Marketing execs falling behind the digital learning curve

One of the best parts of my job is having the privilege of observing the inner-workings of companies and their struggle to become a digital literate (and hopefully, digital leading) company.

This is NOT an easy process.  In fact, it can be gut-wrenching.

Many of today’s marketing executives grew up in a less-complicated and relatively mature world of TV and print advertising. Not only are they not digital experts, they may not even know enough to ask the right questions that will lead to a successful strategy.

The urgent push to digital

Some companies aren’t making it.  Kodak, the dominant market leader for decades could not make the transition to digital and is bankrupt.

Others are re-training aggressively. Johnson & Johnson, one of my customers, is re-training all of their marketing personnel to rapidly improve their digital competencies.

Procter & Gamble recently jettisoned nearly 2,000 marketers, partly as an effort to re-tool and re-align skillsets with strategy and market needs.

I think all of this activity confirms one of the themes of this blog — social media success is not going to be a function of marketing vision or budget. It’s going to rely on radical organizational transformation.

A new study by Jeffrey F. Rayport and Tuck Rickards and reported by The Harvard Business Review seems to confirm that companies are simply not moving fast enough.

We are losing the race

The report states that only nine companies — less than two percent of the Fortune 500 — would be regarded as having a “highly digital” orientation.  To be highly digital, a company must pass four tests: it generates a high percentage of revenues digitally; its leadership (both the CEO and the Board) has deep digital experience; it does business significantly enabled by digital channels; and it’s recognized as transformational in its industry.

It’s no news that technology companies — Amazon, Apple, Cisco, Dell, HP, Google, Intel, Microsoft, and Oracle — have boards and executive leadership that are strong in digital expertise.

But boards are also on their way to becoming highly digital in sectors where you would least expect it: Pepsi, Wal-Mart, Ingram Micro, Sysco, Berkshire Hathaway and FedEx.

The authors state: “Given the increasing influence, even dominance, of social and mobile technologies, we expect to see a similar evolution take place in more ‘unlikely’ sectors: health care, industrial goods, natural resources.”

“It’s clear the tide is turning — and it’s turning fast,” the authors state. “We believe it’s no coincidence that the largest and most successful companies in our economy are leading this change. Just consider what some established companies have done recently to address their digital capabilities gap at the highest levels of leadership and governance.”

What are you seeing out there?  How is your company making the digital transformation? Is it slow and steady? Is there a sense of urgency? Or, are you like many companies who are falling behind?

Racing photo courtesy of BigStock Photo

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