What's Getting In Marketers' Way? Mainly, Themselves

September 28, 2016


September 28, 2016

Jeff Pundyk

Global Vice President of Content Solutions

As Global Vice President of Content Solutions at The Economist Group Jeff works with a team that includes journalists, researchers, editors, analysts, social media managers and creatives who produce and distribute thought leadership based on their proprietary research.
Prior to joining The Economist Group, Jeff spent 10 years at McKinsey & Co., where he was publisher of The McKinsey Quarterly.

Jeff started his career writing obituaries at a daily newspaper in New Jersey. After years as a reporter and editor there, he segued to B2B tech publishing, where he was the founding editor of TechWeb in the early ‘90s.

In addition to his work with The Economist Group, Jeff is a regular columnist for, where he writes about Digital Disruption.  Follow Jeff on Twitter: @Jpundyk


The more marketers view content as a tactic rather than a strategic initiative, the greater the problem becomes.

What do you make of this?  

In a recent survey of global marketers, nearly half said they believe their audiences engage with less than 20% of their current content; still, 80% of these same marketers said they plan to increase the amount of content they produce in the next 12 months.

And what of this?

In a simultaneous survey of global business executives, three out of five said they are overwhelmed by the amount of content coming at them–and almost half engage with less than 20% of the content they see. Nearly 75% said they have become more selective about the content they consume, with just over 80% citing the volume of content as the reason.

So we have audiences and marketers both acknowledging that most of the content produced is wasted. And we have marketers planning to pile more and more on.

The studies, conducted by my colleagues at The Economist Group, working in association with Hill+Knowlton Strategies, draws on surveys among 1,644 executives globally. The data points to a few themes that start to explain the seeming contradiction:

  • Marketers lack internal alignment.
  • They continue to focus internally, not on the audience.
  • There is a disconnect between their goals and metrics.
  • More than six in 10 marketers believe the greatest barrier to more effective thought leadership strategy and production is internal alignment. One example: Those in the C-suite are significantly more likely to cite the need for involvement from outside voices, whereas non-C-suite marketers want more involvement from sales executives. The two perspectives underscore the difference between creating marketing material and more strategic communications with a wider perspective than just a company’s own products and services.

When considering the primary objectives for creating content, internal initiatives still take precedence over audience needs. In fact, corporate initiatives are nearly three times more likely to be the driver than audience considerations. Only 28% of marketers cited helping their audience to become more knowledgeable as a key objective. Yet 82% said they believe that to create compelling thought leadership, the content needs to center on the audience’s interest rather than profiling the brand.

On the one hand, marketers overwhelming said they aim to put their audiences’ needs first; on the other, their key measures are largely driven by internal validation–PR and recognition rather than engagement–escalated by an insular approach and a dependence in particular on sales executives.

Global business executives say they are hungry for substance and are willing to put their trust in brands that can show they are rigorous in their methodology, creative in their thinking, and innovative in their distribution. Yet, as more and more marketers shift from traditional tactics to content, the overall quality is being diluted as the quantity continues to rise. The more marketers view content as a tactic rather than a strategic initiative, the greater the problem becomes.

Getting it right requires senior leadership, buy-in from throughout the company, and a real commitment to put the needs of the audience above your own. Without it, your content will be among the 80% that is ignored. - Read more at:

The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of The Economist Intelligence Unit Limited (EIU) or any other member of The Economist Group. The Economist Group (including the EIU) cannot accept any responsibility or liability for reliance by any person on this article or any of the information, opinions or conclusions set out in the article.

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