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4 reasons why CEOs still don't invest in digital marketing

by Damien Cummings

4 reasons why CEOs still don't invest in digital marketing

There are thousands of research documents, millions of opinions, and the experience of almost everyone on the planet that digital is the new normal. Smartphone penetration is ridiculously high, with the passionate debate about Android vs. iOS and Samsung vs. Apple making headline news. There are over a billion people using Facebook, with hundreds of millions of people using Twitter, LinkedIn, Pinterest, Vine, and other social networks. Google, Baidu, and Bing searches are a daily part of everyone's every day lives, as well as critical to finding any information nowadays.

So, why are marketing managers struggling to spend even a small percentage of their media in digital? It's big news when companies like P&G announce that they're moving their digital spend to 35%. For me, the big question is whether this is enough? Consumers don't spend 10%, 20%, or 35% of their time using digital devices and media, so what's the bottleneck?
I believe there are four major reasons why CEOs and CMOs are struggling to invest in digital:
  1. CEOs don't trust CMOs. This is the biggest contributor to why marketing budgets get cut and new initiatives don't get off the ground. Marketing is not as clear cut as Sales. Sales have easy to understand metrics like sales, profit and market share. Marketing and Advertising deals in intangibles like brand, customer satisfaction, reach/awareness, and purchase intent. Too often, Marketing leaders don't take the time to truly connect and engage with the CEO and other executive leaders. This has lead to the erosion of trust.
  2. Marketers rely too much on their media agency partners to spend their money. Media agencies are fantastic at optimising a media budget, but they have inherent bias towards certain media. TV is still top of mind for most media agency leaders due to its reach and ability to quickly launch a new product. Online video (the nearest digital equivalent) is far too fragmented and requires a deeper level of understanding of less understood elements like content marketing, YouTube (and YouTube celebrities), and Mobile marketing. Similarly, it's easy to understand that print and OOH are going to get a brand a wide audience and boost awareness. What's missing is the understanding that consumer behaviour has changed and people are expecting a different, deeper relationship with brands. A print ad will never change behaviour in the way a conversation with friends on social media can - digital is the only way to interactively engage consumers and build brand preference and true loyalty.
  3. True consumer digital usage is on platforms and devices, not in media. The focus has to be moving marketing budgets from media to production. Building a website is not a media spend. Creating an engaging mobile experience via an App is not a media spend. Engaging social media influencers and advocates is not a media spend. e-CRM is not media. For true digital engagement the focus needs to shift to capability building activities and "creating" things, not simply buying an empty space and filling it with an ad.
  4. CMOs don't understand the value and ROI of social media. Marketers understand that consumers are deeply engaged in platforms like Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn, but most haven't figured out the right way to engage these consumers. Instead of listening to customers, understanding their passions and needs, then engaging in a open, honest and relevant discussion with them, it seems most brands simply want to relentlessly spam their fans/followers/connections with product info or useless trivia. In fact, in my experience, up to 45% of activity on a brand's Facebook page is customer service-related (complaints, questions, etc.), so pumping out spammy product content in that kind of environment completely misses the mark. This all leads to the confusion around ROI. If CMOs don't understand the best way to use social media, it's going to be very unclear on how to measure its success.

About the author


Damien has over 15 years’ experience in the digital industry, covering all aspects of digital marketing, e-commerce and social media.

Damien is currently Vice President & Chief Marketing Officer at Philips ASEAN & Pacific, leading brand, communications & digital marketing across Philips Consumer Lifestyle, Philips Lighting and Philips Healthcare in Asia. Before Philips, he was the Regional Marketing Director, Digital & Social Media Samsung Asia, and before Samsung was the Online Director – Asia Pacific & Japan at Dell, managing over $1 billion in e-commerce revenue responsibility in Asia. At Dell he also had the dual role of Global Social Media Director. Prior to Dell, Damien was agency side at Asia's largest advertising Ogilvy & Mather, as General Manager of Soho Square (Ogilvy’s conflict agency); General Manager of Neo@Ogilvy (Ogilvy’s digital media company) and Ogilvy’s regional digital consulting lead where he helped brands drive marketing across digital channels. Damien has also worked at major global brands across Australia & Singapore, managing digital marketing at Citibank, Coca-Cola, NRMA and McKinsey & Company.

In November 2011, Damien received the Global Brand Leadership at the World Brand Congress 2011 event in India. He is currently a judge of the Marketing “Agency of the Year” Awards 2012 and has been a judge for the 2011 Digital Media Awards and the 2009 Asian Marketing Effectiveness Awards. He’s also a top ranked speaker on social media, digital marketing and e-commerce who has been chairman, keynote or guest speaker at: Social Media World Forum Asia, iStrategy Conference in Singapore & Australia, ad:tech Singapore and Sydney, Search Engine Strategies (“SES”) Hong Kong, Brand Couture Singapore, Campaign Spotlight: Technology Singapore, HR Congress, Singapore, Digital Cream Singapore and the National Sales & Marketing Conference Singapore.

Damien’s blog, Digital Future, is available at:; his Twitter profile is @damiencummings and he can be found on LinkedIn here:

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