The accountability that online media brings to marketing execution highlights the many shortcomings of our campaigns. Just as products and services are being reinvented post–web 2.0, we need to reinvent marketing and define it better as a “profession” by addressing gaps in organizational design, user experience and loyalty, user-generated content and user-centric control, privacy, digital skills, product planning, spec and design, business models, and measuring results of digital-analog marketing campaigns through product/service success. But to address the problem, we first have to recognize that we have one; the CMO has no clothes—the CMO is naked
In over twenty years as a CMO in the software and services industry, I had the opportunity to launch many good and not-so-good products on both a local and worldwide scope. Marketing has always been part art, part discipline, and sticking to the four P’s has always worked well . . . or at least seems to work, since (to be clear) we’ve never had good and consistent metrics beyond watching the revenue needle moving up, product being adopted, taking a public opinion pulse by reading the reviews posted by so-called “experts,” or commissioning awareness research studies.
Thanks to the Internet, marketers suddenly had the opportunity to measure results in a reasonably consistent way. We embraced online media, and it rapidly became a part of any media plan, regardless of the coherence of the overall campaign when combining analog and digital elements. Marketing started to show metrics: open rates; click through rates; redemption rates; abandonment rates; page views; length of sessions; revenue per click, per action, per sneeze. In the USA alone, online marketing spending is already a healthy $26B business (8.8% of total ad spending) and is projected to grow up to $50B+ (15% of total ad spending) by 2012*, and I personally think these numbers are conservative because they don’t factor in the appearance of new ad technologies beyond the tired concepts of display ads, keywords, and e-anything or social-blah.
Is online marketing more efficient than the billboard ad in 1900s, or the TV ad in the 1980s, or the printed ad in the 17th century? I do not think so. It’s just measurable, and therefore looks extremely efficient. But with very few exceptions, the success of post–web 2.0 companies relies not only on having digital marketing plans, but also on using the “product” itself as the marketing mechanism and making the product an integral part of the demand-generation and customer-retention efforts.
Most marketers still argue that we make things happen regardless of the value delivered by the product, and some just moved from media plans full of “analog” mechanisms to media plans that are “digital,” selling themselves as “digital marketing experts.” We love using buzzwords, so we all talk about “viral” plans and create a video for YouTube that will be watched, at most, by employees, friends, and family. We outsource the creation of a widget or a light Facebook application to developers in Pakistan, India or Russia and we call that a “social” media plan. We do our best at implementing search engine optimization, most times in a trial-and-error fashion, and on rare occasions we do multivariable testing to get input on what performs better. Very few of us focus on the fundamental: the product itself; the content and core message of the campaign; and a coordinated approach wherein all elements, analog and digital, make sense as a whole and as a comprehensive campaign. Key performance indicators (KPIs) are not well defined across the organization, and we still see marketing pursuing some KPIs while finance, engineering, and customer service pursue other KPIs. The organization is structured with the same lack of coherence that we see in the campaigns or the cross-team metrics, and therefore results are as fragmented as the organization.
I have had the opportunity to work with many CEOs of big and small companies, and they all face the same dilemmas: How to cross the chasm between early adopters and mass adoption? How to get past the first 100,000 “active” customers? Do we pursue a vertical/niche approach or the horizontal dream? Is advertising a valid monetization mechanism for all? Are our customers using the product? How? What for? What behavior should we track? To which privacy policies should we adhere? What is the right order in which to implement digital and analog campaigns, and how do we measure business impact and what is done through the product itself versus through the media plan? They expect answers from their CMOs and we need to take the lead, defining the right KPIs, aligning resources across groups, and doing marketing through the product itself by intertwining the whole customer experience with the right comprehensive digital and analog media plan.
The fact that what appeared to be a limited device (iPhone) was able to change its industry for good is a demonstration of great marketing through the product itself. A well-orchestrated media plan with the right emotional content created the most anticipated product launch in years, but once the product was launched, no amount of marketing was going to be able to compensate for bad design, bad experience, or bad quality. Yet the product changed the industry and it started with marketing done the right way, starting with the fundamental P: Product.