Assailed on all sides by big banks, virtual banks and wanna-be banks, today’s marketing officer faces challenges that were unimagined just a decade ago. And most marketing directors are not ready to manage the new digitally-charged marketplace.

That’s not just my opinion — it’s theirs.

A sizable 80% of marketing officers say they feel unprepared to deal with upcoming digital challenges, according to a McKinsey poll of 150 company representatives attending its 2013 Chief Marketing and Sales Officer Forum.

This sentiment is common to marketing executives across the board. An Adobe survey of 1000 marketers paints a picture of marketing executives overwhelmed by the digital tsunami.

Fueling the unease is the recognition that digital budgets will make up over 75% of the marketing budget within the next five years, according to a 2013 Accenture survey of 581 senior marketers.

Digital discomfort is a real issue. Most of us come with an old-school mentality: maybe anxious to learn but not facile with digital tools and concepts. We didn’t grow up with an Xbox, SnapChatting friends or reading BuzzFeed. A digital solution isn’t our first thought.

But overcoming an old-school mentality is just the first step in meeting the digital marketing challenge. The bigger mountain is reimagining the entire marketing structure.

We must tear down the old, antiquated departmental structure and replace it with a modern, digitally-infused department capable of bringing high-level insight and peak performance to corporate strategies. The new department should house marketing personnel equally at home interpreting data, analyzing customer profitability and countering competitive threats. No longer comprised only of public and community relations and advertising personnel, the newly reconstituted department would include titles seen in retail marketing departments — content managers, customer experience officers, web developers, social media specialists and data analysts.

Shifting mindsets and restructuring departments may require a set of skills in short supply among today’s bank marketers. Marketing has rarely attracted fast-track executives on a career path to the chief executive position. And community bank marketers are rarely ranked with chief financial officers, chief information officers and chief operating officers on the corporate pay scale.

Now, however, marketing directors have an opportunity to prove their value by displaying the leadership skills required in a hyper-competitive environment. They can provide strategic insights, champion change and lead internal innovation. The digitalization of marketing means decision-making should be based on hard customer data and return on investments. Those who meet the challenges and provide corporate leadership should earn a place in the C-suite of senior executives and perhaps a new label as chief marketing officer.

Digital innovation has yet to coalesce around any one executive. CMOs are ideally positioned to fill the void, since they are the natural leaders in understanding the entire customer experience from origination and sales through delivery and measurement. They are best equipped to assess market trends, recommend products and drive change through the organization.

When considering whether your marketing director has the skills to be a CMO, bank leaders should assess their level of preparedness and whether they have the skills for reimagining and restructuring the department. They should also ask themselves whether the director would bring the insight and wisdom expected of top-level executives.

If your marketing director doesn’t make the grade, consider someone outside the financial arena — perhaps a fresh face from the financial technology space.

Share →