Marketers fear – Experts speak out on the issue Wants To Know: What Do Marketers Fear The Most?

by Giselle Abramovich
Senior & Strategic Editor

From ghoulies and ghosties / And long-leggedy beasties / And things that go bump in the night, / Good Lord, deliver us!

What goes bump in the night to scare marketers this Halloween? While we couldn’t track down Michael Meyers, we did manage to find some marketing leaders who were willing to share their fears with us. Don’t be afraid to read what they have to say—just leave the lights on.

Doug Ryan, President, DigitasLBi Chicago and San Francisco
For the scariest things in marketing this Halloween, let’s harken back to these classic monsters of the horror genre:

• Frankenstein: While startups in other fields are advised to simplify their story into a crisp elevator speech, ad tech takes pride in its complexity and jargon. The result is an endless barrage of offerings claiming to perform some critical function that no one else can do. Their collective arguments offer an advertising stack with more bolt-ons than the big guy himself.

• Vampires: Investigations into viewability and fraud have revealed an underworld of bloodsuckers. They’ve taken the lifeblood of digital marketing and extracted it to feed their evil phantoms. Millions of viewers have disappeared from sites like vampires’ reflections in mirrors, revealing that no living things are actually there. What will it take to put a stake through the heart of these ghouls?

• Zombies: They’re supposed to be dead, yet they continue to walk the earth. As marketing requires more real-time tools, the TV upfronts plod along with their 1970s business model. While consumers yearn for more value from the companies they transact with, we try to capture them by lurking between them and their desired destination. Despite new models of business partnership, marketers and their agencies cling to a fee model that rewards the hours spent instead of the results achieved. Multiple blows have yet to crush these zombie brains.

Sarah Engel, SVP of Global Marketing, DynamicAction
Marketers should have a healthy fear of two factors right now: constantly-shifting consumer behavior and a lack of data connectivity and visibility across the organization. In this new “on-demand” economy, every marketer needs to be highly in tune with exactly where, when, and how a customer wants to be communicated with. And they need to deliver above and beyond their brand promises. In order to accomplish this, it means stepping out of your organizational silos and connecting data across the organization to understand the true customer journey. Only with connected and actionable data can you make the right decisions fast enough to satisfy their ever-evolving and heightened expectations.

David Cooperstein, Interim CMO, Pebblepost
Marketers are torn between wanting the technologies to help them drive success but not having the people they need to make use of what they bought. The scary thing about marketing today is that it’s easy to put on a data hat but hard to cook up the right potion for success without a team of true data scientists.

Dennis Syracuse, CMO and GM, Madison Logic
The scariest thing in marketing today is that smaller companies are coming to market with a small section of a greater strategy, and they promote it like they are experts when, in fact, their products don’t work. This leads marketers to believe that similar products are ineffective. VC investment money drives these companies to spend huge amounts of money on marketing, and it’s very effective. However, we have awareness of products that are only half-baked, and a negative perception develops of that strategy. The ad tech world is full of examples, but what currently come to mind is ABM [account-based marketing]. You think it’s a “treat,” and it ends up being a “trick.”

Vikas Gupta, Director of Marketing, Factual
Commensurate with the increase of spend going through digital channels, especially as programmatic buying has taken off, has been an increase in the importance of/spend on data. However, data economies are still woefully underdeveloped. Specifically, marketers are to a large extent making data acquisition decisions in markets with a considerable lack of transparency. Two factors that every data consumer should be able to easily understand are provenance (i.e., where the data came from) and quality (i.e., precision, accuracy, freshness, etc.). The scariest part of marketing today is the considerable difficulty in trying to understand these two things when making large budget decisions with respect to data acquisition.

Jen Todd Gray, SVP of Marketing and Creative Services, HelloWorld
What’s scary? Asking a customer for their information, being the recipient of this coveted connection, and doing nothing with it. This may seem like a no-brainer, but the scariest thing in marketing today is alienating the customer by ignoring the preferences they give you as a gift. This still happens more than we may think. Customers expect personalization and for you to know their preferences, especially when the data is handed over to you. Bottom line is, if you collect it, use it, and you will see the benefits.

Galia Reichenstein, COO and Head of Sales, Taptica
The scariest thing about marketing today is the growing number of fraudsters looking to get a piece of what they feel is “easy money” in ad tech. While it’s inevitable that in a billion-dollar industry there will be those who look for loopholes to make an easy buck, the good news is that there’s no future for these bots and bogus revenues. We’re getting closer to a solution that will couple transparency and precise data points with better technology and more education for all of the participants in the ecosystem.

