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Study: Marketers Avoid Risks to Tackle Uncertainty in Business

In this Marketing Report:

The current socio-economic crisis looms over us, and many professionals are rethinking their work structure and career future. Marketers are not an exception. Our recent survey takes a deep dive into marketers’ minds to see how they cope with uncertainty in business, how their stress levels have changed in the last few years, and how hopeful they remain for the future of their profession.

Together with the Belgian Association of Marketing, we had to step forward. Read on to find how marketers are dealing with uncertainty in the current crisis.


Experts who think marketing has become more meaningful since 2020

5 years

Time that most marketers see themselves staying in the industry

Sustainability & DEI

Marketing trend that has experts most excited for in 2023

The Reality: Stress Keeps Marketers From Taking Risks

In an industry known for taking risks, the results of our study paint a less-than-ideal picture. A fifth of marketers surveyed said they would rate their current stress levels at 8 out of 10, while another fifth rates it at 7.

bar graph of marketers' stress levels today

It is not different from their stress levels three years ago, when 19.34% rated it at 7 out of 10.

However, it is higher than pre-pandemic periods, when 18.68% placed their stress levels at 5 out of 10.

During 2020, two concerns dominated marketers’ state of mind: job security (13.73%) and heightened stress levels (13.50%).

bar graph of marketers' stress levels in different time periods

As of 2022, marketers no longer have the fear of losing their jobs. Our study reveals that marketers are more worried thinking that the pressure at work will increase.

Marketers’ Biggest Takeaway During Uncertain Times? Learning to Communicate

How to manage uncertainty in business may be difficult for marketers, but that hasn’t made them shy away from an important takeaway: most have learned new communication ways as a result of the current crisis.

Other professional learnings from the pandemic period include:

list of marketers' professional learnings after the pandemic
  1. The understanding that ‘work is not everything,’
  2. The digitalisation of companies as an essential element of marketing,
  3. The attainment of new digital skills,
  4. The need for employee well-being.

The ‘try and learn’ approach is the least favourite learning, making marketers go risk-free

Our survey reveals that the ‘test and learn’ or ‘try and learn’ approach in the work environment is the least favourite professional learning for marketers, essentially indicating that the crisis has forced them to avoid risk at all costs.

What matters most in uncertainty: Work-life balance and meaningful marketing

When asked about the biggest positive changes the crisis brought to their jobs, the majority of respondents (13.20%) agreed that marketing had become more meaningful since 2020.

Most male respondents (14.75%) agreed with that conclusion; however, most women (13.80%) believe the biggest positive change has been the way they think about their work-life balance.

bar graph of biggest positive changes that the pandemic brought to marketers

The conclusion is similar to the answers women give when asked about their biggest professional learning; while most men seem to be in line with the average answer (learning new communication ways), most women believe that employee well-being matters as much as productivity.

Coping With Uncertainty in Business: 20% Talk to Family and Friends

pie chart of how marketers cope with uncertainty in business

19.88% of marketers deal with uncertainty in business by talking to family, friends, and colleagues, followed by 11.37% who consult a specialist such as a doctor, psychiatrist, or coach.

Once again, marketers display their risk aversion, as the least popular way of dealing with uncertainty is through ‘​​analysing, experimenting, and testing’ (7.83%).

Crisis Does Not Sway Marketing Pros

Does the current crisis mean that working in marketing has an expiry date? When asked whether or not they saw themselves working in marketing in the future, 33% of respondents said they did, for at least 5 more years.

bar graph of time that marketers see themselves working in the industry

We also asked marketers how they saw the value that their job brought to the success of their companies. On a scale from 1 to 10, 1 being ‘not at all’ and 10 being ‘it contributes 100% to the success of the company,’ the majority of respondents rated their value at 8 out of 10.

bar graph of marketers' own perception to business success

Meaningful Marketing May Be a Way Out of Risk and Uncertainty in Business

As stated before, the biggest positive changes the crisis brought to marketers’ jobs is that the profession has become more meaningful since 2020.

list of trends that have marketers excited for 2023

85% of respondents think that meaningful marketing is more important than ever, and that the increase of awareness for meaningful actions has increased in their industry.

Respondents also said that sustainability, diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) is the marketing trend they are most excited for in 2023.

It makes sense, as according to our Sustainability in Marketing study most companies will increase their sustainable marketing budget by 5 or 10% in the next few years.

In Marketing, Layoffs Weren’t as Common

Our recent survey has revealed that layoffs weren’t as common in the marketing industry; most companies simply stopped hiring (22.04%).

As a matter of fact, when asked about what respondents’ marketing departments did to deal with the rise of costs, only 10% suggested layoffs.

pie chart of how marketing departments dealt with the rise of costs during the crisis

Conclusion: Marketers Navigate Through Uncertainty in Business With Both Hope and Stress

In our study, we have seen how stress levels for marketing professionals has only remained steady in the last three years. This is mostly due to their concerns about the increasing volume of work, which effectively leads to less risk-taking in an industry known for taking risks.

However, we have also seen how they retain hopes for the security of their jobs in the industry, and even look forward to staying there for at least 5 years.

At Sortlist we are keeping a close eye on how the industry transforms itself in the wake of new changes such as digitalisation and ever-present remote work. But if our years of experience tell us anything, it’s that risk-averse marketing may be the most uncertain scenario yet.


This report was done in collaboration between Sortlist and the Belgian Association of Marketing in the context of the 2022 BAM Marketing Congress.

logos Sortlist and BAM

The study was conducted between October 17th and October 21st, 2022, among 500 marketers in 6 countries: the United Kingdom, Belgium, Germany, Spain, the Netherlands, and France. In the study, we asked marketers about their feelings towards uncertainty and doubts regarding their career in the current global crisis. The responses are anonymous.

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