If CMOs Are Unhappy With Digital, It’s Their Own Fault

by Jason Falls |
Jason Falls
Jason Falls

According to an article in AdWeek and a survey conducted by recruiting firm Heidrick & Struggles, chief marketing officers are unhappy with their digital strategies. H&S polled 111 senior marketing executives at firms with $1 billion or more in annual revenues to come up with the “kinda sucks” prerogative. This essentially means they polled people who are used to spending a LOT of money on advertising who think the web space under-serves.

Apples to oranges.

Apples & Oranges - They Don't Compare
Image by TheBusyBrain via Flickr

And it’s not just the fact that digital activation is intrinsically different than traditional advertising. It’s that the entire focus and purpose of it are genetically divergent.

Traditional advertising is about a one-way line of communications. Brands blast messages to the masses in hopes a certain percentage of them buy … or recall … or think happy thoughts of them. Digital communications has now become a world more focused on conversation and engagement rather than the delivery of messaging. These are long-haul propositions.

Consumers will not trust your brand after one week of providing engaging content or compelling online material. They won’t trust your brand after one month, either. But hold down the fort for three, six or nine months, without suddenly shifting behavior or strategy, and you will start to see the growth in your investment online.

CMOs are unhappy because their attention spans are as abbreviated as their consumer’s. They want instant results, quick fixes and here and now solutions. Social media, and, similarly, online communications, is not only not an instant fix for genetic brand problems, but requires an investment of both time and resources to be played out consistently.

Simply put, CMOs should have been investing the time and attention into a long-term relationship with their customers well before the economy sagged and digital became more fiscally responsible. As such, they aren’t getting the residual benefit from creating an ongoing relationship with their most ardent fans. They see digital as a “campaign” or a short-term solution. It is … if the agency just wants to pacify the client. If you’re doing a good job for and with your client, however, you are building a digital behavior, not campaign, that proves over time that your brand can be counted on for compelling content and customer service that adds value to the online time spent by its fans.

My guess is the 111 senior marketing executives surveyed are dissatisfied because they’ve only focused on digital for three or four months. Stay the course, don’t rip and flip just because your quarter-to-quarter numbers don’t show dramatic increases and see how satisfied you are in December 2009 (one year after the original survey).

Of course, that is assuming those brands are doing it right online in the first place.

Am I wrong? Should marketing executives expect faster turnarounds and returns on their digital investments? How and why? And how slow is too slow for marketing managers you know? The comments are yours.

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About the Author

Jason Falls

Jason Falls is a leading thinker, speaker and strategist in the world of digital marketing and is co-author of two books, No Bullshit Social Media: The All-Business, No-Hype Guide To Social Media Marketing and The Rebel's Guide To Email Marketing. By day, he leads digital strategy for Elasticity, one of the world's most innovative digital marketing and public relations firms. Follow him on Twitter (@JasonFalls).