Time to Shine: As CMOs embrace opportunity, the partnerships are key

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Coming off a year of unprecedented disruption, the digital marketing landscape is forever altered. Bursting with opportunity, it is nonetheless marked by widespread complexities best traversed by those who know the terrain.

Prior to the pandemic, the emergence of new marketing technologies and platforms was already actively generating an entirely new media ecosystem. Along came 2020, and years of change were packed into months of operating on the fly for brands who needed to reach and interact with their customers in completely different ways. Quick action and response wasn’t just necessary; it was a game-changing imperative for businesses who wanted to survive.

With the dust settling, brands have an opportunity to reflect, reset and reimagine how they will transform for the digital age. For CMOs, this means a myriad of requirements to orchestrate as they play an even more critical role in creating and managing sustainable growth strategies.

Research suggests they are already gearing up for the challenge. According to the Gartner 2020 CMO Spend Survey, more than 44% of CMOs reported mid-year budget cuts as a result of the pandemic; yet 68% expect to increase their investments in marketing technology over the next 12 months. Of that spending, 74% plan to focus on digital advertising, and 66% on paid search.

Likewise, after speaking with board members from over 50 Fortune 1000 companies and CMOs from various industries about the effects of the pandemic, Google found the same optimistic view.

“While the pandemic interrupted supply chains and drastically altered shopping patterns, marketers responded by adapting on the fly, finding new messaging that was relevant and respectful, and adjusting to the rapid acceleration of contactless shopping behaviors,” wrote Marie Gulin-Merle, GVP of Ads Marketing, in her report. “Our findings proved that even with challenges posed by Covid-19, there is no one better prepared than the CMO to help their companies survive and thrive.”

Clearly, the opportunity for widespread digital transformation is here, jump-started by an unexpected whirlwind year. How, then, can CMOs best reset, center and build upon the innate opportunity digital marketing offers to strengthen connections across and between teams, channels and business units? Choosing the right agency partners, with the right expertise, is a critical first step.

“The media ecosystem has changed dramatically in recent years and today’s consumers are engaging with brands in new and exciting ways. If brands aren’t speaking the new digital language, they risk being left behind,” Jellyfish CEO Rob Pierre recently wrote on the topic. “There has never been a more important time for brands to ensure they are positioned with the right partners for growth and are focused on the path toward digital transformation. Whether you’re a brand or an agency partner, in a world where even the disrupters can be disrupted, standing still simply isn’t an option.”

Current eMarketer forecasts indicating that total media ad spend may well surpass $600 billion in 2021 further highlight the critical role media effectiveness will play for marketers. Businesses need to be able to cut through a saturated digital landscape and provide seamless, relevant communications across all channels and touchpoints. In choosing the right collaborators, brands must seek to partner with agencies that can help them navigate and meet the new challenges around driving growth and sustainability.

Digital natives who embody a culture of agility are well positioned to help brands embrace digital transformation as the next evolution of business on a global scale. Agencies must stand ready to advance the overall digital maturity of their partners to the fullest extent possible. This means more than cutting edge technology; it’s also the training needed to maximize that technology, and the consultive approach to guide brands through the learning curve and beyond.

Today’s digital agencies also need to look in the mirror to measure and test their own value proposition. If there are gaps in proficiencies, strong digital leaders must close them by bringing in additional expertise, be it through strategic partnerships or acquisitions.

In navigating the new media ecosystem, every marketer should have their sights set on formulating a dynamic, agile strategy to generate continuous opportunities. Each step in the digital maturity process should open up new possibilities: automation frees up resources for new activity; optimization unlocks the budget for new initiatives; insight informs forward movement. Every new possibility uncovered will lead the next direction in digital marketing, replacing reactionary tactics with planned precision.

Recognizing the limitless expanse of digital transformation opportunity on the horizon, today’s CMOs are wise to incorporate enhanced resources into 2021 planning. Finding an agency partner who can provide the expertise and guiding framework to help best use those resources to build a connected marketing ecosystem will be the key to successful digital growth.

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