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CMOs Explore Digital Domain

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Brand stewards are quick these days  to praise the impact digital marketing efforts have had on their products. Jim Berra, for instance, svp and CMO at Carnival Cruise Lines, says tapping into online conversations daily has built brand loyalty and driven sales.

"We are seeing growth in terms of bookings across all channels of distribution from people who are exposed to digital," says Berra, adding that the arena is one place where marketers can't overinvest. "It's powerful, immediate and spending is on the rise."

According to eMarketer, U.S. online ad spending as a percentage of total U.S. ad spending was 13.9 percent in 2009. The number is projected to advance to 15.1 percent this year and 20.3 percent by 2014. While digital initiatives continue to assume a bigger portion of the marketing mix, company executives differ on what they need to do to compete in the space.

Some, like Bill Morgan, svp of corporate marketing at Sprint, say that CMOs who have not yet become digital marketing officers are doomed. Others are comfortable having a digital-savvy team around them.

Here's how some marketing mavens and the experts that guide them view the space and marketers' role in it.

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"What we're seeing are CMOs dividing into two camps. [There are] those who see the shift to digital as a terrific opportunity to embrace a reinvention of marketing -- the methods and processes and essence of what good marketing means. The other camp agrees things are changing, but are not yet clear on what the next generation of marketing needs to be." --Matt Symons, digital marketing director, Accenture Interactive

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"If you're a CMO and you're not deeply engaged and intimately knowledgeable when it comes to all things digital, then you're stuck in a prior decade and destined to fail." --Bill Morgan, svp, corporate marketing, Sprint

Last year, Morgan was so confident in the power of an idea that would be first executed on the Web -- a widget that compiled data in real time -- that the company based an entire campaign on the concept, touting the brand as the "Now Network" across media channels.

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Toyota's most recent Facebook campaign, dubbed "Auto-Biography," asked some 163,000 people who have "liked" the company to post videos and text aboutwhy they love their cars.

"Sometimes digital inspires the entire campaign. ... Our brand has been through a challenging time over the past few months. But through the Facebook campaign we've seen a groundswell of loyal owners championing our brand." --Kimberley Gardiner, national digital marketing and social media manager, Toyota Motor Sales, U.S.A.

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"Everyone in this environment feels like they are on the hot seat to produce results. You can't be in a public company and not feel that pressure. ... Marketing folks can't just be worried about brand health. You have to be thinking about how to convert people on a stage-by-stage basis." --Tom Klein, CEO, Digital Scientists

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"Innovation, especially as fast as the world changes, can't always come from within. You have to build and sustain a great internal team and the team has to know the power and skill in building the partnerships that keep us at the forefront of what's next." --Marc Pritchard, global marketing and brand building officer, Procter & Gamble

Wieden + Kennedy, Portland, Ore., created two much buzzed about digital efforts for P&G: Old Spice's viral video campaign on YouTube, where the campaign's star, Isaiah Mustafa, personally responded to Web questions and comments. And a multiplatform program for the 2010 Olympic Winter Games in Vancouver, "Proud Sponsor of Moms," which was created only 128 days before the games and was adapted to respond to Olympic events as they happened.

"Both [of the above represent] a major shift in how we have historically worked. We need to change our mind-set from marketing to consumers to serving consumers, and change from just selling attributes so people buy our products, to touching them with ideas that create emotional bonds with our brands," Pritchard says.

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"We're seeing the emergence of the chief digital officer reporting into a global CMO. [In the past six months] there's been a crescendo of requests for CMOs and direct reports with digital expertise." --Lynne Seid, a partner at Heidrick & Struggles