Global Executives Study

The Global Executives Study is our way of making sure we’re building for the habits, preferences and behaviors of business leaders—informing ourselves and our brand partners.

It’s the new who, how, and what of the global business leader.

We surveyed nearly 1,500 executives from over 131 countries and 30 industries

A selection of companies our leaders represent.
  • 58%
  • 42%
    Senior management
  • 70%
  • 30%
  • 51
    Median age

Most represented industries:

  • 17%
  • 13%
  • 12%
  • 9%

And achieved results by designing research to be user-first

  • 54%
    Completion rate
  • 61%
    Responses on mobile devices
  • 13:31
    Average completion time

To better understand two things:

How executives digest and engage with media.
Who they are, what they expect, and how they’re making decisions.

Discovery and Depth

How media fits into executives’ lives and the new ways to enlighten them.

Mobile news consumption continues to accelerate globally

The use of mobile devices to consume news has continued to increase globally, from 41% when we first conducted the survey to 59% in 2018 (+18%). The jump has been especially high in EMEA (30%) and LATAM (34%).

Annual mobile news consumption growth by region

The ubiquity of mobile devices has made the c-suite more discerning users

They expect a seamless mobile experience

of executives agree that it’s important that a brand’s mobile site work as well as its desktop version.

They’re unlikely to return to a website if there’s a bad ad experience

of executives are unlikely to return to a website if they find the ad experience to be obtrusive—and they consider ads that delay the loading of a site to be the most disruptive.

And context becomes more important for brand perception

Brand context and perception

Brand perception is dependent on design and context—and brands with bad experiences have negative results

79% of executives recognize their perception of a brand is influenced by the content and design of the website in which it lives.

They expect more from the content they consume and are looking for brands to lean into their authority

Execs remain most interested in industry trends and analysis. But, over the last year, interest in information about product features and experience has increased 23% while interest in insights from industry leaders or experts has declined 12%.

Content type interest variation, 2016 to 2018


A majority of execs (78%) are willing to read brand content yet less than half consider the last piece of brand content they read to have been interesting, informative and valuable (42%).

They value brand authority and expertise—but there’s an interesting nuance

35 and younger,
executives are more likely to value value insights from the company’s leadership or industry experts—as well as access to exclusive data.
36 and older,
executives are more interested in information about product features and the product experience.

They’re most likely to be attracted to dynamic visual content

Data visualizations, photography, and charts are the formats and features most likely to draw them to content— followed by interactive features and videos.

Formats most likely to draw executives to content


When it comes to content consumption, they're driven equally by discovery (dynamic visual formats that attract) and depth (rich, relevant content).

There’s a golden hour for reading the news and consuming content

Executives continue to be most likely to consume news first thing in the morning, but they are increasingly consuming news throughout the day.

News consumption preference by daypart and format

Email newsletters are eating other content for breakfast

Email newsletters are increasingly the go-to for executives in the morning. We’ve seen an 8% increase since we began conducting the GES: from 42% in 2014 to 50% today.

Executives' most likely news-related activities when waking up

Mobile used to be dominated by apps, but we’re seeing the rise of the mobile web

There has been a significant increase in overall news consumption and a slight shift in the second most commonly referenced source of news.

Most likely news-related activities when waking up in the morning

There are windows when executives want more news and information - and they expect different media for these time slots.

Upon waking up:

  • 50%
    Read an email newsletter

On the morning commute:

  • 37%
    Listen to the radio
  • 21%
    Listen to podcasts

Arriving at the office:

  • 35%
    Read news websites

In the middle of the day:

  • 25%
    Use news apps
  • 29%
    Read an email newsletter

On the evening commute:

  • Audio spikes again
  • 17%
    Check social media

At night:

  • 38%
    Watch TV
  • 37%
    Check social media

The C-plus is the new A-team

The c-suite is growing and becoming more diverse

In fact, 13 new chief-level titles were introduced in the 2018 GES—and the c-suite now represents 14% more executive respondents.

Changing dynamics are leading to more women and broader representation across the c-suite

Each year, women make up a larger percentage of the c-suite and the Quartz GES respondent base.

This rings true for Latin America, EMEA, and North America.

Female CEOs trend by region, by year (%)


The 2018 GES included more female CEOs than ever before: 18%. That’s 6x higher than the percentage of women occupying CEO positions in Fortune Global 500 companies.

These dynamics are also leading to changes in information and content-sharing habits

85% of executives are likely to share a good piece of content when they come across it, but it varies by role.

While dynamic visual formats attract them to content, discovery and depth and drives sharing. Both are essential.

