s. Integrating and managing data are high on the list of roadblocks to calculating ROI but the biggest problem is connecting marketing activities to specific earnings. Sure, big data has the potential to change the way businesses can leverage data but big data is not a silver bullet. CMOs and brand managers are not professionally trained data scientists so a lot of relevant data gets lost in the haystack of information. Everyone seems to know how to count but when it comes to ROI they need to learn how to think about the numbers. It's keeping CMOs up at night.

Growing concerns regarding privacy and data security have reached a tipping point, driven by an increase in consumers’ expectations for trust and transparency in the brands they purchase. Trust – an engagement factor in every product/service category – has become the indispensable connective tissue between brands and customer loyalty. Consumer expectations for that single value have increased across every category and brand we track, on average by 250+ percent since 2018. Consumer expectations increase each year – normally in the 2 percent to 25 percent range. This is an unprecedented spike. No wonder brand managers are tossing and turning at night!

When it comes to nightmares, sleep scientists suggest getting into a healthy sleep routine. They also list sleeping with a stuffed toy, using a night-light and keeping your door open as tools to a good night’s sleep. In the world of marketing, cures for nightmares are a bit more complex. But the right tools and the right people can make for an easier night for brand manager and CMOs.

Additional category-specific insights can be accessed at http://brandkeys.com/what-happened/.