Why Marketers Need To Channel Captain Kirk

Are marketing executives orbiting the new "data galaxy" out of necessity, or curiosity?

Twelve years ago, my flight home from Cleveland to San Diego was cancelled due to blizzard conditions. Continental Airlines ostensibly did me a favor by giving me a hotel and meal voucher for a Holiday Inn 30 miles from the airport. As I crawled to the hotel front desk at 1 a.m., I spotted a group of Trekkies walking in my direction. For a brief moment, I felt as if I had been transported to an alternate universe that resembled the Starship Enterprise.

This is how I felt while attending the Mid-Atlantic Marketing Summit in Baltimore. Although the event was touted as a marketing conference, it felt as if I were transported to a technology meetup.

The well-planned sessions got me thinking: Are CMOs and senior marketing executives orbiting this new "data galaxy" out of necessity, or out of curiosity? While many of my contemporaries wholeheartedly believe that IT and marketing are rapidly converging, and technology must be top of mind to keep us relevant, I think this belief is fraught with danger. Here's why:

  1. Marketing is expected to play a bigger role in the buying cycle—yet buyers don't buy based on Facebook "likes." According to Charles Gold, CMO of Sonatype, "we are seeing a shift from sales push to demand pull." Demand pull relies largely on building trusting relationships, something that Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn can only facilitate. They do not replace the need for B2B professionals to become more socially aware and adept during live interactions. A strong content marketing strategy may get buyers in your funnel, but they cannot keep them there without sincere human connection later in the buying process.
  2. Content marketing still requires discernment, risk-taking, and experimentation. It was only two years ago that social media "experts" insisted that in order to gain a thought leadership market position, you needed to blog a minimum of three times per week. The Summit B2B Marketing Panel disagreed with this premise. Today, savvy marketers and executives now measure outcomes, not output. While B2B Marketing posits that content marketing is the number one priority and method for generating B2B demand, few Summit participants have implemented a successful content strategy.

In addition, Summit panelists such as Leigh George of R2integrated stressed that visuals play a major role in helping our brains retain information—yet companies have not yet found the optimal mix of text, infographics, photos, and video.

  1. Offline community engagement drives your brand. Steve Sommers, VP of Global Brand Marketing for Under Armour, did a fine job demonstrating its new "What's Beautiful" campaign. It was designed to reach a new market for this male-dominated athletic wear company: female athletes in the 25-35 age group. Under Armour created a social media-driven competition, which then fostered regional athletic meetup events. What they discovered was that videos drove curiosity, but the real campaign benefit surfaced when women formed sizable workout events across the U.S. Under Armour garnered over 300,000 Facebook likes within nine weeks. While technology played a key role in the "What's Beautiful" campaign, the live events made it stick.
  2. Few people are discussing "silent social" in public and in marketing conferences. I define this term as "what people are saying about your company, culture and brand informally using channels that you cannot track." For example, we cannot measure how many times a wrongfully terminated employee excoriates our firm, or how often our company webinar was shared via email, Skype, or LinkedIn. When my private CMO groups gather to discuss their most pressing concerns, social media seldom makes the agenda. Their biggest challenges are attracting and hiring great people, improving communications with the C-suite, and leadership. We are pushing aside the importance of these topics as we watch IT, marketing, and sales converge. Much like I saw at the Summit, we are becoming seduced and distracted by the latest shiny pennies: marketing automation and social media.

Captain Kirk, the Starship Enterprise commander, was respected for balancing his intuitive and logical qualities. Marketing organizations need to honor their Captain Kirks. We will always need intuition to help us resolve moral dilemmas and complex social situations. Without intuition, we will suffer from technology overindulgence and social strife. Chris Cullen, a Marketing Summit panelist and CMO of Johns Hopkins University, reminds us that, as seasoned marketers, "We are under pressure to stop leading and allow data to drive all of our decisions." This is akin to relying exclusively on Vulcans to ward off the Klingons.

Related articles:

Why Too Much Focus on Marketing ROI Can Limit Growth

Make Marketing Connections in an Interdependent World

Six Questions CMOs Need to Ask Themselves

Lisa Nirell
Chief Energy Officer
EnergizeGrowth® LLC

Lisa is the Chief Energy Officer of EnergizeGrowth® and the founder of Marketing Leaders of DC™.  She has helped B2B companies such as Adobe, Microsoft, and BMC Software grow customer mindshare and market share.

Lisa is also a sought-after speaker, and is the author of EnergizeGrowth NOW:  The Marketing Guide to a Wealthy Company.  Visit www.energizegrowth.com to download a free sample chapter through EnergizeNews and follow Lisa on twitter.

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1 Comments

  • Stephen Hart

    A weak reference to Captain Kirk although interesting content in the article itself.