"Digital Marketing" Is Not The Same As Marketing

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Obviously, I believe in the power and opportunity of digital marketing.

In full disclosure: digital marketing has (for almost twenty years) provided me with an amazing career, lifestyle and opportunity to connect with and learn from great people and, in kind, it has allowed me to work with some of the most interesting brands in the world. If the term no longer held true, I would opt to ditch it. For now, it seems like those wanting to put an end to the term “digital marketing” are those who are struggling most with it. Digital marketing is still valid and needed enough that it deserves its own designation, beyond marketing and beyond the notion that, “everything is digital.”

Most of marketing is not digital.

Last week, Advertising Age published the article, Advice From CMOs: Stop Saying ‘Digital’ and Practice Straight Talk. It was shared around Facebook (h/t Jon Finkelstein) and the reactions came in fast and furious: “Digital marketing” is just a buzzword, that we can’t say “digital” because we don’t say “print marketing,” that the term is odious, and on and on. Marketing is an institution. Marketing is core to brand’s success. Marketing and innovation are the soul of an organization (thank you, Peter Drucker). Over time, marketing has evolved and matured. Digital marketing – while not new – is still in its infancy. From the article:

“‘Stop using the word digital,’ said Zaid Al-Qassab, chief brand & marketing officer of telecommunications group BT. ‘The word is causing enormous problems in clients and agencies and the work we’re getting.’ Mr. Al-Qassab said that in the old days when he did print and billboard ads, he wasn’t called a ‘paper marketer’ as he is called a ‘digital marketer’ today. The word digital moves the focus to clicks and likes, rather than customers, and is used heavily in briefs sent to agencies, he said, leading to 300 social media ideas from the agency, and clients asking for something that will ‘go viral.’ ‘Write a brief that’s about your customer and business results you hope to achieve,’ he admonished. ‘Let’s talk about target audience and how to sell to them.'”

Don’t confuse digital marketing for new advertising strategies. They are not the same thing.

Here’s my promise to every Chief Marketing Officer in the world: We can stop using the term “digital marketing” when all/most brands actually deliver a decent web and mobile experience to their consumers. Personally, I’ve been tracking this (and you have too). Lots of big brands get up on big industry conference stages with big slides, talking about how great they are with omnichannel or how integrated they are (the consumer is always in the middle of the slide!), and how they can all simply drop the word “digital” from their marketing. Still, it’s sad how bad most brand experiences are online. So… I’ll drop “digital” once theses brands really do digital.

Not sour. Just sour grapes.

As a consumer, I’ve recently looked at everything from buying a car to buying cloud based marketing automation solutions on my mobile device, and the experience left everything to be desired. Your life is no different. Try to get information on B2B or a B2C brand… look at small, medium and large organizations. Websites are clunky, mobile experiences are lacking… almost none of this matches the “brand experience” that these CMOs promote onstage, or that we see in their traditional advertising. And therein lies the reality: yes, an ad should work just as well on YouTube as it does on NBC. Fine, want to ditch the term “digital” over that? Go for it. But the shift that we’re currently going through is not from print to digital for advertising. It’s more like the world before the printing press to the world after it. It’s not just about the ads (and the ideas) that make “digital marketing” different. It’s in the new reality that brands are building, websites, applications, platforms and experiences on new digital platforms that are – in essence – their business and brand experience all at once. It’s not just a digital version of a brochure or an ad at stake these days.

Proud to be in digital marketing. 

It’s more than pride. It’s about the true function of seeing a brand experience come to life in digital channels. It’s not about clicks, likes or going viral, but about creating better customer experiences. Just this week, it was also announced that our agency, Mirum, was named a “Visionary” in Gartner‘s 2017 Magic Quadrant for Global Digital Marketing Agencies Report. When you look at how Gartner defines the categories in this Magic Quadrant – along with the proven depth and breadth of services it is looking for – it’s easy to understand why a “death to digital marketing” mantra makes no sense (yet). Creative services is one (small) function of the work that great digital marketing produces. Services like search, analytics, performance, new technology, digital commerce, customer experience, mobile and beyond all look and feel nothing like the marketing agencies of yesterday.

Don’t confuse great digital marketing with another kind of advertising.