The discipline of marketing has undergone a dramatic transformation in the past five years, due largely to the advent of new digital technologies and data capabilities. Consumers today can interact with brands on their own terms, with the ability to fully participate in a reciprocal relationship that used to be one-sided.
Marketers, in return, have access to an unprecedented amount of detailed consumer data. Modern information databases allow companies to attain a clear understanding of their target consumers, enabling a truly custom and individual dialogue.
When employed properly, data can be a highly effective marketing asset, helping to build emotional bonds with consumers and, in turn, build brand equity. But one of the biggest barriers brands face today is how to seamlessly integrate digital marketing into their companies’ broader organizational structure and culture. To get the most out of today’s new digital technologies, the entire organization—from top to bottom—needs to be on board. No longer can digital integration be an afterthought; in order to succeed in today’s marketing landscape, it must be the core of a brand’s strategy.
“Digital” is no longer a capability. It’s a mind-set.
We recently teamed with Econsultancy to see how the world’s top-performing companies, the Global 1,000, are keeping pace with the digital marketing evolution (access to our report, “Leading a Digital Marketing Revolution,” requires a short registration). We found that while large organizations have an advantage in terms of financial, technological, and human resources, they need to overcome the challenges associated with scale, as bureaucracy and complex processes can delay the onset of the digital mind-set.
Generally, the study suggests that while organizations might intend to shift strategies to become more digital, often they lag behind in executing major strategic changes. The following chart breaks down each level of leadership, ranking their focus on implementing digital change:
To succeed at digital integration, every tier of leadership within an organization needs to be invested in change—from executive members to middle- and lower-level management. Everyone within an organization brings a unique set of skills and experiences, and all need to be contributing to the company’s digital transformation.
• Board members: Although the direct influence of the board varies among companies, in many examples of digital transformation, specific board members have had the opportunity to originate or support digital change initiatives. Especially in cases where an organization has to consider or undertake a fundamental restructuring, it’s essential that core members of the board understand and believe in these initiatives.
• C-suite: The C-suite is a collection of titles, but a major marketing transformation is generally led by the CMO. Over time, CMO tenure has increased, facilitating the reformation process because maintaining consistent leadership helps with the successful completion ofa project. The process of digital integration has many moving parts, and like any great change, it inevitably requires more time than originally planned. Luckily, the current duration of most CMOs’ tenure allows for a seamless implementation of digital strategy changes.
• Upper-level management: According to our study with Econsultancy, upper-level management (comprising VPs and EVPs) is the most successful tier of management in terms of digital integration. This is likely due to the presence of “digital natives” at this high level in many enterprises. Additionally, most of the people sparking digital education initiatives within large consumer-facing enterprises are at the VP/EVP level.
• Mid-lower-level management: Younger members of an organization can offer a fresh, valuable perspective regarding digital innovation and strategy implementation. Despite having less experience and seniority, they have the unique ability to encourage out-of-the-box thinking, offering ideas that executives with several years tenure might not consider. A brand truly willing to embrace the digital age needs to be flexible, adaptable, and willing to learn from younger generations.
The digital revolution has disrupted traditional marketing practices, forcing brands to undergo a huge transformation as they let go of old approaches in favor of data- and technology-based platforms. In order to effectively implement a fully digital mind-set, every member of a company needs to be on board, and change must happen at every level. Only after your entire organization is involved can you begin to integrate all of today’s digital channels and data capabilities, giving your brand the competitive advantage over those still struggling to adapt to today’s digital marketing practices.