Are Marketers Becoming Digital Dinosaurs?

According to a CMO Council study of more than 200 marketing executives, covered by MediaWeek, marketers are being left behind by the digital age.

The report stated that 90% of companies do not have an integrated digital marketing strategy. And more than a third admitted that their marketing plans were nothing more than a combination of tactics.

Despite this, 20% of the marketing leaders reported having the approval from the C-Suite to make digital a reality in their organization, while 42% claim to have the interest and support of their teams. 23% are trying to figure out where digital fits within their existing strategy and  just under 20% reported needing to address this as a strategic priority with management.

These kind of sobering stats led me to ask the question: are marketers becoming digital dinosaurs? Is there a correlation between the low number of marketers who are digital and the low number of marketers who do digital?

Earlier this year I asked if there’s a leadership gap in B2B Marketing. I stated that the future of marketing was digital because the future is already here. I wonder if marketing leaders stopped talking or trying to address the digital skills gap because they are unable to change, because they fear the repercussions or because they don’t understand digital themselves!

What percentage of the marketers that you know can actually run a paid search program without blowing the budget too fast? Or who can optimize a website? Or who can write a blog post?

Late last year I highlighted a chart from Mary Meeker’s Web 2.0 presentation that showed in real numbers, the gap in advertising spend vs. consumer time spent on the 2 biggest digital channels, the internet and on mobile devices.

In 2011, she talked about a $20 Billion gap in the US alone:

Recently, Mary updated her slides for the D10 conference and showed the same $20 Billion gap:


The good news: the gap in the “internet” channel has been reduced by almost a third. So maybe we are not dinosaurs after all! However, the gap in mobile advertising is getting bigger. So we have some catching up to do still.

There may be some more hope for us in these numbers from the Internet Advertising Bureau (IAB), that show that mobile advertising is growing at 149% and search advertising is growing at 27%.

But growth in ad spending according to the IAB and the gap in ad spending vs. time spent as depicted by Mary Meeker is not really the point.

The point is in being where your customers are. The point is to create content that your audience wants, in all the places where they may look for it. The point is to have your customers share your content with their connections. The point is to lower the cost of sales and to increase the effectiveness of marketing.

So follow this great advice from Marketing agency Level 343 and imagine:

  • Imagine your website ranks first for high-volume search terms
  • Imagine your content is shared on social networks
  • Imagine your site is completely mobile friendly
  • Imagine your e-newsletter has an open rate well above  industry standards
  • Imagine you have a content creation engine inside your company that produces videos that routinely go viral
  • And imagine “your brand is on all of it.”

Michael Brenner

Michael Brenner  is a Top CMO, Content Marketing and Digital Marketing Influencer, an international keynote speaker, author of "Mean People Suck" and "The Content Formula" and he is the CEO and Founder of Marketing Insider Group, a leading Content Marketing Agency . He has worked in leadership positions in sales and marketing for global brands like SAP and Nielsen, as well as for thriving startups. Today, Michael helps build successful content marketing programs for leading brands and startups alike. Subscribe here for regular updates.

17 thoughts on “Are Marketers Becoming Digital Dinosaurs?

  1. Good point about being where your customers are. I’m a believer. Also smart marketers are scrambling to transform customer data from homogeneous to customer-centric. No small trick in companies with legacy systems digging out of a recession. Also new technologies are developing at an incredible rate, resulting in new channels and changing the business models. Take Social-TV, the convergence of Internet and entertainment (TV), for example which is impacting a range of industries, from broadcasting to content delivery to advertising Everything we know is transforming so not only do marketers have their work cut out but you’re right to liken us to dinosaurs. I’m hoping we’re more “agile” than that.

    1. Thanks Marion. I think it is a real tipping point of technology, social factors and economics – all conspiring on business at the same time. Maybe inflection point is a better term but I really like your example and your call-to-action: be agile, engage, learn, adapt and grow.

  2. I think the take away isn’t a skills gap, although there is one, it is really being where your customers are. I focus on trade association digital marketing and lack of skills seems to be the least of this sector’s worries. It is more phobic C-suites, lack of content and content management resources, and lack of marketing goals and objectives. That’s just to name a few. There are some savvy associations out there, but they are well funded and well staffed. A recent study we conducted showed a correlation between annual budget and well thought out digital strategy.

    1. Thanks Andrea, I agree. I think it is less of a skills gap and more of a usage gap. As the CMO of a small company, you are forced to follow your audience and to create engaging content on a limited budget. The larger you go, the bigger the usage gap in marketing with this experience and vision and knowledge of how to find and engage with the audience.

  3. Very nice insights Michael. I think the bigger question here is does B2B advertising really work or even apply to mobile and can you make a valid comparison between mobile and PPC or social advertising. Whenever I run Twitter ads for Marketo, I turn off the mobile option as I just don’t think nearly as effective. I would think that it is a case by case basis, but is anyone really in buying mode or filling out contact forms on their smartphones? Would a solid content marketing strategy for early state non-gated search optimized content fill in the mobile gap enough to make a difference?