Andrew Gerhart, COO, AerServ
That your ad will be seen by a ghost! Over the past few years, the ad industry has been riddled with news regarding ad fraud, bots, and viewability. For marketers dealing with the rapidly evolving ad tech landscape, this can be daunting. Are they wasting precious budget? Who can they trust? Luckily, there are great companies working hard to eliminate these issues and provide reliable solutions for marketers and advertisers, from verification and detection companies, to platforms integrating solutions, to agencies making it a requirement and pushing the agenda forward.

Samantha Skey, Chief Revenue and Marketing Officer, SheKnows
There are two scary aspects of marketing today. The first is that data exists to prove efficacy of every element of our efforts. This means we cannot condone waste and have a lot more reading to do. The second is that our consumers now expect us to have a “personal” relationship with each of them.

Mike Westgate, VP of Marketing, RealMassive
I’m frightened by relentless corporate pursuits for relevancy among Millennials. True, they have overtaken Boomers in size and diversity, but saturating Millennials with branded noise across media channels is transforming them into marketing skeptics. Rather than asking, “How can we get them behind our brand?” we should be asking, “How can we get our brand behind them?”

Millennials understand the value of their own personal brands, and when presented with an opportunity to build them, they seem willing to share their digital real estate. A great example is Spotify’s “Found them First” (FtF) campaign, which appeals to the Millennial (or hipster?) in us all. By analyzing consumption history and awarding users “early listener” status for breakout artists, this beautifully crafted tool has tapped into three key consumer trends:

  1. Digital vanity: Have you ever heard the phrase, “I liked them before they were big”? FtF empowers music snobs with real data to support their claims.
  2. Music is social: FtF generates personalized, highly sharable content, which, in turn, doubles as demand generation for the platform itself.
  3. Artist advocacy: Amid royalty battles, FtF positions Spotify as a champion of the artist. The scoring system defines success by number of Spotify streams, which suggests to listeners (and artists) that streaming is supporting, not stealing.

Instead of bombarding this savvy segment with noisy advertising, why not empower Millennials by passing them the mic?

Brian Bowman, Founder and CEO, Consumer Acquisition
It is scary working with companies that have not made the switch to quantitative marketing. Companies that rely on the highest-paid person’s opinion struggle to optimize their customer acquisition costs. Companies should take a Kaizen approach and use math and constant A/B testing to help squash the “HiPPO” (Highest Paid Person’s Opinion).

It is scary working with companies that have not embraced the switch to mobile. Companies stuck on the Web risk obsolescence and dwindling reach, but now is the time to switch to mobile apps and the mobile Web. Sixty-eight percent of Facebook’s time spent is on mobile devices, 80% of Pinterest’s traffic is mobile, and Google has more searches from mobile phones than computers.

It is scary how much opportunity there is to scale reach to the right users on mobile. Facebook offers a wealth of demographic and psychographic targeting to advertisers, and offers the ability to accurately identify 1.49 billion people by age, gender, location, what they read, watch, listen to, what websites they visit, which apps they use, people who are willing put pay for services, and much more.

Toshi Yamamoto, Founder and CEO, ChatWork
It’s pretty well-known that in Japanese culture, there is a fear of failure. And fear limits the appetite for risk. But specifically in marketing, especially when you’re in a fiercely competitive global market, there is really nothing riskier than not taking risks. With my team dispersed in different regions across the world serving customers in 183 countries, we have to be very flexible with our marketing, and we’re constantly trying different strategies. All this activity means we’re getting quite good at failing! And often! But when we fall seven times, we get up eight. This means we apply everything we learn. Our global marketing employees have to work together as a team and fearlessly communicate. They frequently share tips and insights–good, bad, and ugly–with each other around the clock so when we see a marketing campaign working great in Tokyo, we can fine-tune the campaign geotargeted for the London market, and by the time we execute in San Francisco, the campaign is highly optimized. It’s the teamwork that makes failing less risky. If one marketing team fails, the other teams know how to adjust.

Ray Kingman, CEO and Founder, Semcasting
The scariest part of marketing today is the tendency of marketers to focus exclusively on the inbound funnel. Marketers find it comforting to engage with the hand-raisers, but too often they represent only a fraction of the business opportunity. Unless your market is highly specialized and your targets unambiguous, a full-throated online and offline lead generation process is going to be key to success. Inbound marketing hand-raisers help the metrics and are obviously key participants in any funnel exercise, but if you are only talking to them, then your funnel is likely to dry up long before ROI goals are met.

