What is Digital Marketing?

This is a question I get asked when I have to try and explain to people what I actually do for a living. Surprisingly, most people don’t really have an understanding of what marketing is at all.

I usually end up telling them that I am responsible for the banner ads they see online after looking at a nice pair of shoes or a new washing machine or something. Their response is usually exasperation because they find these ads annoying or, a slight look of worry as they ask me how ‘the internet’ know what they have been looking at. This is closely followed by a brief explanation of cookies and a swift move into another subject.

At one point I just decided to tell people that my company builds website because…well because everyone knows what a website is.

You industry folk will probably be huffing saying something along the lines of ‘Everyone knows what marketing is’.

Sorry industry folk…you are wrong.

In fact, I would hedge a guess that lots of our clients aren’t that far removed from the general public in terms of actually knowing what marketing is…or certainly digital marketing.

Our trusty friend google defines marketing as:

the action or business of promoting and selling products or services, including market research and advertising.

That’s pretty concise as Google often is. I also asked Siri who promptly got confused about the whole situation so I decided to ask it to do a rap for me instead.

So marketing is about the promotion and selling of a product or service. Again, I have tried similar explanations with friends and family and they instantly jump to the conclusion that I work in some kind of call centre cold calling people trying to sell them some PPI cover.

You might ask why it matters that my friends and family don’t understand what I do. Einstein said:

If you can’t explain it simply, you don’t understand it well enough

Let’s face it, Einstein was probably right. He seemed like a well rounded intelligent guy. Though I never met him personally, I’m pretty sure he knew his stuff.

So the problem that presents itself is the ability to explain what I do in one simple, all encompassing statement that was simple enough for even my grandmother to understand.

What I would really love to do is show them a clip from the show MadMen and tell them “That’s what I do” making me seem both more glamorous and creative than I really am. Sadly, long gone are the days of pouring myself a stiff drink and lighting up a lucky strike in the early afternoon. I don’t think I have enough suits or hair to even compete in the 60’s advertising industry anyway.

Now, to rewind from my deviation and get back to the point.

First of all, let’s talk about marketing and advertising.

Google has it right. It’s really about presenting a product or service to consumers at the right time, in the right place at the right price. In the early days this would be done via a full page spread, on a billboard or on the radio. Then, through the magic of television, these products started to appear on the small screen. These are all tactics of advertising that still exist today and still demand a high percentage of our client’s budgets.

The vastly different world of digital marketing attempts to present a product or service to a consumer at the right time, in the right place at the right price.

Wait…hang on…that can’t be right.

Surely digital marketing and traditional marketing can’t be the same thing? Can they?

When you think about it, the purpose of marketing hasn’t really changed since it’s inception. We are still trying to connect people with products and services. We still try to show people how they can solve a problem, how they can make their life; easier, prettier, quicker more enjoyable. The products have changed, the price points have changed but the motivation, the principals remains the same.

Digital Marketing is JUST Marketing

One of the key differentiators is that we now have access to far more data than we have ever had before.

In the past, we may have had a creative director sitting on a throne of tag lines and scamps raining a shower of thoughts and concepts down onto the peasants to book the media whilst the accounts team took the clients for drinks and a meal.

That still exists but to compliment it, we also have teams of developers building intuitive/interactive platforms and analysts interrogating data and providing detailed customers insights and proof of ROI.

It is much more common to have a campaign with strategy, data and insights at its core that walks hand in hand with creative to make all of the 1’s and 0’s look and feel engaging to a user.

If a great marketing campaign was once a happy accident, digital gives us the opportunity to become more accident prone.

In conclusion, it’s time to stop thinking in silos. It’s not digital vs. traditional. DM’s, Billboards and print ads et al will always play a part. All that’s happened is that we now have a whole bunch of new platforms to play with.

You still need to think about presenting your target audience with the right product, in the right place, at the right time. If your audience responds really well to a leaflet through the door then do that. If they are all talking about you on social media then be there…join the conversation. Your advertising should put your user at the centre of the story so find out where they are and talk to them there.

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