Adrian Peter Tse
Nov 3, 2014

CMOs in Asia need to 'speak up', address digital skills gap

ASIA-PACIFIC - According to research from CMO Council, marketers in the Asia-Pacific understand the value of digital, but no country is taking full advantage of the opportunities.


According to Liz Miller, Senior Vice President, CMO Council, who heads up research in a team of 12 in California, “inflated optimism” is getting marketers in the region excited about the prospects of digital marketing and leveraging data but “scepticism” is holding back actual follow through beyond basic measurement practises. The challenge of demonstrating the value of digital is holding back advancement, creating a self-perpetuating cycle.

Miller's comments are based on a joint survey by the CMO Council and Adobe. The research included 800 surveys of marketing executives across Asia-Pacific during the second and third quarters of 2014 and focused on the levels of adoption, traction, and maturity of digital marketing in China, Hong Kong, India, Singapore, South Korea, Australia, New Zealand. Forty-four per cent of the marketers in the survey reportedly hold a title of vice president or higher. The study did not include agencies.

“Many marketers in Asia-Pacific are doing one-off type campaigns or using basic measurements that don’t form a holistic picture, which makes it difficult to create long-term value. When these activities don’t show the expected short-term impact, there’s an emotional dip, advancement stalls and support wanes,” said Miller, citing a siloed approach to marketing activities that aren’t well-integrated or customer-centric.

“Customers don’t think in a siloed way, and these days the customer-brand interaction and entry point can start from anywhere," she elaborated. "It doesn’t follow the classic funnel diagram that begins with awareness and finishes with a sale.”

A related point is the continued use of post-hoc KPIs that lead to “rear-mirror” data on marketing activities. “We’re seeing a race to measurement without the consideration of how the data can be used to enhance future marketing activities and enrich customer experience online,” said Miller.

The findings show that Australia, Singapore and India have strong executive support and digital champions while South Korea, China and Hong Kong in particular have skills shortages and “leadership teams that aren’t convinced of the ROI of digital marketing.”

In terms of digital skills, the research indicates slight improvements, but the gaps are continuing to grow between countries that have a dedicated digital headcount in 2014 and those that don’t: Australia (26 per cent), India and Singapore (18 per cent), South Korea (13 per cent), China (9 per cent), Hong Kong (7 per cent).

“Talent is a big problem, and marketing skills is the area of slowest growth in the study," Miller said. "University curriculums haven’t changed and a lot of time is still spent on the SWOT analysis. CMOs and agencies alike need to speak up and go after what they need to address this gap.”

Southeast Asia, which was grouped into the “other” category of the research, is regarded as the number 1 area of future business growth in Asia but is also being held back in digital marketing maturity despite an explosion of social media adoption, “organic innovation” and business volume taking place in the region.

“I sometimes think it’s unfair that countries like Australia are lumped into the Asia-Pacific," Miller noted. "The Australian market is very different and so are the demands of the customers, which have shaped the digital landscape there. It is something to consider when drawing comparisons to other regions in Asia.”

Key insights:

  • Use of analytics and reporting technologies: Australia (91 per cent), Singapore (79 per cent), India (77 per cent), South Korea (13 per cent), China (9 per cent), Hong Kong (7 per cent)
  • Measuring throughout the life of campaigns: Hong Kong (4 per cent), Asia-Pacific (13 per cent)
  • Channel partners and sales teams appear to be strong advocates for digital marketing with more calling for increased digital spend across Asia-Pacific
  • Concern about digital marketing ROI in Asia-Pacific has risen slightly (21 per cent) while in South Korea 50 per cent of senior leaders are not convinced of the ROI
  • Countries like Australia and Singapore are using digital in more sophisticated ways to enhance overall customer lifetime value and to build advocacy. They’re also using digital and cloud-based tools as a way to budget and save money on marketing spend. Finally, they’re reviewing the profitability of transaction paths and seeing what user experiences are leading to the greatest profitability on their platforms.


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