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Digital Marketing is Dead, Long Live Marketing!


Pharmaceutical Executive

Everything dies eventually. Print… Dead. Television… Dead… Even God… Dead. Well hold on to your hats, someone has said it, digital marketing is no more.

Everything dies eventually. Print… Dead. Television… Dead… Even God… Dead.

Well hold on to your hats, someone has said it, digital marketing is no more.

Speaking at the Digital Marketing Exposition & Conference, Dmexco, in Cologne last month, Marc Pritchard - global brand building officer for P&G - pronounced digital marketing dead.

Peter Houston

Reported in UK marketing and media magazine The Drum, he said, “We [Procter & Gamble] try and see it for what it is, which is a tool for engaging people with fresh, creative campaigns… the era of digital marketing is over. It’s almost dead. It’s now just brand building. It’s what we do.”

So, not quite dead. Just like print, TV and God.

Of course, Pritchard’s point was not that digital marketing is done, just that marketers need to stop thinking of digital marketing as a separate, special, discipline. Digital is a delivery mechanism not a discreet channel; he wants marketers to see technology simply as a way to reach people.

Nigel Hollis, Executive VP and Chief Global Analyst at brand consultancy Millward Brown, sums this up perfectly: “… look beyond the pipes and plumbing of digital and social media to what really matters: engaging people with creative campaigns.”

The message is that marketers can move beyond the mechanics of digital and use the technology to capture consumer imaginations. “But”, says Pritchard, “we can only do that if we have this one component that has been a constant since the beginning of brand building - an idea.”

He explains that digital tools give marketers more ways to spread ideas and that, “great ideas matter more now than they ever have before, because with these digital tools at our disposal we have the chance to be successful widely beyond whatever we had imagined.”

This new approach is known inside P&G as ‘Digital Back’, meaning start out with digital and work your way back to the rest of the marketing mix. “Our best agencies do that right now… it’s an approach that is building our brand equities, our sales and our profits,” says Pritchard.

More and more marketers are working backwards from successful digital assets to other channels. Did you see Kmart’s “Ship my pants” ad on TV or online? Possibly seen as a little too near the knuckle for mainstream media, the ad spot started life on Youtube, but was moved over to TV after it racked up several million views online.

None of this means that you can fire your social media manager or your digital agency; it’s a call for integration not extermination. You still need digital skills to execute and there is some evidence to suggest that digital is far from baked into the average marketing department’s DNA.

Writing on Adobe’s CMO.com, Vijayanta Gupta of Adobe Systems, says a recent survey of 1,000 US marketers shows that less than 50 percent of digital marketers feel proficient in their discipline. He offer three points of advice for marketers that want to achieve full digital absorption:

• Embed a test and learn marketing culture: Digital learning comes at a relatively lower cost than traditional marketing. Emphasizing the need to test and learn with limited budgets encourages teams think about using digital creatively.

• Use budget allocation to drive behaviour: Allocate a suitable portion of budgets to digital channels.  Increase it gradually along with more rigorous oversight of non-digital spend.

• Institutionalise a ‘digital-first’ culture: Asking ‘Why isn’t this campaign being executed in the digital domain only?’ is a powerful lever for changing mind-set.

Although Gupta says that for most marketers the digital transformation is still a work in progress, he does acknowledge its inevitability. “Within the next few years, we will reach a stage where most organizations will be effortlessly focused on marketing in a digital world, rather than on digital marketing.”

Believing that day is imminent, P&G’s Pritchard left the audience at Dmexco with a call to celebrate the death of digital marketing and leverage technology platforms to engage consumers. ”Build brands with campaigns that matter, make people think and feel and laugh. We have the chance to do all of those things now in a way that is so much more exciting than we did before.”

Now or in a couple of years, it would seem that digital’s days are numbered and we’re headed back to plain old marketing that just happens to build on the enormous benefits of delivery via digital channels.

So long digital marketing, we hardly knew you.

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