These Two Data Points Demonstrate What's So Wrong With Marketing Today

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You will have to read this twice. It’s that incomprehensible.

There was an article published today in Marketing Charts titled, Few Digital Marketers Feel That Digital Has Delivered As A Branding Vehicle. I was so depressed after the reading the title of the news item alone, that I could hardly continue with the rest of piece. But, I pushed on with it. I did it for you. That’s what I do. I’m a giver. Maybe a little bit of a glutton for punishment as well (I’m probably that too). The data was culled from a 2014 Millward Brown digital survey, which polled 300 digital marketing decision makers at Fortune 5000 companies and leading advertising agencies in the United States. Here are the two key data points that will make you throw your arms in the air and wave them like you just don’t care (because, otherwise, you will want to commit manslaughter… and that’s not legal).

  • Data Point #1: 50% of respondents either somewhat or strongly agreed that digital held promise for brand marketers, but for all its promise, it has never delivered as a branding vehicle.
  • Data Point #2: Some 94% said they will increase their digital branding ad budgets in the next year; 42% will increase their spending by more than 20%.

Really? Really?

My good friend Avinash Kaushik (digital marketing evangelist at Google and author of Web Analytics – An Hour A Day and Web Analytics 2.0) often sends me a note when I’m being a little too angry or pessimistic about our industry on this blog. Well, Avinash, if you’re reading this, I am ready for one of your tranquilizing notes, because this one has me fuming.

Do digital marketers really believe that digital doesn’t deliver against the brand?

How important is sentiment in the evaluation of a brand’s value? It’s worth a ton. How many brands do we now see – active and engaged – online that have (without question) turned their brand sentiment around (think about airlines, banks, restaurants and more)? Tons of them. If these marketers are just talking about the branding capabilities of their display advertising spend, but dismissing the work they’re doing by connecting, engaging and sharing via websites, mobile apps and social media, then all is truly lost. Plus, if we agree that these digital marketing decision makers are naive, and that they’re looking at the full spectrum of what brands are doing online (from websites that provide valuable information to e-commerce to social media and beyond) and that they still don’t believe that digital has delivered as a branding vehicle, then why are they going to increase their budgets at such a dramatic clip?

It’s not working, so let’s do more of it?

There’s that old saying that you should never throw good money after bad money. To me, there is something bigger here, and it’s an issue that I often touch upon: we confuse advertising with marketing. We don’t count websites, social media, apps and more as part of our branding experience. Why? Why don’t we do this? If digital channels only enabled a better form of customer service and – at the same time – was building brand value by having these situations resolved in public (and then shared on personal social media spaces) would we not agree that this is an extremely positive branding vehicle (and one that drives real ROI by cutting costs and more to the call center)? What about when the mass media picks up on something that a brand does on YouTube (think WestJet) or Facebook (think Oreo), doesn’t that not count as an amazing branding opportunity? Each and every day, we all experience brands delivering in a big way online (and yes, there are many who botch it up as well), but we – the digital marketing professionals – are going to say that digital doesn’t deliver as a branding vehicle? Pu-lease.

Work with someone else.

What most brands (and, according to this article, most digital marketing decision makers) fail to realize is that these online channels all have a culture of their own (and it’s got nothing to do with advertising). Pinterest has a unique culture. Instagram has a unique culture. YouTube has a unique culture. They all have a unique culture. The brands that take the time to become an actual part of the community – by understanding and embracing the culture – are seeing massive branding strides. The problem is that most brands are trying to simply sell into the culture, without being a part of it. That’s the issue here. If everyone in your audience is sharing and getting to know one another, and all you’re doing is asking them to buy your stuff, it’s not going to work. Saying that digital doesn’t deliver as a branding vehicle is a very simple and profoundly wrong statement. If your agency is telling you this, fire them. Find someone who can help your brand connect to an audience, solve a business challenge and more. Advertising is but one component of the bigger marketing mix. Don’t forget that.

Digital is an amazing engine as a branding vehicle for the marketers. Brands just have to be willing to put in the hard work of building a direct relationship with their audience, instead of just screaming and shilling… and then complaining that it doesn’t work.