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What would Dickens and Darwin think of the current state of digital marketing?

Published September 25, 2013 at 5:23 pm

Even Charles Dickens himself couldn’t predict the “best of times, worst of times” environment currently facing marketers.

Digital techniques have swept through the marketing world and turned it on its head, leaving most in the industry thoroughly shaken up and still probably wondering exactly where they are and how they should function, given this new paradigm.

Just look at the results of the recent Adobe study “Digital Distress: What Keeps Marketers Up At Night”:

  • Less than half of marketers (48 percent) consider themselves “highly proficient” in digital marketing
  • Eighty-two percent of marketers learn about digital strategies for the first time on the job
  • Less than 10 percent agreed that their company’s “digital marketing is working”

These marketers seem to face two options:

1) Surrender sheepishly with your tail between your legs and admit that you don’t have the means to comply with the demands of marketing in 2013.
2) Jump in with both feet and embrace a multi-pronged marketing attack that includes elements of digital marketing, social media, direct mail and more.

Whether you’re motivated chiefly by personal pride or a desire to produce the best returns for your company, your answer should be the same—Option No. 2. It’s a brave new world for CMOs, but it’s also one full of opportunities to innovate and trounce your competition through unique, innovative marketing approaches.

BusinessWeek took a similar approach in analyzing the evolving nature of marketing, and by extension, the CMO position. The article cited the work of another Charles—Darwin, not Dickens—as it analyzed the nature of marketing these days.

“Business is a Darwinian system of natural selection,” it said. “Companies and leaders who adapt to changes in the environment tend to flourish. The business environment currently demands so much adaptation, the lines that traditionally defined the CMO role are being rapidly redrawn.”

How can my marketing department thrive in this new world?

Human beings are wired to be resistant to change. For the most part, we crave at least, some degree of predictability and structure in our lives—both personal and professional.

So what can you do to get your team on board with “the new normal”?

Adobe CMO Ann Lewnes, writing for AdAge, has gone on the record as supporting the “plow through” approach, which includes no room for the barriers that have historically separated different responsibilities within marketing departments.

“Every marketer had to become a digital marketer,” she wrote. “If you were in PR, you had to become an expert in social. If you were an advertising professional, you had to become a digital advertising pro. We also hired a lot of new talent—from web analysts to database analysts to social media practitioners.”

These jacks-of-all-trades, who embrace all aspects of marketing simultaneously, are most likely to survive in this new environment.

They’re the ones who will evolve and withstand the perils of Darwinian natural selection, and they’re the ones who will embrace more of the “best of times” posited by Dickens.

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