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Blog by Collaborate PR & Marketing: Digital Marketing Grows Up

Digital marketing has grown up. For a good period of time digital marketing played by different rules than other areas of the brand business. However, now digital is the majority of marketing, with the associated elevated levels of investment, it has come under the scrutiny that all commercial activities attract. 

This moment of maturity was brought into sharp focus – with headlamps on full-beam – when Marc Pritchard, the grandest of grand fromage at P&G, stood up recently and announced that, ‘the days of giving digital a pass are over’. What did he mean by this?  To my mind, it was a combination of calling out the illusory emperor’s clothes and a grand reveal showing that the inner workings of adtech were not magic. In fact, as Pritchard threw the curtain back, Larry Page and Mark Zuckerberg could have been standing there exclaiming – ‘Pay no attention to the men behind the curtain!’

Let’s call the subsequent period of maturity Post Marc Pritchard or PMP.

The only real surprise is how long it’s taken.  For a long time executives have been blinded by the digital light.  A couple of years ago, I accompanied…

…a super-smart client to see his traditional media agency one morning and then his mobile app consultancy in the afternoon. The first visit involved said client lambasting the media team about the performance of his TV spots and demanding an immediate 1.5 per cent ratings uplift. In comparison, the afternoon was spent with the client listening attentively, like a puppy to his owner, as the app designers increased the scope and investment of the project at will explaining that the addition of virtual bells and whistles were in fact essential core functionality.  When confronted by digital technology this whip-smart executive immediately kowtowed.

Such deference was widespread.  Since the digital Big Bang of 1995 adtech has been an ever-expanding universe that appeared to reverse brand gravity. The only required metric was, ‘it’s bigger’, leaving previously smart brand executives to reach for their sunglasses and forget normal commercial physics. However, PMP, that’s all changed.

So what to do?  Well, in fact, marketing in a digital world is very similar to marketing in any other world. Just with a lot more acronyms and analytical dashboards.  However, when you realise that the normal rules still apply the light shouldn’t be so blinding.

For instance, the requirement to attract good customers and build long-term relationships remains unaffected by the reality-warping digital gravity field. However, these consumers (aka people) now rarely look up from their pocket supercomputers and so the welcoming patter of the old-school salesman has been replaced by beautiful UX that’s tested within a nano-micron of its skeleton framework.

Furthermore, PMP, as we reach for the new rate card to work out just how much this is really costing us, we realise there isn’t one. However, with the scales removed from our eyes, we can quickly understand that the warp-speed, programmatically-driven auctions decided by the mercurial world of header-bidding are still just auctions.  And, although elusive-sounding, micro and macro conversions are simply digital stepping-stones that take curious customers through your store’s entrance and into the aisle that they were seeking.

In the Digital Strategy Sessions I run we address how Pritchard has lit up the digital world and shown it to be very like the analogue one. One where money is spent to reach customers, revenues are created by transactions and share prices are determined by profit margin.  Then we review and build plans that meet his rallying cry.

There is no longer anything new under the digital sun; it may have been fun to be digitally young, footloose and fancy-free, but we’re all grown-up now.

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