It’s been a long time since a NASA announcer uttered the sentence: “Houston, we have a problem” to describe how bad things are for the Apollo 13 crew. Perhaps, now it is time to announce: Marketing we have got a problem! It is about the absence of marketing in addressing business’s hottest topic du jour, digital transformation.
A new study by Pegasystems and Accenture shows that only 16 percent of digital transformation efforts are led by CMOs! The finding is based on a global survey of 444 executives. We can learn that in 52 percent of digital transformation efforts, the CIO or Chief Technology Officer is in charge, in 37 percent efforts it is the CEO, and in 28 percent it is the Chief Operating Officer. The board of directors, often underrepresented in terms of marketing experience or talent, accounts for 24 percent.
A Barn-Sized Disconnect
Are we marketers really doing what we must do? The fact is, we live in the midst of the third most important technology revolution of our times. The current revolution creates upheaval in every industry, category and challenges nearly every brand and business.
Yet, we marketers still have not wrapped our heads around how significantly different this third technology revolution is from the two others that preceded it. The first one, I can remember reading about took place sometime in the 1970s. It saw the emergence of electronic data centers in the basements of companies. Large computers often stacked one next to each other would automate manual activities and process orders or managing job functions. Programming seemed like another foreign language to learn, and promised job opportunities for those who cared to work somewhere in a basement with no windows or for those who wanted to work in sales jobs at DEC, IBM, HP or Honeywell.
The internet followed. I call this the second technology revolution because it did not just make things more productive through automation, it created connectivity at the global scale betweenpeople, suppliers, customers, business units, and operations and hence it changed the way companies operated their supply chain, how they managed global operations, and how they connected with consumers. Technology moved from the basement to the desktopduring those years as well. At the university I was teaching, it replaced the typing pool and my secretary suddenly became a shared secretary for the entire department. I was supposed to do the secretarial work from now on, I quickly learned. We all were empowered through technology primarily through innovations at Microsoft, Intel and the major PC manufacturers and of course also network companies like Cisco who built the infrastructure.
The internet created a lot of changes for consumers. New companies emerged like Amazon, eBay, and Yahoo. Google was born and helped organize information so we can find information on the web. These companies enabled consumers in so many ways, and it unleashed an enormous spurt of productivity and growth for companies.
But unlike the first and this second technology revolution, the one we live through right now is altogether different:
- The first and second revolutions were primarily inside-out revolutions. The technologies primarily enabled companies, and large global organizations or workers inside companies. They increased productivity and made operations more efficient and effective. The current revolution in contrast is an outside-in revolution. It makes first and foremost consumers more productive not just companies, it enables them, it empowers them. Consumers are in the driver seat now, they are in charge. They adopt technologies and change faster than companies do. Digital Darwinism in plain sight.
- The current revolution, unlike the previous two, puts consumers squarely in the center of the new products and innovation process. Previously, consumers were at the receiving end of the innovation process. Companies innovated new products, consumers bought them. Today, many new products are possible only because of consumers. Uber would not be able to deliver short arrival times of their drivers and seamless payment, if consumers wouldn’t be willing to share their personal location data and credit card information in advance, for example. AirBnB would not exist if consumers weren’t willing to house strangers in their homes. Value is no longer just created by companies and then passed on to consumers in exchange for a price. Value is created by consumers as well.
- The current revolution fundamentally changes how consumers buy and how consumers connect with brands or businesses. It is the end of the brand funnel, the end of pushing consumers down the various layers, steps or stages from awareness to consideration to purchase. It is the end of the consumer decision journey, the fairly predictable paths to purchase. Welcome to the new and empowered ways of how consumers search, evaluate, like and buy products and brands. We call this behavior at Vivaldi the Flight of the Bumble Bee, an erratic zigzag pattern of swipes, clicks, views, site visits or store visits enhanced through conversations in social channels and spurts of searches of information on Google or consumer review sites.
- The current revolution changes how consumers consume media and advertising. Some marketers have renamed advertising as content but consumers are not fooled by it. They ignore advertising, and distrust it. Fifty percent of consumers distrust advertising calling it fairly dishonest to very dishonest.  Consumer recommendations have become the most “trusted” form of marketing according to a Nielsen study.  Over 1/3 of all mobile phones have been downloaded with ad blockers. That is, consumers actively avoid advertising, and ignore it, unless it is of value to them. Ad skip rates are at an all-time high, and advertising that is fully viewed and gets high attention has dropped from 97 percent in the 1990s to less than 20 percent today. Digital or social does not improve the situation. Facebook click through rates are trending south and average now 0.04 to 0.05%.
And despite the fact that this current revolution we live in today in truly a consumer revolution, marketers are not in charge of the massive amount of digital transformation efforts currently under way? And that’s in my opinion a barn-sized disconnect!
 The survey permitted to answer with multiple responses indicating that more than one executive is in charge which accounts for the total being more than 100 percent.
 See footnote 3.