Peter Drucker is widely considered to be the father of modern management theory.

Many of his papers and books are required reading for management students and I think it'd be hard to find a top CEO who isn't familiar with his work.

At a time when some digital marketers - especially those who focus on "social media" - claim that results are too difficult to measure and that brands need to put their existing notions of what constitutes “return on investment" aside, I increasingly find myself believing that the world of digital marketing would benefit if some of Peter Drucker's wisdoms were applied consistently to the execution of digital marketing campaigns.

Drucker's Management by Objectives, for instance, was originally designed to provide a strategy for managing people and organizations.

Its SMART methodology for validating objectives states that all objectives should be:

  • Specific
  • Measurable
  • Achievable
  • Realistic
  • Time-related
These are all, of course, applicable to digital marketing campaigns, which should have a specific desired outcome, should be measurable, should be achievable, should be realistic and should be able to drive results over a pre-defined period of time.

Other Drucker insights have application to digital marketing:

  • Drucker: "Efficiency is doing things right; effectiveness is doing the right things."

    In my opinion, there are quite a few digital marketing campaigns that are executed "efficiently" but many of these are not "effective."

    For instance, I would not try to argue that social media marketer Kami Huyse didn't execute her social media marketing campaign for Sea World San Antonio competently.

    The bigger question, as I highlighted in my deconstruction of her campaign, was quite simple - how effective was it at driving people to the park?

    From my analysis, it was extremely difficult to validate the results claimed and thus it appeared, as one commenter on my blog put it, that any celebration of the campaign was akin to “cheering for the hammer and nail instead of the thing that’s being built.

    When engaging in any digital marketing campaign, it's worth considering Drucker's statement that "There is nothing so useless as doing efficiently that which should not be done at all."

  • Drucker: "If you can’t measure it, you can’t manage it."

    In a little debate that was sparked by a response to my post about a case study on a social media marketing campaign ran, one commenter stated, "You can’t precisely measure the benefits of ‘good’ social media marketing."

    Duncan Rileyadded, "You CAN measure it, it’s just both difficult and/ or not cheap to do so correctly."

    Measurement has turned out to be the Achilles heel of social media marketing for the simple fact that very little measurement of real value is done.

    But it's hard to argue against Drucker's wisdom. After all if you can't measure a campaign, how do you manage and improve upon it?

    As Drucker said, "Checking the results of a decision against its expectations shows executives what their strengths are, where they need to improve, and where they lack knowledge or information."

Of course, much of Drucker's wisdom is common sense and good marketers have always applied similar principals as part of their general modus operandi.

But as the world of digital marketing matures and the wheat is separated from the chaff, I think smart digital marketers should redouble their efforts on adhering to a philosophy rooted in common sense and good practices.

As Drucker observed:

"Quality in a product or service is not what the supplier puts in. It is what the customer gets out and is willing to pay for. A product is not quality because it is hard to make and costs a lot of money, as manufacturers typically believe. This is incompetence. Customers pay only for what is of use to them and gives them value. Nothing else constitutes quality. [Emphasis mine]"

Digital marketers might want to keep this in mind.

Drama 2.0

Published 3 July, 2008 by Drama 2.0

237 more posts from this author

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Comments (4)


Will Rowan, Director at TheCustomer

"Quality in a product or service is not what the supplier puts in. It is what the customer gets out"

Absolutely... and the same applies to measurement - start by measuring the outputs of a campaign. If it's moving in the right direction, you're doing something right.

Your accounts department will tell you what the input cost. You may not know exactly what's caused the RoI needle to move in the right direction - but that's what testing is for. You may never need to know what each individual input action has cost. Sometimes a back of a fag packet calculation is enough to tell you that the cost/return isn't a big risk.
(When is somebody going to produce "back of fag packet" notepads, now that nobody actually *has* a fag packet anymore?!)

This isn't anything new - measured marketing has *always* been a mix of gut instinct, testing and measurement: art & science. The new challenge/mistake that digital creates is the sense that because everything can be measured, you should measure everything. Maybe sometimes the effort's not worth it. Maybe sometimes you have to go with your gut instinct, and see what happens.


who came here from econsultancy's twitterfeed!

about 10 years ago



That is one of my favourites:
"If you can’t measure it, you can’t manage it."
And I like to follow it with the fact that even when something can be measured, not everyone bothers to do so.

Therefore, the following quote makes a powerfull combination:

"If performance isn't being measured, it isn't being managed. " - Rummler & Brache

about 10 years ago


Deri Jones, CEO at SciVisum Ltd

I jumped for joy when I saw your article!

I loved Drucker's input when I first came across it years ago: but I've not heard his name in such ages: maybe I'm not moving in the same circles, or maybe he's less known now.

In fact, he contributed to the inspiration behind setting up last 2 companies: both in the performance measurement space: I really like your Rummler quote Vincent:

"If performance isn't being measured, it isn't being managed. "

My last company was measuring web security.

My current one is all about measuring performance: web performance as it impacts user experience -> impacts sales.

Generally in the eCommerce space, I'm often surprised by the lack of meaningful performance measurement that goes on. Just recently talking to a client who didn't have easy access to what their peak throughput was in terms of £ sales per hour: or orders per hour: but maybe that's just the corporate silo thing: 'someone else measures that' !

Or the classic capacity handling fudge:

Mktg_Man says: "The tech team say we can handle X,000 concurrent we should be fine for the Xmas rush then..." without realising that X,000 concurrent users does not mean X,000 orders: or X,000 browsing... or what?

But I love the buzz of showing a client the evidence: 'here's the graph where you were losing 1% of your visitors during their checkout journey due to some XYZ technical issues of handling traffic peaks: and here it is after the tech team did their fix... and here 6 weeks later after fix2.0 went in :<)

Measured and managed!

Thanks Drama 2.0 for bringing Drucker back to mind!


about 10 years ago

Drama 2.0

Drama 2.0, Chief Connoisseur at The Drama 2.0 Show

Will: you're right. One of the downsides of being a digital marketer is that advertisers have been told that practically everything is measurable online, so there sometimes is a higher standard for online campaigns.

That said, I would note that many digital marketers (especially "social media marketers") do themselves no favors because they don't use the measurement tools that are at their disposal. Some also like to claim that measurement often isn't possible despite the fact that there are techniques which have been used for years to measure offline branding campaigns that could be applied to their online campaigns.

Of course, because there are so many inexperienced "digital marketers" in the first place, there's a lot of ignorance out there.

Vincent: great quote.

Deri: glad you enjoyed the post!

about 10 years ago

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