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News/ Market Research

Adobe Study: Half Of Marketers Losing Sleep Over Digital


by Tim Moran
Editor In Chief

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Article Highlights:

  • Only 9 percent of respondents strongly agree with the statement, “I know our digital marketing is working.”
  • Sixty-eight percent of marketers feel increased pressure to show ROI on marketing spend.
  • "The opportunity for marketers is too great to let uncertainty slow them down," said Adobe CMO Ann Lewnes.

If a just-released survey by Adobe represents the true state of digital marketing in business today, CMOs everywhere are reaching for the Ambien.

The research report, “Digital Distress: What Keeps Marketers Up at Night?” (PDF), shows that only 9 percent of respondents strongly agree with the statement, "I know our digital marketing is working." On top of that, 66 percent of all marketers think their companies won't succeed unless they have a successful digital marketing approach.

Digital distress, indeed.

"Marketers are facing a dilemma: They aren't sure what's working, they're feeling underequipped to meet the challenges of digital, and they're having a tough time keeping up with the pace of change in the industry," said Ann Lewnes, chief marketing officer for Adobe ('s parent company). "What's worse, no one hands you a playbook on how to make it all work.”

All of this is weighing heavily on marketers. And it doesn't help that 76 percent of marketers are struggling to keep up because the marketing profession has changed more in the past two years than it has in the past 50. Marketers of all stripes express doubts about their own skills, as well as their team's ability to effectively measure marketing impact and show return on investment. Consider from the report:

  • More than half of the responding digital marketers (52 percent) do not feel proficient in digital marketing.
  • Only 40 percent think their company's marketing is effective.
  • Sixty-eight percent feel increased pressure to show ROI on marketing spend.

Some of this distress could be attributed to the overwhelming sea change in marketing during the past few years; 82 percent of marketers admit that they don't have formal digital training and are learning on the job.

This might not be all that surprising, according to David Welch, Adobe's VP, Marketing Insights & Operations. "The practice of digital marketing has been around for a while, but that's somewhat misleading," said Welch in an interview with "In fact, only approximately 15 percent of what is spent today on marketing is spent on digital. This number is growing, of course, but it's still quite small relative to everything being spent across the board. So many marketers are still in learning mode and don’t have a full appreciation of what digital is all about."

The Adobe survey also shows a significant gap (47 percent) between perceived importance and actual performance when it comes to marketing measurement. Seventy-six percent of marketers believe measurement is important vs. 29 percent who believe they are doing it well.

According to some industry experts, however, it's time for heads of marketing to step up and seize the day. "Business leaders recognize the potential of digital in driving revenue," said Yvonne Genovese, managing VP of Marketing Leaders Research at Gartner. "Marketers need to rise to the occasion and mature--quickly--in digital proficiency."

According to Genovese, concrete steps can be taken on the path to digital success: "The challenge is to stop being digitally paralyzed and start aligning their products and services to the digital opportunity by building digital programs, measuring, and optimizing. Realizing the positive outcomes--such as customer engagement, retention, and conversion--will rapidly fuel digital marketing maturity and leadership.”

Adobe's Welch agreed, telling "Step one for CMOs is to build digital into their marketing strategy. Focus on things that have a clear benefit to the business goals they are striving for. Focus on the high ROI tools first, such as search. Then, once you take that strategic step, hire people who are experts for your team."

All of this sets the stage for turning a challenge into an opportunity, according to Adobe's CMO. "The opportunity for marketers is too great to let uncertainty slow them down." Lewnes concluded. "Marketers who are bold in their digital marketing efforts and investments, who are taking smart risks, and who are training their teams to be more 'digital-ready' will be in a great position to capitalize on digital’s full promise.”

Overall, according to the data, marketers are most concerned about reaching their customers (82 percent); understanding whether their campaigns are working (79 percent); proving campaign effectiveness (77 percent);  and demonstrating marketing return on investment (75 percent).

Adobe surveyed a total of 1,000 U.S. marketers for the report. For even finer grain parsing, the data is broken down as follows: marketing staff vs. marketing decision makers, and digital marketers vs. marketing generalists.

Click here for a PDF of the full report. Also, view an accompanying infographic (PDF) here, as well as an animated graphic on YouTube. Follow on Twitter: #DigitalDistress.