Cold-call marketing at scale is still going to represent more than half of most successful marketing programs. Instead of checking the box to buy keywords, targeting friends in social media, or buying a few anonymous intender segments, marketers should embrace audience targeting to transparently identify your prospect base by the numbers; they have to meet the standards of reach, qualified behavioral intent, as well as the financial ability to transact.

Marketing today is a journey that measured by the numbers. It requires scale and accuracy, and that starts with knowing the audience.

Nikao Yang, SVP Global Marketing and Business Development, Opera Mediaworks
Avoiding the zombie hordes of vendors who only want your budgets versus identifying the key strategies and tactics that deliver the highest impact and outcomes to our company.


Lewis Gersh, CEO, PebblePost
The scariest thing for marketers this holiday is the question of how to avoid the “creepy factor” that data-driven marketing can reveal. Designing a highly relevant campaign, using great data, but not exposing that to the customer explicitly, is the most appropriate treat a marketers can give out.

Victor Wong, CEO, PaperG
That we’re rushing into anything “big data” and too focused on accumulating data without figuring out how to activate it. Another concern is that many people still think better targeting will have a higher impact than better creative.


Todd Ebert, CMO, MultiView
The scariest part about marketing today is building a data-driven mindset into your strategy and embedding it into every program and tactic that you do. That starts with the challenge of finding and hiring data scientists who really understand marketing [they’re in short supply], and then pairing them with your creatives and program managers in order to transform the way campaigns are targeted, tested, and evaluated. Like all major team transformations, becoming data-driven can be a scary process for some people, so it requires your constant focus and reinforcement to get your team aligned and executing in a new way.

Rick Chavie, CEO, EnterWorks
Retailers engage with consumers through more channels now than ever before. One of the scariest parts of marketing is getting an effective return on content investments, so having a single view of content across channels is a necessity in driving messaging that is brand-consistent and personalized to shoppers’ needs. Retailers place lots of bets every day on product assortments, website designs, and marketing placements, but the key is adjusting dynamically to trends.

Linda Vetter, VP of Marketing, Yes Lifecycle Marketing
The scariest part of marketing today is measuring ROI. With customers having a multitude of channels they can interact with, brands are continuously trying to meet the demands of the multichannel customer. As such, marketers must choose, and choose wisely, which of these channels will effectively garner the greatest lift in the bottom line–revenue. The basic data points marketers receive from display ad clicks, sponsored social promos, email opens, SMS, and push campaigns are not necessarily rich enough to determine if any of these respective channels have directly affected incremental revenue. Marketers today are not simply marketers; they must also wear the hat of data analyst in order to fully interpret all the data touch points of the customer journey.

Jeremy Anspach, CEO and Co-Founder, PureCars
It’s scary how easy it is to waste marketing budgets on ads potential customers will never see. A brand’s ad content is like a trick-or-treater in a quiet neighborhood–they have the costume, and it seems right, but they’re knocking on the wrong doors.

Every time a brand serves ads to the default geographic radius, they aren’t necessarily hitting their target market. The population included in a given radius can be so diverse that the ad served is often relevant to only a small fraction of those who see it. The solution for brands, and the trick-or-treater, is to understand those differences by location and target those willing to “open their doors” to your message.

Sarah Dietze, Senior Account Executive, Walker Sands Communications
As a Millennial, I find it eerie that my generation is old enough to make company- or departmentwide buying decisions. According to Walker Sands’ State of Marketing Technology report, however, it’s true. Fifty-five percent of Millennial marketers have led a martech purchase decision in the past three years. B2C marketers are used to catering to Millennials. Yet B2B marketers may not realize that the youngest generation currently in the workforce has so much purchasing power and influence. B2B marketers that fail to cater to Millennials are losing out on revenue and loyalty–an idea that’s downright scary.

Andrew Caravella, VP of Marketing, Sprout Social
It’s scary that despite the growing use of social meda, brands are still slow to adopt comprehensive social customer service and social customer care programs. In our most recent Sprout Social Index, we found that brands fail to answer seven out of eight messages on social media within 72 hours. It wouldn’t fly if a customer service line were to ignore calls 88% of the time, and marketers can sometimes assume posts on social somehow don’t elicit or require a response. That’s positively spooky.

About Giselle Abramovich

Giselle Abramovich is senior & strategic editor at Previously she wrote for outlets including Direct Marketing News, Mobile Marketer, Mobile Commerce Daily, Luxury Daily, and Digiday.

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