What keeps marketers up at night: the crisis of confidence plaguing our profession

A new study has exposed a crisis of confidence among marketers, finding that marketing professionals have significant doubts about their skills, effectiveness and ability to measure the impact of their campaigns.

The findings are from a survey of US marketing professionals commissioned by Adobe and being presented at Advertising Week in New York this week, titled ‘Digital Distress: What Keeps Marketers Up at Night?’

The survey has revealed a striking lack of confidence in digital ability. Less than half (48%) of professionals who consider themselves primarily digital marketers feel highly proficient in digital marketing. A majority of digital marketers haven’t received any formal training in digital marketing (82% report learning on the job).

Marketers also express low confidence in how their companies’ marketing programs are performing. Only 40% think their company’s marketing is effective. When it comes to measuring the effectiveness of digital campaigns specifically, 9% strongly agreed with the statement that they ‘know their digital marketing is working’. Yet, 68% of respondents feel more pressured to show return on investment on their marketing spend.

“Marketers are facing a dilemma: they aren’t sure what’s working, they’re feeling under-equipped to meet the challenges of digital, and they’re having a tough time keeping up with the pace of change in the industry. What’s worse, no one hands you a playbook on how to make it all work,” says Ann Lewnes, chief marketing officer, Adobe.

David Edelman, global co-leader at McKinsey Digital says that while in some cases marketers understand what they should do, they lack the confidence they will succeed: “They’re anxious about understanding ahead of time what makes for good creative and smart digital strategies, managing complexity, and measuring real impact. Plus, so much of marketing today is a moving target,” he says.

“But you have to get in there and play and learn. The challenge is getting comfortable with risks. Set aside a portion of budget – 10-20% – and really try new things.”

Highlighting the feeling of change in the discipline, 76% of respondents think marketing has changed more in the past two years than in the past 50.

The survey also found a correlation between self-reported business performance and digital marketing proficiency. Respondents were asked to rate their company’s business performance as either ‘high’, ‘average’ or ‘low’ performing. The data revealed that high-performing companies are twice as likely to rate their company as highly proficient in digital marketing (50%) than average to lower-performing companies (25%).

Asked about their greatest professional concerns, marketers cited reaching their customers as the biggest challenge (82%), followed closely by the uncertainty of knowing whether their campaigns are working (79%), proving campaign effectiveness (77%) and demonstrating marketing return on investment (75%).

 

About the study: Commissioned by Adobe and produced by Edelman Berland, the study was conducted as an online survey among a total of 1000 US marketers. Data was collected between 26 August and 11 September 2013 by ResearchNow. The margin of error at the 95% confidence level for the total sample is +/- 3.1%. Data was also broken out by the following sub-groups: Marketing Staff (n=499), Marketing Decision Makers (n=436), Digital Marketers (n=263), and Marketing Generalists (n=754).