Executives "very likely" to share good content, by job title

What draws them to brand content is different than what motivates them to share it

Executives are more likely to share articles (short- and long-form) than other formats—this is true across demographics, regions, and industries.

In fact, they’re twice as likely to share articles than charts, data or images—and three times more likely to share articles than video.

Types of content most often shared by executives

And sharing has moved from open platforms to peer relationships

Executives are still most likely to share content by email, but this likelihood has dropped—so has sharing publicly on LinkedIn or Twitter.

But they are 30% more likely to share via messaging apps and 10% more likely to share in person.

Platforms most often used by executives to share content

Who decides?

The changing dynamics influencing purchase decisions.

CEOs and COOs continue to hold the most power in decision-making

Decision-making and purchase power is concentrated in the c-suite across industries—primarily with CEOs and COOs—but 85% of organizations have at least 3 people involved in the process.

Business purchase decisions are actually driven by spheres of influence—not just individuals

Executives are powerful, but there’s a sphere of influence around them—the sources informing key decision makers who use search engines, rely on reviews, or ask people they know.

Behavior: Most common ways executives hear about products or services not previously purchased (%):

  • 10%
  • 21%
    Someone in my industry
  • 15%
    Someone in my orginzation
  • 13%
    Someone who reports to me
  • 4%
    My boss
  • 25%
    News articles
  • 12%
    Social media

And their discovery starts with Search

The sphere of influence relies on Search to begin the research process, but final decisions are far more likely to emerge from people within the decision maker’s organization. They make decisions in different ways.

Channel: Most common source of information to launch business purchase journey (%):

  • 70%
  • 5%
    Someone in my organization
  • 10%
    Someone in my industry
  • 8%
    Company website
  • 5%
    Review website

Differentiating between competitors is the most critical part of the business purchase journey

This breakthrough becomes the pivotal point at which they turn from being influenced to influencing, also marking a shift in decision-making power.

So, differentiation is key.

Level of ease in the business decision-making process, by phase

There are three best ways to influence purchase decisions

Customer testimonials are a powerful way to support a decision in favor of a business purchase decision.

Customer reviews—from people execs know, or industry websites—are most influential against purchasing a product.

Product demos, case studies and white papers represent the greatest influence in favor of a purchase, balanced against their respectively low risks of influencing against a purchase decision.

Influence of content formats in business purchase decisions

On average, the opportunity for brand influence lies within a two-week range

From discovery to sign-off, the average business purchase lifecycle lasts under 3 months across industries—most commonly between 2-4 weeks. Finance takes slightly longer.

Average duration of business purchase journey, by industry


If the crucial part of the process typically takes 2-4 weeks, brands have a very small window to influence them—the sphere of influence.

Start early and target the sphere of influence—not just the final decision-maker.

As consumers, executives care more about quality and sustainability than self-expression

They are brand-loyal and willing to pay more for quality, but they don’t necessarily consider the brands they purchase to be a form of self-expression—in fact, most prefer to spend on high-quality experiences than possessions.

Attitudes and beliefs toward personal purchases decisions

As people and professionals, they aspire to do good while doing well

Executives are excited about a hyper-connected future. And they’re looking for technology that helps them become more efficient and effective. But 78% value the positive impact their organizations make on the world as much as the money they make.

Key takeaways

  • 1
    Today’s execs look for brand authority. Deliver it and remember: they are influenced by context.
  • 2
    Depth and sophistication of content is critical, but to enable discovery, never compromise dynamic visual formats.
  • 3
    Target their sphere of influence early in the decision-making journey, not just the final decision maker during sign-off.

Thanks for reading. You can still take the GES 2018 survey here. For more information, please email us at


The Quartz Global Executives Study was produced by the business intelligence team at Quartz. These data were sourced from a 57-question survey of 1,483 global executives administered between December 2017 and February 2018.

The respondent pool consisted of business leaders in 131 countries and over 30 industries. C-level executives were the most highly represented group by title (58%); others in the pool included Managing Partners, Managing Directors, VPs, Directors, General Managers, and Board Members. Industries represented include: Consulting (17%), Finance (13%), Technology (12%) and Media (11%). Distribution of respondents across age ranges was under 25 (1%), 25-34 (12%), 35-44 (21%), 45-54 (24%), 55-64 (26%), 65+ (16%).

The full dataset includes the findings presented here and more, segmented by demographics including gender, global region, industry, job title, function, and organization size amongst others. Respondents were sourced via the Quartz audience, Facebook and Pocket. Data are self-reported.

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