Marketing Capabilities for the Digital Age

By Kate SayreVaishali RastogiPaul ZwillenbergJody Visser, and Alannah Sheerin

Welcome to the digital revolution. The Internet, social media, and mobile technologies have transformed how consumers interact with brands and how companies market their products and services. Besides having an effective strategy that integrates traditional and digital media, companies need to restructure their marketing organizations to fully capitalize on today’s opportunities—a far harder and more time-consuming task. But too many companies are jumping onto the digital bandwagon without thinking through this critical step.

Success requires a fundamentally different mindset. Unlike traditional media—purchased airtime or ad space—social media such as Facebook pages and Twitter “handles” are free. But they do require a commitment of resources: people, training, new-content creation, tracking, and follow-through. Just as important, these new platforms mean that for the first time, companies can easily engage with consumers directly, but the learning curve for doing this effectively can be steep.

All of this means rethinking traditional approaches to marketing. As we note later in this report, the specific challenges and opportunities vary from industry to industry, and companies must understand those differences as they craft their strategies and restructure their organizations.

To gain a better understanding of how marketing organizations are dealing with these profound changes, The Boston Consulting Group recently surveyed marketing executives at more than 30 major corporations, approximately two-thirds of which were Fortune 500 multinationals based throughout Asia, Europe, Latin America, and the U.S. The companies represented a range of industries, including consumer products, retail, financial services, media, technology, and travel. Each participant completed an online survey and took part in a one-hour interview. Our goal was to identify the key challenges that companies are wrestling with, the best practices that leaders are using to win in the marketplace, and the benefits of capitalizing on digital media effectively.

Those benefits can be powerful. According to our research, investments in digital marketing can deliver exceptional returns: greater brand equity, increased sales, better customer service, lower costs, product innovation, more loyalty and advocacy, and higher consumer awareness overall. (See Exhibit 1.)

This report presents an overview of the digital landscape, our survey findings, and guidelines for getting more from digital marketing.