I’m about two beats away from ridding our Digital Marketing company of the “digital” prefix altogether. There seems to be this expectation that the marketing we do is somehow fundamentally different in its approach than any other marketing activity, simply because it’s digital. But it’s not. In fact, digital strategies that are not solidly rooted in Marketing 101 basics fail the test every time. Our roots are solidly planted in the deep soil of all the best marketing knowledge to come before us. Remove the word “digital”, and we are still a marketing company.
Digital marketing is a useful term, but only insofar as it describes the medium in which we work. We still need to understand market segments, demographics, psychographics, and the common human experience in general. We need to know what the triggers are for people in a specific market, and we need to find compelling stories to tell about why one product or service is better than another in the same market. Our clients know we will take these fundamental understandings and employ solid strategies in the digital space. It’s not magic just because it’s cutting edge. We still have to do our homework the same as any worthy marketer.
We reach people in different ways today, but the essential work of finding them and reaching them still looks much like it did in a previous era. My bookshelves are filled with marketing psychology books and marketing management courses, all of which do not mention the internet or email, or web sites, or Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, etc. They were written before those strategies existed. Does that mean that the concepts within them are outdated? With few exceptions, they still hold true today.
The exceptions are notable, of course. The savvy consumer of today doesn’t tolerate the old “buyers are sheep” paradigm any more. They are exercising full control over their choice in the marketplace, and that’s a great thing. Does it change the buying triggers? Not really. Good marketing doesn’t always have to create the desire, so much as tap into the desires that already exist in the marketplace. The work of marketing is primarily concerned with ferreting out those emotional and logical justifications, and aligning the product or service in a way that gives the consumer the ability to purchase from you.
I do not always see those in the “Digital Marketing” camp talking about basic marketing principles. perhaps it’s all a foregone conclusion that any discussion of digital tools and tactics takes into account the rudiments of marketing best practices, but from what I read, that’s not always the case. Too often, the justification for the use of a digital tool or platform comes more from a sense of what is possible (i.e. provided features) and not from a solid understanding of the more human triggers of desire, belonging, need, opportunity, knowledge or advancement. That’s a shame. The digital space is a fun playground for marketers. But we squander our clients’ resources when we do not start at square one in building an understanding of their products, services, customers, prospects and marketplaces before we go out to play.