10 Glaring Signs Your CEO is Stuck in a Marketing Time Warp

It‘s 2024. Flying cars are now a thing. The metaverse is the new mall. And most CEOs still don‘t understand how marketing has evolved since the age of Mad Men.

If your chief executive clings to any of these 10 woefully outdated beliefs about how to drive growth and build a brand, you have an education challenge on your hands.

But with the right data, storytelling, and stubborn determination, you can drag your CEO into the 21st century before your more agile competitors eat your lunch. Here‘s what to watch out for—and how to change the narrative.

1. "The more press releases, the better."

In the old days, blasting generic company updates to journalists was a staple tactic. In 2024, it‘s the lazy marketer‘s approach to PR.

Why? Hardly anyone reads press releases anymore. In a survey of 500 digital marketers, 90% said press releases generate the lowest ROI compared to any other tactic. And 0.63% is the average click-through rate on press releases—half that of the lowly display ad.

Rather than spam reporters‘ inboxes, enlightened CMOs collaborate with PR to develop newsworthy story angles, build relationships with key media contacts, and create content that positions their brand as an authoritative source. Contributed articles can generate up to 5X the clicks of a standard presser.

The Takeaway: Ditch the PR carpet bombing. Invest in thought leadership and targeted media relations to punch above your weight.

2. "Our blog should be all about how awesome we are."

Many old-school CEOs view company blogs as a megaphone for touting their products and accomplishments. But constant self-promotion is a major turnoff for modern audiences.

How much of a turnoff? In an analysis of 100,000 blog posts, articles that delivered educational insights generated 3X more traffic and leads than promotional posts. And 70% of people prefer to learn about a company through thought leadership versus ads.

The most successful B2B brands today build trust by consistently publishing helpful, customer-centric content that addresses their audience‘s pain points. Each article is an opportunity to showcase their expertise while weaving in relevant offerings in a non-salesy way.

The Takeaway: Resist the hard sell on your blog. Deliver genuine value and watch the leads pour in.

3. "Social media is just a fad."

With 4.76 billion people worldwide now active on social media, dismissing it as a passing trend is laughable. That‘s 59% of the earth‘s population. If your CEO still treats social as an afterthought, it‘s time for a wake-up call.

Consider these eye-popping stats:

  • 90% of marketers say social media marketing has increased their brand exposure
  • 75% say it‘s increased website traffic
  • Social media ad spend is projected to reach $334 billion by 2026
  • The average user spends 2.5 hours per day on social platforms

Even in B2B, social is now a critical channel for building awareness, establishing trust, and driving revenue. If your brand isn‘t showing up consistently with valuable content, you‘re leaving money on the table.

The Takeaway: Make the business case for social with hard data on usage and ROI. Start small, test constantly, and scale what works.

4. "Just ignore the social media haters."

CEOs who grew up in the broadcast era often struggle with the two-way nature of social media. They either want to pretend negative comments don‘t exist or respond in a defensive, off-brand manner. Both are a mistake.

Research shows that 84% of millennials say user-generated content from strangers has at least some influence on their buying decisions. And 78% of consumers say seeing brands respond well to complaints makes them feel more positively towards the company.

Savvy social media marketers have a playbook for handling negative feedback gracefully. They acknowledge the concern, apologize for any frustration caused, and take the conversation to a private channel to find a resolution. Responding thoughtfully can turn an angry commenter into a loyal advocate.

The Takeaway: Develop social media guidelines and response templates so your team knows how to handle criticism professionally. A little empathy goes a long way.

5. "Blog posts don‘t generate leads."

Au contraire, mon frère. High-quality blog content is the fuel that powers every stage of the modern marketing funnel. It builds awareness, establishes thought leadership, educates prospects, and nurtures them towards a sale.

Don‘t believe me? Chew on these stats:

  • Blogs generate 67% more leads than companies that don‘t blog
  • 60% of consumers feel engaged with a company after reading their blog
  • 70% of people would rather learn about a company through articles than ads
  • Companies that blog generate 55% more website visitors than those that don‘t

The key is to map your blog content to each stage of the buyer‘s journey, from basic 101-level posts for newbies to advanced, actionable guides for decision-makers. Use calls-to-action strategically to push readers to the next step.

The Takeaway: Treat your blog as a lead gen engine, not an online diary. Plan your editorial calendar around prospect needs and use attribution data to optimize for conversions.

6. "We need to exhibit at more trade shows."

When the majority of a company‘s leads came from trade shows and cold calling, it made sense to blow the budget on fancy booths and tchotchkes. But in an era when 67% of the B2B buyer‘s journey now happens online, physical events are an increasingly inefficient slog.

Consider the cold, hard costs. The average B2B company spends around $550 per lead at a trade show—3X more than digital channels like email, content syndication, and paid search. And that doesn‘t even factor in the employee time and travel required.

