Six Pixels of Separation - The Blog
November 21, 201210:42 PM

In The Trust Economy, Marketers Are Bankrupt

It's getting ugly for marketers. Too bad, because marketing is just starting to get good.

We have a major issue with marketing and it needs to get solved soon if our future it to be as bright as we hope. Bottom line: marketers need to prove the business impact of our work. Seems simple enough, doesn't it? Well, the CEOs of our world do not believe that we are delivering on this concept. That is the sad (and, ultimately, very scary) news out of the Fournaise 2012 Global Marketing Effectiveness Program, which interviewed over 1,200 CEOs from across North America, Europe, Asia and Australia.

Check out these data points from their press release, 70% of CEOs Admit They May Be Responsible for Marketers' Poor Perceived Performance:

  • 80% of CEOs were not very impressed by the work done by Marketers and believed Marketers were poor business performers.
  • CEOs thought Marketers could not adequately prove the positive business impact their marketing activities.
  • CEOs thought Marketers had lost sight of what their job really was (i.e. to generate more customer demand for their products/services).
  • CEOS thought Marketers were not business performance-obsessed enough.
  • 70% of the same CEOs admitted they may be somewhat responsible for Marketers' poor perceived business performance and reputation - but purely as a consequence of:
    a) Having steadily lost trust in Marketers' business abilities; and b) Subsequently having given up on holding Marketers accountable.

It's a tough report to read.

When you have a majority that looks like 70% - 80%, it should give pause for all of us evaluate just what, exactly, we're trying to do - day in and day out. My view is this: marketing departments have liquidated themselves over the past two decades by focusing all of their energy on advertising and promotions. They have forgotten about the need for marketing 101 - the basics of the four Ps and the value that a well-rounded marketing department brings to an organization. We suddenly have revenue departments instead of marketing leading and nurturing the pricing strategy of the business. We suddenly have product managers instead of marketing leading the product development and placement. So, what's left? You guessed it, just the promotion.

Doesn't digital change everything?

Digital does change everything (at least from my perspective), but digital changes nothing if all a brand is doing is traditional marketing in new marketing channels. That isn't to say that solving the digital marketing challenge will suddenly get the marketers a more respected chair in the c-suite, but this is massive opportunity for marketers because measuring, testing, optimizing and learning has never been as scientific and results-oriented as it is (and can) be in the digital channels. There's the old saying, "fail faster," I believe that digital marketing allows a brand to not only fail faster, but to do it in a cost-effective way.

There's something else.

On June 14th, 2012, Forbes ran a news item that may run counter to the findings above. Titled, CMO Tenure Hits 43-Month Mark, it reveals: "After the 2006 low point, CMO tenure jumped to 26.8 months in 2007, 28.4 months in 2008, 34.7 months in 2009, and 42 months in 2010 before reaching 43 months in 2011. So what's behind the increase? 'As always, there are likely a number of drivers behind the increased tenure number, but from our perspective, it is a positive trend that we would like to see continue,' said Greg Welch, a consultant at Spencer Stuart, in an email. 'Certainly industry consolidation (i.e. fewer employers) tends to drive this up a bit, as does a suppressed stock market where executives have significant equity in limbo. Additionally, I would like to think that the biggest factor is that today's CMOs are being more thoughtful about how they win over the long haul. We actually spend significant time, particularly with new CMOs, to ensure that they get off to a fast start as building momentum early on is critical.'  The longer tenure, he said, is primarily a reflection of CMOs' worth and impact on their companies."

What what what?

It doesn't matter which data point you want to side with (the one that says that marketers are failing at the c-suite or the one that marketers have never been doing better because they're keeping their jobs longer), what is important is that both items point to the same outcome: prove impact! There is no doubt that proving impact with traditional marketing can be somewhat ambiguous. Buying a bunch of ads can create awareness and even attention, but can we draw a direct line between our ads and the overall impact on the brand's business? Much harder. Can digital save the day? I believe it can (and I know that I am not alone). What is required is both much more education within the marketing departments of the world (to better understand digital, measurement and analytics) and a shift in philosophy that marketing doesn't need to be dominated by advertising. Marketers can win back the c-suite trust, so long as they're willing do more real marketing, instead of simply focusing on the advertising (which is still important, it's just not everything). Marketing is about economic value to the company, as my good friend, Kenneth Wong, always says. 

Can marketers win back this trust? What do you think?

(special thanks to Bryan Eisenberg for the inspiration. He sent me an email asking for feedback on his recent blog post, 70% of CEOs have lost Trust in Marketers. The topic was worthy of much more than a blog comment).

By Mitch Joel