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The Digital Divide

Why is it so hard for marketers to fully embrace the digital revolution? Old habits die hard, says Kevin Roberts, Saatchi & Saatchi’s worldwide CEO. And there’s foot-dragging in all quarters. But denial is not a winning strategy, and recognizing the impediments to change is the first step in overcoming them. Here’s what to watch out for:

Why is it so hard for marketers to fully embrace the digital revolution? Old habits die hard, says Kevin Roberts, Saatchi & Saatchi’s worldwide CEO. And there’s foot-dragging in all quarters.

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But denial is not a winning strategy, and recognizing the impediments to change is the first step in overcoming them.

Here’s what to watch out for:

  1. Scaredy-cat clients. Clients — from brand managers to CMOs — are the most risk-averse animals the world has ever seen, Roberts says. And with good reason. An average of 22 month job tenure, for one. And the specter of CEOs, driven by the pressure to produce results for Wall Street every 90 days, breathing down their necks, for another. “A manager never got fired for hiring IBM – or for putting 80% of her spend on television,” Roberts notes. So where’s the incentive to do something edgy that might backfire?
  2. Cunning Old Media. The old folks — TV, radio, print — already have all their metrics in place. And the new media haven’t got their metric game firmly in hand quite yet. Those numbers can be pretty compelling if you’re a brand manager who’s looking to be moving on in two years. Why take a risk?
  3. Geek-o-phobia. Agencies have done a lousy job of integrating digital people into creative departments. They don’t understand their techy talent — they’ve got earrings and tattoos, they don’t play golf or do lunch. They work crazy hours and have earphones on all the time. So they put the geeks on another floor. Big mistake! What they don’t understand is the geeks are taking over, and they ARE the creative talent.
  4. Finance Department Fascists. Because we have a research industry that can’t measure or predict emotional involvement, we just fall back on conventional measures of ROI, Roberts says. But it’s not just how a marketer connects with a consumer to drive immediate sales. What about measuring the loyalty and involvement she has with your brand? And her propensity to purchase in the future? We need a metric that captures the many nuances of involvement a consumer has for a brand. Nothing warms the cockles of a CFO’s heart like an expanding pie chart, or a trend arrow pointing at the heavens. Until we get that, we’re stuck trying to quantify thing like “passion” and “love.”

About the author

Linda Tischler writes about the intersection of design and business for Fast Company.

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