There’s no mistaking any more that we are living in a digital world. People, young and old, are handling both business and pleasure via some digital platform or device--and they expect the experience to be tailored just for them.

Savvy marketers understand that this sea change has taken place and have begun to think of all marketing as digital--or, at least, having a huge digital component. Marketing strategies and tactics must be conceived with the new digital nature of today’s audiences in mind; it is not a bolt-on or adjunct to some other marketing plan. 

While some have accepted this new reality, the majority have not. For instance, many marketers, especially those in larger organizations, tend to separate digital marketing from marketing, according to Robert Rose, chief strategist at the Content Marketing Institute. Teams are segregated, with digital marketing reporting into the regular marketing team but measured separately.

“While this was OK and a natural reaction as digital became important over the last 10 years, this just simply can’t be the case anymore,” Rose told CMO.com in an exclusive interview. “All marketing is just marketing, and all marketing contains elements of digital components. In other words, we don’t have a ‘television marketing’ department’ or a ‘print marketing department,’ so there shouldn’t be a ‘digital marketing department’ either. It’s all integrated now--or at least it should be.”

The only way to achieve this is by reorganizing the marketing group to match what's going on at the “street level,” he said.

“Today, many marketing organizations are siloed, even within themselves,” Rose explained. “The social team isn’t speaking to the demand-gen team, and the Web content team is completely separate from the sales enablement team, who thinks the social team is a bunch of entitled idiots, and on and on. And while this is an operational challenge, to be sure, there are almost always instances of grassroots innovation and experimental creativity where these silos are creating valuable, relevant [mostly digita] content experiences.”

So, while the business has been able to create one-off campaigns or programs that spur successful engagement, there hasn’t been one, holistic system for engagement, Rose added. The majority of companies that are marketing in a digital world are the ones that were born online--Zappos, LinkedIn, and Facebook, for example, he said. They don’t face the challenge of superimposing old business models to fit and function in this digital world we live in today.

One company that has undergone this type of marketing overhaul is the New York Stock Exchange. When Marisa Ricciardi first joined NYSE as CMO five years ago, she saw somewhat of a flaw in how the marketing division was organized: Each country had its own marketing team. So Ricciardi centralized marketing in an effort to have the entire organization support a holistic strategy.

“We did this by bringing in more diverse talent, going for people with agency backgrounds, designers, journalists, etc., and we basically restructured how we operate,” Ricciardi said in an interview with CMO.com in September. “[As a result], we’ve become more business-focused and more efficient. Cross-functional collaboration means twice as many ideas.”

The Real-Time Imperative
Beyond this overhaul of the marketing department, another aspect of marketing in a digital world is being ready to act and react in real time. That doesn't mean just tweeting about things that are trending. Embracing real time means changing how your marketing team operates. And this is no small feat.  

“When someone refers to ‘digital marketing,’ they are traditionally referring to a campaign or group of campaigns utilizing online/mobile advertising or search,” Michael Hayes, CRO and CMO of UberMedia, told CMO.com. “The reason we need to be thinking about ‘marketing in the digital world’ is that the data we can glean from consumers’ digital breadcrumbs goes far beyond a campaign and can shape a brand’s full marketing strategy.”

According to Hayes, social and location data, in particular, gives marketers an incredible snapshot of consumers’ emotional intent. Smart brands are using this data to create a two-way dialogue that fosters engagement, versus the traditional, one-way digital marketing. Those that don’t will become irrelevant in the digital era, Hayes said.

Marketing in a digital world also means having the systems, technologies, and operations in place to enable on-the-fly communication. One company that's doing this is MasterCard, which has set up a digital marketing environment meant to foster innovation. It has a social media command center at its Purchase, N.Y., headquarters, where a team of four people sit and listen to what’s being said about the brand online. In addition, this social infrastructure enables the brand’s various global marketing teams to collaborate and share what is and isn't working. 

At last year's Adobe Summit in Salt Lake City, Utah, Brand Rencher, SVP and GM of the Digital Marketing Business at Adobe (CMO.com's parent company), told 4,000 attendees: “You are tasked to deliver the right experience immediately. This interchange between action and experience is what we are calling ‘the last millisecond.’” 

To succeed in this last millisecond, Rencher said, four steps must be taken.

“First,” he said, “you have to listen. Even though there is too much information, and it sits in silos, you have to be able to pull it all together for a single view in real time.”

