Former World Vision CMO Teresa Sperti on why digital isn’t a ‘quick fix’ for marketers

Paige Murphy
By Paige Murphy | 14 September 2020

Brands need to stop looking at digital marketing as a “quick fix” says former World Vision chief marketing officer Teresa Sperti.

While digital isn’t new, the COVID-19 pandemic has accelerated its use and forced many businesses who hadn’t jumped on the bandwagon to up their ante.

Sperti, who now runs her own digital transformation advisory and learning organisation Arktic Fox, says the pandemic has been the catalyst some local brands have needed in order to adopt digital into their business models.

“Businesses need catalysts for change and to embrace digital,” Sperti told AdNews.

“There has been a whole group of those that have underinvested in digital for a long time, and I think that COVID’s really now driving that shift.

“Marketers need to be that voice at the table driving this agenda, or they face the remit being taken out of their department.”

In many businesses today, traditional marketing and digital marketing are still seen as separate things but Sperti believes they shouldn’t be.

The role of marketers may be changing in many ways but she says the principles of marketing remain the same.

“We’re in a period of flatlining growth, increasing competition, and all of this is driving organisations to reorient around the customer,” she says.

“They’re looking for leaders that can drive that can drive these mandates - the growth mandates, the customer mandates - and marketers are in a prime position to do that if they’re able to elevate and reorient their team accordingly.”

Knowing the customer has never been more important, and with the help of data, building this relationship can be easier.

The increased use of data can help marketers forge better connections with customers at scale but Sperti says this won’t happen overnight.

“I think because of the immediacy of certain channels within the digital space, people think it’s a quick fix and therefore they believe that we’ll switch this on and we’ll immediately get the result,” she says.

“That’s not the case. From a digital perspective, you need to learn and evolve your strategy accordingly, based on what works and what doesn’t.

“It’s a learning that takes more time. You’re not necessarily going to get it right the first time.”

Marketers are often pushed to deliver results fast within their organisation.

Rather than having a short-term mindset, she says it is important to remember digital transformation is a “journey”.

“As marketing departments, we’re set up to deliver short-term tactics in many ways, and that’s where this reorientation around the role of marketing and the way our departments operate is becoming increasingly critical,” she says.

Once a department which just delivered campaigns, Sperti says marketers now have the chance to drive change and make a real impact across the business.

Digital transformation shouldn’t just be championed by digital marketers or siloed off into its own “bubble”.

Instead, she says everyone needs to be an advocate for it.

To do that, marketers should be prepared to take everyone on the journey to understand how digital can help the business - from the marketing department right through to those in the executive team.

And while she maintains digital isn’t a quick fix, she does believe marketers should be prepared to show the return it can provide consistently.

“It’s not something that you can go and show a dashboard once and then not show it because one month it didn’t get the results you wanted,” she says.

“You need to engage in an ongoing dialogue and demonstrate the outcomes.

“My hope is that digital becomes every marketer's role in the marketing department, not just the job of a few.

“This isn’t about digital versus traditional. This is about marketing, and traditional channels still play really important roles.

“This is about marketers taking a strategic approach to planning and delivery, and making the right decisions based on the customer and the outcomes, and digital is part of that consideration set.”

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