The Cure for They-Don't-Get-It Syndrome

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blog-header-rr.gifWe are on the verge of finding a cure for They-Don’t-Get-It Syndrome.

Everyone in marketing during the past 20 years has suffered from - and with - They-Don’t-Get-It Syndrome. It first afflicted the marketing and media industries during the initial wave of agency megamergers in the 1980’s, and became increasingly widespread and painful as the digital era took hold. A malady familiar to students of business dysfunction, its primary sufferers are members of evolving industry value chains. You can tell whether a company has been infected when its executives routinely profess: “Oh, we get what’s happening. The problem is they don’t get it.”

As in: “We marketers get what’s happening, but the agencies just don’t get it.” Or: “We agencies understand the change that’s occurring. But our clients don’t get it.” Or: “We media companies grasp the transformation that’s out there. But the agencies and marketers don’t get it.”

During the three years I worked at the management consulting giant Booz Allen Hamilton on a client team serving the Association of National Advertisers, incidence of They-Don’t-Get-It Syndrome increased strikingly. We were doing primary research on the evolution of marketing organizations and capabilities, seeking to codify emerging practices marketers were deploying successfully to drive growth as media, audiences, consumer desires and customer demands were fragmenting. We identified the core capabilities companies needed to shape a “Growth Champions” marketing organization, where the marketing team was the primary growth driver in the firm. And we identified the competencies necessary for Chief Marketing Officers to rise from service provider status to become “Super CMO’s.”

But amid the successes we kept learning about was the insistent drumbeat of “they don’t get it.” So we realized we needed to expand the scope of the research to encompass the entire value chain - marketers, as well as their increasingly necessary partners in growth, agencies and publishers. The result is Marketing-Media Ecosystem 2010, a groundbreaking collaboration among the ANA, the Interactive Advertising Bureau, and the American Association of Advertising Agencies, and Booz Allen. The first phase of the study is being released as I write at the ANA’s annual Masters of Marketing Conference in Phoenix, Arizona. And it will speed up the transformation we’re all living through.

Ninety percent of the 250 marketers surveyed or benchmarked said they intended to grow digital marketing spend; indeed, the study proves that digital transformation is marketers’ top priority. Yet fewer than a quarter of all marketers claimed they are currently “digitally savvy,” and cited as their major obstacles insufficient metrics (62%), lack of experience in the new media (59%), or lack of organization support (51%).

But unlike most studies that admire the problem and then stop, Media-Marketing Ecosystem 2010 identifies practices, priorities, capabilities, and partnerships that are separating the digitally savvy from the laggards. These recommendations emerged both from the study’s quantitative research, as well as from deep-dive interviews with more than 60 marketing, agency, and media leaders, from a range of industrial sectors - from financial services to packaged goods, from media agencies to creative agencies, from digital pureplay publishers to multi-platform media companies. Among the highlights:

  • Marketing is becoming less about one-way messaging to consumers and more about conversing and co-creating experiences with them, with multiple communications tools now becoming a standard part of the brand marketing toolkit. For example, close to half of marketers are planning to increase their PR budgets as a part of marketing.
  • Data are driving insights. Marketers are increasingly calling on their partners to help them develop actionable consumer insights. Eighty percent of marketers place say that gaining behavioral targeting capabilities is a top priority over the next three years.
  • Media is “The New Creative.” Distribution mechanisms and context now rival creative execution in importance, as marketers invest in capabilities that bridge the gap between media, creative and brand strategy, through the creation of communications planning and “integrator” positions. More than 80% of marketers say communications planning capabilities will be critical moving forward.
  • You can’t do marketing without the new math. Data quality, quantity and accessibility have brought complex analytics to all aspects of marketing. Digitally savvy marketers are more likely than others to have the metrics and capabilities to judge the effects of new media.
  • Cross-value-chain collaboration is necessary to drive marketing. The move to digital media necessitates a higher level of collaboration and coordination across all players in the ecosystem. Almost 60% of participants believe that creative, strategic, and media capabilities should be rebundled - but there is no consensus as to which agency ‘type’ should lead. Further, traditional creative partnerships are taking a back seat to media partnerships - twice as many marketers indicate that media company and media agency partnerships are becoming more important than traditional agency-of-record relationships.
Those of you who attended IAB’s MIXX Conference & Expo in September know that IAB’s gospel is “the new strategy” - as we said at the conference, in an always-on, digital, interactive communications environment, marketing value - now and forever - derives from the “mix” of strategy plus channel plus content. And that, in turn, requires new forms of collaboration among marketers, agencies, and media companies. If I might be forgiven a religious mashup, Marketing-Media Ecosystem 2010 adds a bit of Talmud to that gospel, providing new rules for engagement in our industries that will help drive growth - growth for all - in an increasingly complex environment.

“The impact of new media is changing the way marketers interact, target and distribute their marketing message,” said Bob Liodice, President and CEO of the ANA. “As the marketplace shifts to a digital interactive environment, marketing organizations, agencies, and media companies need to transform existing marketing agendas and capabilities to succeed.”

“Now, consumers not only talk back to marketers and interact with marketing messages, but they also reshape and distribute those messages through global communities. The mix of media channels has shifted from a one-way broadcast model to a set of dynamic two-way media forums,” says Andrea Rasmussen, Principal Booz Allen Global Consumer & Media.

For these reasons, IAB is making the study’s findings and recommendations the centerpiece of a new development program we are launching: “The IAB’s Interactive Boot Camp for Senior Marketers.” Our goal is to develop a primer on the currents of digital marketing, and to show how marketers and agencies are successfully leveraging interactive media companies’ skills to drive growth for their clients - and themselves. For marketers and agencies wanting more than an introduction, IAB will help develop tailored programs that bring experts from among our 350 member companies to help train marketing and agency personnels in the new strategy.

Suffering from They-Don’t-Get-It Syndrome? Take one of these, and emailme in the morning. Seriously: [email protected]

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