    Just my thoughts,
    Jason Miller – Marketo

    1. Thanks Jon, The research I have seen is that mobile ads are actually much more effective in click-through rates than traditional banners but I cannot personally say that I’ve run any. To me the bottom line of Mary Meeker’s chart is that advertising dollars in general do not match to time spent on the mobile and internet channel. So assuming all conversion rates being equal, we are still behind.

      The bigger point is the question around digital strategy and the fact that 90% of companies do not feel they have adequately integrated digital into their marketing planning process. This is maybe a more telling fact of the gap between our audience’s channel usage and the activities we execute.

      I think we have a long way to go to integrate digital and should look into the reasons why…

  4. Michael,

    You asked me to imagine… so I couldn’t help myself .

    This is the Marketing Ice Age… Saber-toothed squirrels trying to bury the acorn, and wait out the advancing ice. The PrintoSauruses and TVeradactyls are marching South.

    But the Ice Age cometh nonetheless.

    In this age of significant change, we must lead with tremendous energy: imagine the possible, create the emotional territory for change, and deliver positive evidence that we know how to generate the warm glow of results, and melt the ice to fund enablement.

    Evolution has presented us with a marketing Triceratops: ever-mobile, often social and hopelessly addicted to multifaceted data insights. Taming the beast is no simple matter. But we must get the change paradigm right, work tirelessly on culture and actively manage the talent transition.

    1. Bill,

      You always live up to the “bard” label. I love the creativity and the ice age metaphor. I also really like how you talk about the need for energy and agility for us to bridge this gap. I think culture comes first and skills come next. As our CMO says: “culture eats strategy for lunch.”

  5. This explains why Sociologists and Antropologists should be the ones leading Social Media departments….Recruiters should wisely advise they’re customers about this trend….You may be recruiting the wrong people…..

  6. Michael, I have a toy dinosaur on my desk because, being in the agency business, I seem to be encountering more of them every week.

    I’ve found CEOs who want to make the move into more digital/inbound/content marketing and their marketing people are terrified and threatened by the ‘tech’tonic shifts, and thus try to scuttle those initiatives.

    It seems to come down to the most powerful force on earth, inertia, combined with fear.

    These are interesting times, where in chaos lies opportunity!

    1. Hi Douglas, I seriously just had this exact conversation with a colleague yesterday. i agree with Andrea that it is not just about the skills gap, it is about courage and leadership and agility in the face of bullsh*t excuses and fear and inertia. I’m an optimist and an opportunist so I see the opportunity ahead of us but some dark days ahead for some.

  7. Great post. I do think the more senior a marketer is today, the more likely they are to have been raised on a dinosaur diet (present blogger excepted of course).

    We did a micro-survey of B2B marketers a while back and were shocked to find that the number one obstacle people cited was internal opposition to doing the right things.

    We’re finding that a lot of the innovation is coming from the bottom up — younger, more junior marketers who ‘get it’ and are eager to try the new kind of B2B content marketing. Often they fail to convince their Tyrannosauruses.

    I’m 51 and I do remember the feeling I had about ten years ago: as if one foot was on the dock and one was on the boat, drifting out into the water. I knew I had to make a decision.

    I’m really glad I chose the boat — but can really understand senior marketers who just don’t feel confident about jumping aboard.

    (Boats. Dinosaurs. Any other metaphor I can mix in here?)

    1. Hey I never understood the issue people had with mixed metaphors. I’m glad you chose the boat too and you have never looked back. Boats can be lonely places and filled with lots of frustration, but we are committed. Our customers will thank us, if our businesses take some time to realize the value of the change we seek.

  8. OK, just one more comment on dinosaurs and much-maligned mixed metaphors now that I’ve whipped myself into a lather about this (and am heartened that I’m not alone on in my thinking)…

    I’ve got to believe that about 100 years ago there were a LOT of business people who had profited handsomely from the horse and buggy trade, knew it inside and out, and just didn’t think this automobile craze was going to catch on, and were anxious for the fad to pass. The parallel to these days must be there.

    Similarly, I recently had lunch with a fellow VMI alumnus who was class of 1936 (he’s 97). After graduation he was in the US Army horse cavalry for a few years until the Army started building up the tank corps. There must have been died-in-the-wool horse cavalry officers at the time who thought that armored warfare was some WWI flash in the pan, destined to go the way of the Zeppelins.

    BTW, my fellow alum went on to fight in WWII in the 10th Armor Division in Europe and then had a distinguished , 43-year career as a DuPont engineer. He is definitely an “evolver” – not a dinosaur!

    1. Doug, your stories and your passion are truly inspiring. To me, you are an example of the kind of leadership that just might be lacking in marketing, in business and in the larger society as well. I really appreciate and can’t thank you enough for your readership, your comments and sharing your thoughts with the rest if us!

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