Second, Rencher said, is the ability to predict. “What have we learned that will allow us to give the consumer the right experience at the right time--instantaneously?” he asked. “Then you have to assemble--collect all the scattered assets necessary to create that experience, and do it dynamically. Finally, you have to deliver it to hundreds of devices, over different bandwidths, and to different channels.”

To succeed, marketers' tools must be be fully integrated, “much the same as the marketing organization,” Rencher concluded. “You must take the silos out of your organization.”

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Shift In Strategy
Real-time data and insights means that marketers need to shift their strategies, according to Catherine Tabor, founder and CEO of Sparkfly.

“Real-time data and optimization is no longer a myth for digital promotions,” Tabor told CMO.com. “It is available today to track a campaign from the moment it is launched, through consumer engagement, and ultimately completing through the point of sale, including the item-level purchase data. Marketers should not settle for anything less than real-time data for all campaigns." 

The embrace of real-time data and insights is the only way to make the shift to marketing in a digital world, according to Sarah Engel, founder of brand marketing and communications firm Elegant Disruption. The consumer purchase funnel has changed dramatically over the past couple of years, and brands are focusing on being in the right place, with the right message, at the right time, regardless of the device.

“Customers expect a genuine, engaging, and aligned brand experience, whether they are on their sofa researching on their iPad, on the train commuting and shopping on mobile, or at their desk buying from their laptop on their lunch break,” Engel told CMO.com.

Engel agreed that this new digital world has made consumers expect a brand to be consistent in every channel and on every device, which also demands that marketers think in real time.

It is not just about marketing in real time, but shifting from thinking about what campaign might resonate months from now to what a customer just tweeted about your product and how you can respond immediately.

Organizing For Real Time
One well-known example of a brand that has truly embraced the concept of marketing in a digital world is Mondelez International's Oreo. We all remember last year’s Super Bowl blackout and Oreo’s clever tweet:

The tweet itself isn’t what’s impressive here. It's the operation the brand had in place for the Super Bowl to ensure it could act in real time. That is what marketers should concentrate on all year long. 

According to David Berkowitz, CMO of MRY, leaders need to preselect which marketers will comprise the real-time marketing team, who’s prepped and ready for special events. Such a team should include someone from insights and analytics to identify what is catching on, and strategists looking for trends. Community managers also need to be involved, as do brand managers, since they’re the ones who are responsible for approving content.

For the Super Bowl, Oreo had its agency creative (MediaVest) and strategy teams (360i), along with brand execs all together at 360i’s offices in New York. For the agencies, having the clients right there in the room meant a fast approval process. When the lights went out, the teams quickly created an image and caption that resulted in tons of engagement and earned media.

A New Breed Of Marketer
The good news is that companies are finally starting to get it. And they want to make the shift to marketing in digital instead of focusing on digital marketing. That’s why CMOs are now hiring people who are specialists in more than one marketing channel. According to Engel, this new breed of marketer must understand social media, content creation and curation, and brand elevation. They also need “data chops,” she said.  

The need for more data analysts and marketers good at crunching numbers is tied to the onset of big data. According to McKinsey & Co., the need for data-analytics talent will exceed supply by 50 to 60 percent by 2018, “The United States alone faces a shortage of 140,000 to 190,000 people with deep analytical skills as well as 1.5 million managers and analysts to analyze big data and make decisions based on their findings,” its report says. 

As companies continue to embrace this idea of marketing in a digital world, hiring the right people with the right skills is a fundamental for success.

“The digital marketing industry is full of resources, yet not overflowing with the right type of talent,” said Price Glomski, executive vice president of integration at digital agency PMG, in an exclusive interview with CMO.com. “Be picky and invest heavily in a solid recruiting process. Finding the right digital marketer takes relationships and potentially the evolution of your job requirements. If you find someone that fits 50 percent of the role while they also bring missing experience for other media expertise to the table, stick with them. Also, test agency contacts for direction [or for new team members], vendor resources, and actively use industry events to recruit.” 

In conclusion, marketing in a digital world is a three-step process. First, you have to reorganize your marketing team to ensure all silos have come down, enabling innovation within the organization by making it easy for marketers to collaborate. Second, you need to embrace the real-time spirit of consumers, who expect brands to interact with them in real time. And third, you need to hire the right people with a plethora of marketing and data analytics skills.

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To learn more about big data, real-time insights, and what it takes to be a digitally fit organization, attend the Adobe Summit, March 24-28. Click here to view the agenda.

by Giselle Abramovich | Senior & Strategic Editor, CMO.com