Technology Trends Force Culture Shifts for Adoption

Posted on September 14, 2013

Being a CMO used to be a pretty straightforward job.  Allocate an annual budget to a couple of agencies (advertising, PR), speak at industry events, and report ad impressions and media pickups for press releases to top management.  Unfortunately, those days are long gone as CMOs are now part data scientists, digital technicians, financial analysts, buyer psychologists, and thought leaders.

Over the past decade, there have been several technology shifts that have forced marketing organizations to adopt a different way of thinking from the way they had been doing things for decades.

(1) Google Analytics (culture shift: from guessing to knowing) – John Wanamaker is quoted as saying “half the money I spend on advertising is wasted; the trouble is, I don’t know which half” and aside from direct response ads, that is precisely the level of data insights marketing departments had for 50 years. However, Google’s introduction of web analytics in 1998 changed this.  The result is that marketers could now know how their marketing campaigns were performing.

(2) Social media (culture shift: from monolog to dialog) – the launch of social media sites like Facebook (2004) and Twitter (2006) ushered in another paradigm shift as brands could no longer dictate communication with markets and were forced to learn how to engage buyers via two-way conversation.  Brands could not simply repurpose self-serving collateral and PR propaganda on these channels, they need to listen and respond to customers, vendors, buyers and influencers.

(3) Content (culture shift: from selling to helping people buy) – by 2010, Nielsen and others have documented the decline in the impact of paid media (advertising) and owned media (content) and the rise of earned media (third-party influencers) and shared media (social sites) in influencing buyer purchase decisions. Buyers have adopted a DIY approach to researching product information online and relying upon peer reviews and social networks to form brand preferences. The role of brands now is to educate buyers and provide useful information at the right moment in the customer journey.

(4) Big data (culture shift: from trends to prediction) – in 2013, the big trend in business transformation potential dealt with big data.  Big data is often defined by three characteristics: variety, volume, velocity.  Marketing examples include social media monitoring whereby thousands of conversations and key word phrases are being indexed for relevancy and context and where brands are attempting to extract insights or predict sentiment ahead of a market opportunity.  Increasingly, marketers will be required to do more than report last month’s performance, but to predict next quarter’s outcome.

While the above list is not the only technology challenges faced by marketers (we could add marketing automation, mobile, etc.) they represent  a growing trend that culminates with a question: are organizations able to transform their culture at the same rate of innovation as the technology that is shaping them?

For instance, while analytics have been around 15 years annual studies show that perhaps 2/3 of marketers are using them.  In other words, a culture shift has not yet occurred where analytics becomes an ingrained part of life in the organization.  Similarly, while marketers intuitively know that they must engage in authentic dialog in social media channels, many still struggle and default to talking about themselves instead of listening and answering buyer questions in the pre-sales stage.  So here too, while the marketers know how to use the social media tools — they have not made the cultural transition required to think in terms of buying cycles (probably because their Sales VP is pounding them for more leads to make the end-of-quarter numbers).

So I contend that as the rate of change and technological innovation accelerates, organizations who are not adapting their culture will not reap the benefits and ROI of those technological changes.  I also believe that the key to this cultural adaptation is ensuring that it is more than the CMO who is learning about these new ways of engaging the market and championing change through the organization.  It does no good for a CMO to sit at a conference learning how to think in buying cycles if the rest of his/her company is still living in a world of sales cycles.


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