Now, this isn‘t to say that trade shows are completely irrelevant. They can be valuable for building industry relationships, scoping out competitors, and closing warm leads. But in terms of pure lead gen, your money is better spent on targeted digital campaigns.

The Takeaway: Ruthlessly evaluate the ROI of each trade show to trim waste and reallocate budget to higher-performing channels. Reserve events for deal acceleration rather than lead gen.

7. "Listening to customers is overrated."

Perhaps the most dangerous notion a CEO can hold is that their company knows better than the customer. In reality, 42% of startup failures can be attributed to a lack of market need for the product. Put another way: they built it, but no one came.

In today‘s customer-centric world, soliciting user feedback early and often is table stakes for success. The savviest companies use a range of tactics to stay on top of evolving needs:

  • Customer development interviews for discovery
  • User testing for product validation
  • Surveys for feature roadmapping
  • Social listening for sentiment analysis
  • Journey mapping for CX innovation

Brands that take a "if we build it, they will come" approach risk wasting precious time and resources on offerings no one actually wants. Those that constantly learn from customer data can adapt on a dime.

The Takeaway: Initiate a voice of customer program to infuse user insights into every aspect of your go-to-market strategy. Socialize learnings regularly with your CEO and leadership team.

8. "A flashy rebrand will solve everything."

When growth starts to sputter, many a CEO has uttered the dreaded words: "We need a rebrand." But while a shiny new logo and slick website refresh can generate short-term buzz, they rarely address the underlying reasons for stagnation.

What really drives sustainable growth? A deep understanding of your target customer. A differentiated positioning rooted in authentic value. Remarkable customer experiences that inspire word of mouth. Innovative products that address unmet needs. And agile, data-driven strategies for bringing it all to market.

Slapping lipstick on a pig might boost vanity metrics for a quarter or two. But it won‘t fix a weak value prop, lackluster CX, or misaligned product roadmap. Address these fundamentals before you burn calories on cosmetic changes.

The Takeaway: Press pause on the rebrand brainstorm. Double down on understanding your core customer, nailing your positioning, and delivering exceptional experiences. The rest will follow.

9. "The homepage is a dealbreaker."

Is having a great homepage important for making a strong first impression, building brand trust, and directing visitors to relevant content? Absolutely. But is it the end-all, be-all of your digital presence? Not even close.

In fact, only about 25% of website traffic originates on the homepage. The majority comes through "side doors" like organic search, social media, and referral links. And with the rise of personalization, the very notion of a one-size-fits-all homepage is growing obsolete.

What‘s more important than obsessing over homepage design? Building out a robust library of content that addresses every stage of the buyer‘s journey. An analysis of 350,000 websites found that brands with over 400 blog posts get 3X more traffic than those with under 100. And those with advanced content like interactive tools and video tutorials generate 5X more leads.

The Takeaway: Optimize your homepage for clarity, speed, and conversions. But focus the lion‘s share of resources on creating a wealth of valuable content that pulls in qualified traffic from all angles.

10. "Marketing and sales alignment is a pipe dream."

Fun fact: Companies with tightly aligned marketing and sales teams see 36% higher customer retention rates and 38% higher sales win rates. Yet many CEOs still view the revenue engine as two separate, squabbling entities rather than one cohesive machine.

In the age of ABM and conversational marketing, the lines between marketing and sales are blurrier than ever. The most successful organizations foster constant collaboration between the two functions at every stage of the funnel:

  • Shared goals and KPIs
  • Regular feedback loops
  • Integrated tech stacks
  • Joint account planning
  • Cross-functional teams

When marketing and sales work in lockstep, the results speak for themselves. Organizations with good alignment generate 208% more revenue from their efforts. Everybody wins.

The Takeaway: Work with your CRO to tear down silos and align incentives between marketing and sales. Make the business case to your CEO on the revenue uplift of creating shared goals and processes.

Conclusion

So there you have it. The top 10 signs your CEO is living in a marketing fantasyland circa 2010. But here‘s the good news: Armed with data, emotional intelligence, and a touch of swagger, you can help bring them up to speed before your competitors do.

Because at the end of the day, clinging to outdated beliefs isn‘t just bad for your marketing outcomes—it‘s an existential threat to the business. In an era of unprecedented disruption and sky-high customer expectations, "the way we‘ve always done it" is a recipe for irrelevance.

The brands that will thrive in the coming years are those that embrace agility, experimentation, and customer obsession at every level of the organization—starting in the C-suite. As a marketing leader, you have a critical role to play in shepherding your CEO into the digital age kicking and screaming.

Will you step up to the challenge? Your company‘s survival just might depend on it.

Hungry for more ways to future-proof your marketing org? Download our new guide: The 10 New Rules of Marketing for 2025 and Beyond.