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Need to Know/ Market Research

The Best Of Times, The Worst Of Times


by Tim Moran
Editor In Chief

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Article Highlights:

  • Digital distress reported on six months ago has morphed into what many senior marketers are seeing as a bit of a show stopper.
  • To be successful, marketers know that they have to be more risk-tolerant, but are having a hard time striding into the fray.
  • “The shift to digital requires new technology, new approaches, and, in many cases, entirely new roles for marketers.”

Marketing in today’s digital world is the best of times for CMOs and other heads of marketing. The opportunities are boundless, the tools are stunning, and the data is fascinating. But there is also a worst-of-times aspect to all this wonderfulness, as well.

Just six or so months ago, I wrote about a research report from Adobe (’s parent company), titled “Digital Distress: What Keeps Marketers Up at Night?” (PDF). The main takeaway was that only 9% of respondents strongly agreed with the statement, "I know our digital marketing is working." To make matters even worse, it was reported that 66% of all marketers didn’t think their companies would succeed unless they had a successful digital marketing approach.

Flash forward six or so months, and this distress has morphed into what many senior marketers are seeing as a bit of a show stopper. According to “Digital Roadblock: Marketers Struggle to Reinvent Themselves” (PDF), Adobe’s just-released survey of more than 1,000 marketing professionals in the U.S., marketing pros suggest that they are struggling to redefine their roles and expand their skills in this highly capricious environment.

According to the report: “Underscoring the rapid transformation of the marketing profession, 64% of marketers expect their role to change in the next year, and 81% believe their role will change in the next three years. But the path to reinvention remains a challenge. Respondents cited lack of training in new marketing skills (30%) and organizational inability to adapt (30%) among the top obstacles to becoming the marketers they aspire to be.”

So what’s behind these numbers? What challenges appear to be holding marketers back? A main one is “risk.” In order to be successful, marketers know that they have to be more risk-tolerant, but are having a hard time striding into the fray. Fifty-four percent said they should take more risks themselves. When it comes to technology, they are also generally playing it safe, with 65% saying they are more comfortable adopting new technologies once they become mainstream.

“The shift to digital requires new technology, new approaches, and, in many cases, entirely new roles for marketers,” said Ann Lewnes, chief marketing officer for Adobe. “The good news is that marketers see the change in front of them and understand they need to embrace data, focus on creating personalized experiences, and work across their social, Web, and mobile channels. They just need to take the plunge.”

Some of the other areas of concern, according to the report, are the need to be more “data-focused,” no longer just “trusting my gut,” and—still—grappling with mobile, social, multichannel, and personalization. All of those areas are at the heart of marketing today.

Also from the report: “The findings also highlighted a gap between marketers in companies that spend more than 25% of their marketing budget on digital campaigns compared with those that spend less than 10% on digital. Marketers in high digital-spend companies are more likely to believe (82%) they need to reinvent themselves to succeed, versus low digital-spend companies (67%). Marketers from high-performing companies are three times more likely (23%) to say they know how to reinvent themselves than low performers (8%).”

But there are many ways to lift these roadblocks, according to David Edelman, global co-leader, McKinsey Digital, McKinsey & Company: “The advent of digital, mobile, social, and video has done more than just add new channels and ways of interacting with customers.  It’s driven an entirely different approach to marketing. It requires orchestration of interactions across the entire customer journey, it’s caused the traditional ‘marketing campaign’ to make room for real-time engagement, and it’s brought the CIO and CMO closer together. It’s a new role, the models for success are few, and many marketers are still sorting it all out.”

And it’s time for heads of marketing to take advantage of these best of times, concluded Edelman: “It’s also an exciting time for marketers and a tremendous opportunity. CMOs who embrace digital can assert a new level of influence on the executive suite and have more impact from the insights and experience they enable the brand to deliver.”

This week at the Adobe Summit 2014, some 5,000 marketers from around the world will converge in Salt Lake City to tackle many of these challenges and learn more about “reinvention,” the theme of this year’s confab. will be there providing on-site news and insight from the sessions, and we invite you to follow the goings-on if you are not able to attend.

Also, Adobe Digital Index just released its “Best Of The Best Benchmark” research report, which offers an opportunity to see what some of the best marketers in the business are doing, how they are faring, and how you can move into that tier.

Finally, Adobe has also made available a simple “Digital Marketing Maturity Assessment” tool, which aims to identify an organization’s strengths—and weaknesses—and help marketing leaders prioritize focus areas within seven digital marketing dimensions. “The assessment tool is meant to help marketers understand where their organization is in the digital maturation process and where they should be heading,” said Matt Langie, senior director, strategic marketing at Adobe.

In the end, you have to know where you are to determine how you are going to turn what could look like dauntingly hard times into the best times of your—and your company’s—life.

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