Opinion

When it comes to marketing innovation, do brands walk the talk?

Marketing is a sector overflowing with innovation. On the tech side. When it comes to the companies employing marketers, innovation takes second place to traditional methodologies, says Jon Stubley, and that's not doing anyone any favours.

Much is said of the evolving role of the marketing organisation within the enterprise, and for good reason. The continual rise of programmatic buying and the growth of native advertising provide brands with the opportunity to combine marketing research and outreach into a single initiative.

This results in deeper insights as well as efficiencies. Consequently, marketing is now far more strategic to any enterprise, providing valuable insight into virtually all aspects of the enterprise.Jon StubleyWell, that’s what we hear, but is it really happening? How many brands are truly on the leading edge of marketing innovation? To find out, we surveyed 240 digital marketers at Fortune 500 companies in the US about the state of marketing within their organisation. Although confined to US-based marketers the results were in line with my experiences here in Australia. And they look like this:

Innovation Adoption Rates

Only 9% of respondents described their organisations as fully embracing innovation, meaning they consistently evolve to incorporate the best tools and structures into their organisations to drive success. They invest more than half of their budget (57%) into digital, and anticipate that three-quarters of their budget will go towards it by 2017.

Another 15% of respondents say their marketing departments are results-based, campaign-driven organisations that excel at digital, which accounts for 47% of their marketing allocation. By 2017, 72% of their budget will focus on digital.

digital marketing grid matrix - ThinkstockPhotos-480048064

Most marketers (42%) say they work for organisations that are “in flux,” meaning they’re actively working to adapt to marketing innovations and shifting their focus in a more effective manner. Their digital investments represent 45% of their marketing budget, which means more than half of their efforts go towards traditional initiatives, but by 2017, this amount will top 82%.

Some 25% of marketers report they’re not the most innovative organisation out there, but they’re on or slightly above par with key competitors. They spend, on average, 45% of their marketing budget on digital initiatives, and like the most innovative enterprises, anticipate digital accounting for more than three-quarters of their budget (76%) by 2017.

Another 9% of marketers – and we must admit we were a little alarmed by this – describe their organisations as largely traditional, with little emphasis placed on developing digital skills. Only 35% of their marketing budgets go towards digital, but they harbor high hopes for catching up; by 2017, they expect digital to account for 83% of their marketing spends.

The Value of Marketing within the Enterprise

So if only 9% of marketing organisations are on the bleeding edge of marketing innovation, has the CMO really been elevated to rock-star status within enterprises, taking a seat next to the CEO?

Our findings were a bit mixed; only 26% of marketers say they have a role in driving the overall strategic direction of their company. The majority (62%) reported being in roles that can best be described as having a more tactical focus, self-identifying as tactical practitioners and jack-of- all-trades types.

What do these findings mean? If, as we hear daily from the pundit class, an aggressively innovative approach to marketing is crucial to evolving marketing organisations effectively, then should we be concerned?

On the one hand, only 9% are full-on innovation oriented; on the other hand, nearly all expect the bulk of their marketing initiatives to focus on the digital sphere within the next 18 months. For that to happen, all of them will need to embrace automation.

I suspect that many organisations will lean on their agencies and marketing-tech vendors to lead them to the bleeding edge. Although, as an industry, we’ve come a long way, there are still holes in the digital story that make life difficult for marketers, especially in an age where the C-suite is highly focused the ROI of marketing initiatives.

Jon Stubley is vice president of GumGum ANZ

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