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Article by Patrick Kuehn Published in CMO.com

CPL, CPA, CPC, CTR. How often do you find yourself turning to digital metrics like these to measure your marketing performance?

Some CMOs thrive amid this alphabet soup, using digital marketing goals as the cornerstones of their marketing strategies. Other marketing executives are less reliant on digital. While they might track the numbers, they see them only as indicators of a single piece of a more traditional marketing approach.

There is no doubt that successful marketing today is dependent on a well-executed digital strategy, but different kinds of CMOs approach this end goal differently.

Before we go deeper into this topic, here’s a quick quiz to determine whether you’re a digital or an analog CMO:

1. What is the name of Google’s search algorithm that first took into account the searcher’s intent (semantic search)?

a. Penguin
b. Panda
c. Hummingbird

2. TubeMogul is an example of a/an:
a. Demand-side platform
b. Supply-side platform
c. Ad server

3. What is one of the main technologies behind proximity marketing?
a. Cookies
c. Beacon

4. On which programming language is the Magento ecommerce platform built?
a. Java
b. PHP
c. C++

5. What would you use to stop a search engine from crawling your site?
a. Robots.txt file
b. Anti-spam software
c. ALT text

(The answers can be found at the end of this article.)

So, without further ado…

The Digital CMO

You know the type—the one who is connected 24/7, embraces everything digital and is the earliest adopter of new marketing technology—the digital CMO. The digital CMO wants to know the details of how the marketing automation platform works and the bits and bytes of programmatic media buying.

Digital-minded marketers see the web as the primary scaffolding on which they build their strategies. They actively seek out new digital tools that can boost their performance metrics. They dig into every evolving marketing trend, looking for the latest and greatest way to leverage technology to drive engagement. Their marketing budgets often reflect this prioritization, with as much as 50% of their spending allocated for software tools, online engagement initiatives, and implementation and design of new digital commerce features. To the digital CMO, mastery of the web (and upkeep of that mastery) is the utmost achievement.

The Analog CMO

On the other extreme is the analog CMO, who’s probably older, having grown up in the analog age. Analog CMOs understand digital and their teams use the same digital tools as their digital CMO counterparts. The difference is that they’re not on the cutting edge of digital; they’re not as up-to-date on the latest digital tools and trends.

Analog CMOs treat the web as just one tool of many. Having built their careers on the four Ps—product, place, pricing, and promotion—these executives are firmly grounded in customer-based marketing. Their deep understanding of the marketing world allows them to embrace the qualitative aspects of branding, putting value perhaps on press clippings and market share over digital performance metrics. While also well versed in the value of a digital campaign, analog CMOs might spend just 20% to 30% of their budgets on such efforts, reserving room for extensive offline research and promotion.

In my experience, I tend to see more analog CMOs at B2B companies and more digital CMOs working for B2C brands. How long they’ve had their ecommerce site (if they have one at all) and how much they cater to specific customer segments is often a good measure of the digital versus analog approach.

One Initiative, Two Approaches

Armed with complementary toolkits and informed by disparate understandings of their industry, analog and digital marketing executives often approach similar problems from entirely different angles. When considering a new product or package design, for example, a digital CMO might gather customer opinions via an email survey or by A/B testing different versions of the product online, extracting actionable insights from digital metrics.

Just as the digital marketer reaches for web-based solutions, the analog CMO measures consumer sentiment through more traditional methods, launching new versions of the product in test markets and conducting in-person focus groups. Both approaches seek answers to the same question—which new design will perform best with a given audience?—while leveraging different avenues of consumer engagement.

Closing The Gaps

On its own, neither approach is necessarily a prescription for success. In fact, most marketing executives fall somewhere on the spectrum between being completely digital- or analog-minded. But try as they might to be the ultimate marketer who is equally proficient in customer-based marketing as with every digital tool available, every CMO has blind spots. Success lies in executives’ ability to know their own strengths, then surround themselves with people who can lend expertise to inform their shortcomings.

Perhaps most obviously, analog-minded marketing executives could stand to learn more about how software can help them to achieve their customer-based goals. While their digital-minded counterparts might be plugged into new technology that, for example, allows companies to gauge customer sentiment, it could pass by the analog CMO undiscovered. Working with online experts can give analog CMOs more exposure to digital tools like these if they are not primed to find them themselves.

On the other hand, digital CMOs should be wary about relying too heavily on technology. Someone with analog experience might remind them that without a strong focus on project management or a careful audience analysis, even the best digital efforts could end up falling short of their maximum ROI.

Where on this spectrum do you lie? By definition, it can be difficult to see your own blind spots, so try enlisting the help of a peer who you know thinks differently about their jobs than you do. As you embark on your next marketing initiative, use them as a sounding board, inviting them to point out approaches you may not have thought of or have dismissed too quickly. Rather than finding reasons for or against their suggestions, simply take note of what strategies you tend to gloss over. By hiring with these skills in mind, you’ll be able to develop a diverse team whose rich discussions will lead to more comprehensive and effective programs.


1. c
2. a
3. c
4. b
5. a

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ObjectWave is a full-service provider of digital commerce solutions. He can be reached at pkuehn@objectwave.com.