Corporate Eye

Corporate Executives Prefer Clicks over Brands

boardroomA new survey of Fortune 500 executives released by Datran Media reveals that the people who fill the C-suites favor clicks over brands when it comes to digital marketing.  In other words, digital marketing goals mirror financial goals — short-term gains are better than long-term sustainable growth.  Sadly, that’s a problem that keeps rearing its ugly head across the financial sector, but executives whose salaries and bonuses are tied to short-term growth continue to pursue those quick gains — in both finance and marketing.

The survey reveals executives’ top objectives for digital marketing:

  • 84% want to reach a target audience.
  • 74% want to generate high quality leads.
  • 63% want to convert leads into sales.
  • 60% want to measure and understand their audiences.
  • 57% want to digitally interact with consumers.

The power of social media marketing comes from the long-term, relationship and brand building opportunities that it presents.  Unfortunately, just over half of corporate executives surveyed cited interacting with consumers as an objective for their own digital marketing plans, which doesn’t bode well for social media marketing success.

But that’s not all.  When the same executives were asked to identify the digital channels that performed the strongest for their companies in 2009, the results revealed the following:

  • 39% email
  • 24% search
  • 9% affiliate marketing
  • 5% social media
  • 1% mobile

Clearly, the surveyed executives haven’t made the necessary shift in thinking that will help them understand how to measure social media marketing performance.  By measuring return on opportunity in terms of soft metrics such as long-term brand building and relationship building as opposed to only evaluating hard metrics, these companies are missing out on huge opportunities for long-term sustainable growth based on trust, brand advocacy, and word-of-mouth marketing that come from active participation in social media marketing activities.

Let’s face it.  Most large companies are a long way from being able to truly leverage the power of social media marketing for a myriad of reasons.  However, it’s very obvious from these survey results that the necessary shift won’t be made anytime soon — not until corporate executives understand the value of moving from a short-term tactical focus to a long-term strategic focus that relies on many of the intangible components of business strength (such as brand and customer relationships) rather than hard numbers.  However, for public corporations that must increase shareholder value year-over-year, that shift in thinking and engagement might never happen.

What do you think?


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Susan Gunelius is the author of 10 marketing, social media, branding, copywriting, and technology books, and she is President & CEO of KeySplash Creative, Inc., a marketing communications company. She also owns Women on Business, an award-wining blog for business women. She is a featured columnist for and, and her marketing-related articles have appeared on websites such as,,, and more. She has over 20 years of experience in the marketing field having spent the first decade of her career directing marketing programs for some of the largest companies in the world, including divisions of AT&T and HSBC. Today, her clients include large and small companies around the world and household brands like Citigroup, Cox Communications, Intuit, and more. Susan is frequently interviewed about marketing and branding by television, radio, print, and online media organizations, and she speaks about these topics at events around the world. You can connect with her on Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, or Google+.

I do partially disagree with your analysis of this survey and also the philosophy behind your statements.

Firstly, I think the survey questions were fixed, not qualitative – as it was carried out by a company seeking business in the DM space. So take it with a big pinch of salt.

However, whilst I agree that sometimes executives focus too much on the bottom line and proven drivers (that they’re aware of), you see on the Datran site that there is an interesting point: over 46% see online audience measurement as key (another 40-odd percent as important) to brand building. That shows that brand is uppermost in mind. Driving brand requires tactics and these tactics are broken out and ranked in the preceeding survey results.

As a brand specialist I’m firmly against the idea of ”intangibles” – i.e. unmeasureable, unquantifiable, aspects of brand equity. Everything can be measured – it’s just that the timeline may not be immediate. That is after all what influence is all about. But influence does deliver measureable actions – if it doesn’t, then it’s not there.

And why is a year short-term? In consumer markets that is a very long period of consumption. For B2B markets it will be different. Yet to tar the whole focus on digital tactics as short term is too objective.

Hi Brant – thanks for the comment. For some reason it got stuck in moderation…

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