Creating a 'digital comfort zone'

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The sprawl of Super Bowl marketing reminds us it's crucial to get marketing and technology reading from the same playbook

This Sunday, the champions of the world’s toughest sport will take the field in a head-to-head competition to determine who reigns supreme.

And in between, the Seahawks will play the Patriots.

In recent years, the Super Bowl competition on the screen has become more like the one on the field, with advertisers creating what amounts to an abbreviated playoff season in the weeks leading up to the big event. Just as fans come into the game knowing that the Patriots were 12-4 in the AFC east, and the Seahawks are riding a six-game winning streak, viewers also know more about advertisers’ game plans as well, with many brands having already previewed their commercials on air with exclusive deals (i.e. Mercedes on "Ellen") or having online tie-ins which they’ve been promoting for months (i.e. Dorito’s "Crash the Super Bowl" promotion).

With the Super Bowl serving as another reminder of how much digital integration has shifted the landscape of engaging consumers, I can’t help but wonder how many marketers watching the game will be harboring a secret nostalgia for the good old days when an ad was an ad — mainly because when it comes to digital technologies and platforms, they are still working outside what Domus has dubbed the "Digital Comfort Zone."

As our 2014 Domus Harris Poll survey of marketing decision makers revealed, even as they are investing more of their marketing dollars in digital, 64% of marketers describe their organizations as being "digitally dysfunctional" — an endemic gap at the enterprise level defined as the inability to truly understand digital properties; how they interact; and, ultimately, how to maximize digital results. 

The key issue is that not all personnel who impact a brand are speaking the same language when it comes to digital marketing. It’s as if marketing and technology are, at times, working from different playbooks. People with the greatest understanding of digital technology don’t necessarily truly understand classic marketing. And, the classic marketers aren’t technology whizzes. Dysfunction will reign until companies can get the digital savants and the 4 P’s people speaking the same language — sales.

To get there, organizations need to create a framework for balancing and blending marketing technology competencies within the marketing function. The good news, as we’ll all see on Sunday, is that most companies have embraced the potential of digital. The bad news is that branders have varying levels of digital understanding and usage rates (with the naïve pretending to know more than they do) or simply a lack of proven methodology to link digital with actual sales ("uh, it might be working – we’re not sure"). Therefore, most companies have not tapped into their full digital potential.

Marketers need to find out who knows what, fill in the gaps on each side and create strategic digital alchemy. They need to provide an environment where marketing people can "self-identify" as "digitally delayed," including a blueprint for how they can enable digital fluency across marketing enterprises.

As Domus has shared the concept of the Digital Comfort Zone with clients, we’ve helped them create non-threatening evaluations of marketing-related employees for their Digital IQ. Based upon the group and individual results, we create, implement and measure a customized training program that helps to bridge the gap between techies and classic branders.

As marketers, we’ve all got a lot in common with Tom Brady and Russell Williams — we’re are always focused on the end zone. When it comes to digital, though, winning plays start in the comfort zone. 

Is your company experiencing "digital dysfunction"? Please comment on Betty’s article.

Betty Tuppeny is a 30-year veteran of the branding and advertising industries and the CEO/Co-Founder of Domus. Although an East Coaster, she is a Seahawks fan.

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