Emily Tan
Nov 22, 2012

Asia’s marketers willing but not able to implement digital marketing: Adobe

ASIA-PACIFIC - While marketers in Asia-Pacific are optimistic and keen on digital marketing, most organisations lack the talent and right organisational alignment to act on these ambitions, according to a study by Adobe in partnership with the CMO Council.

CMOs in Asia lack resources and talent to carry out ambitions
CMOs in Asia lack resources and talent to carry out ambitions

The Asia-Pacific Digital Marketing Performance Dashboard was based on an online quantitative survey of 295 senior marketers across the region. In addition, the CMO Council interviewed 23 brand leaders from companies including Toyota, 20th Century Fox, Tupperware, Citi Group, Cigna, Nokia, and Yahoo!, among many others. The surveys and interviews were conducted through the second and third quarters of 2012.

“In terms of mindset, Asian marketers are very positive about digital marketing," said Mark Phibbs, senior director marketing Asia-Pacific at Adobe Systems. "They believe it better engages audiences and that consumers want to interact with brands online. They’re just not doing it.”

For example, Hong Kong, which is the highest in the region in terms of a positive mindset towards digital marketing, with 100 per cent believing that digital marketing will drive competitive advantage. Yet, in terms of “marketing readiness”, Hong Kong rated a 3.9 (out of 10) on the dashboard, one of the lowest in the region, pointed out Liz Miller, vice-president, global programs and operations for the CMO Council.

Hong Kong also rated a 0.8 in terms of marketing skills and a 3.2 in organisational alignment compared with relatively low regional averages of 1.4 and 3.3, respectively.

The three main factors holding back the region, added Miller are a lack of skills, organisational alignment and budget.

“In terms of skills, the region sorely lacks talent with the ability to glean insights and intelligence from customer data," she said. "Data is not being used to create competitive advantage. It’s mostly used to justify campaign investment and KPIs.” Miller added that only 13 per cent of marketers felt they had the right team in place.

While many companies are collecting data, with markets like Australia and New Zealand complaining they have more data than they can deal with, it’s very fragmented, said Phibbs. “One of the things most companies [39 per cent] do is aggregate their marketing responsibilities across multiple agencies. So it’s very fragmented, and brands can’t control and analyse it effectively.”

The talent issue stretches across from clients to agencies. Three out of four marketers surveyed rated agency effectiveness as moderate at best, and only 13 per cent gave their agency partners rave reviews.

For the most part, marketers believe that the skill set of their current marketing organization is improving (33 per cent) but many feel constrained by the lack of budget to bring on the right level of senior talent to lead these digital teams.

In terms or organisational alignment to carry out strategic digital marketing, Asian companies are blessed with the full support from C-suite and senior management, said Miller. “But we’re seeing less support from sales, channel and IT—and when you’re talking about the aggregation of customer data, these are the three resources most needed.”


Overall, China has the highest rate of organisational alignment in the region at 3.9, compared with 3.2 in Hong Kong, 3.0 in Singapore and 2.9 in Korea.

China’s lead, said Phibbs was likely driven by a large, demanding and very digital consumer population that expects brands to be present online.

Judging by marketing budgets allocated to digital across the region, Asia-Pacific’s marketers have been testing and piloting digital thus far. According to the study, 37 per cent of marketers invest less than 10 per cent of their overall marketing budget in some form of digital marketing.

Unsurprisingly therefore, more than half of marketers cited budget constraints as a key limitation to their digital success and 21 per cent are either struggling to convince leadership of the value and opportunity in digital or dealing with senior leaders who were still wedded to traditional marketing practices.

“CMOs in Asia are not used to convincing the group CEO to take risks in marketing spend,” observed Phibbs.

But, he adds, the region may be about to undergo a seismic shift as, based on the study, less than 14 per cent plan to continue spending less than 10 per cent on digital marketing next year. Furthermore, Australian, Chinese and Hong Kong marketers said that they will be investing 50 to 70 per cent of their budgets in digital.

To gear up for a more competitive space, marketers should look into not only hiring new talent, but also upskilling existing teams, said Phibbs. “It’s not about trying to buy resources, you have people in marketing who already understand the business and the industry," he said. "By training them you will get powerful results. Hiring new graduates and dumping them in over their heads is not the answer.”

Marketers should also focus on measuring the right elements to prove ROI. According to Miller, CMOs have to fight to define their roles and gain respect in the eyes of the C-suite. “The reality is the CEO will look at the strategies the CMO brings to them and say, ‘This isn’t going to drive the business’. But shame on them [CEOs] for not defining where the business is heading and to centre it on the consumer,” she said, addressing the study by Fournaise on the CEO-CMO divide.

“CEOs need to support their their marketers by mandating encouragement to explore, pilot and test, and to define a strategy that aligns around the customer, without these two things CMOs will not be able to advance digital marketing,” said Miller.

With the eyes of the world on Asia, and international competition moving in, local organisations need to move quickly or be left behind, she concluded. 

Campaign Asia

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