The ‘Death’ of Digital Marketing


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Banner ads are outdated. Content marketing is king. Ad blockers are the wave of the future. Digital marketing is dead. You've probably heard all of this before and are not really sure what to make of it. To paraphrase Mark Twain, the reports of the death of digital marketing have been greatly exaggerated.

It's true that the phrase "digital marketing" seems a bit old-fashioned. At this point, it's basically just "marketing." I started racking my brain for a business that doesn't have at least the most basic web presence-whether that means a website, a Facebook page, or a sad little listing on Yelp with no reviews. I figured there are probably some hyper-local businesses that might completely eschew the web. For instance, in my hometown, there was a dry cleaner owned by a man who was known for terrorizing local officials-and sometimes private citizens-with everything from frivolous lawsuits to strange letters in the mail calling public figures all sorts of nasty names. (Yes, my hometown is a little weird.)

The only time I ever went inside that dry cleaner, it was completely empty. He went out of business not too long ago, and the space is now occupied by a gluten-free bakery or artisanal quesadilla shop. Whatever it is, it is way trendier than the sad dry cleaner. But I digress. I imagine that man may have somehow managed to keep his business off the web. But I'm not sure even he could have escaped the all-seeing eyes of Google.

Why am I rambling on about the local Boo Radley? Believe it or not, I'm trying to make the point that digital marketing is your marketing plan. If it is dead, it's only because it has morphed into something more all-encompassing-perhaps even omnichannel.

Sure, 60% of people may now have ad blockers installed, but when they want to find the nearest artisanal quesadilla shop, do you think they are turning to the phone book? No, they head to Google. Or they open the Yelp app on their phone. One way or the other, your web presence matters.

According to "Gartner 2015-2016 CMO Spend Survey," 98% of marketers say online and offline marketing is merging. It goes beyond that, though. The press release about that study says, "Ten percent of marketers say they have moved beyond digital marketing techniques and are expanding marketing's role to create new digitally led business models."

"Digitally led business models" has a nice ring to it! Gartner, Inc.'s research consisted of surveying "339 large and extra-large companies in North America and the U.K. Respondents represent organizations with more than $500 million in annual revenue across seven industries: financial services, high tech, manufacturing, consumer packaged goods (CPG), media, retail and transportation/hospitality." If there is a company you should be taking cues from, it's probably represented in that survey.

However, thanks to years of bad banner ads and pop-ups, many consumers are irked. They are embracing ad blockers. This means you need to be prepared to move beyond display advertising and start thinking about creating more value for your customers-no matter what the medium.

It's time to stop thinking about your marketing as different silos. Customer loyalty programs are not separate from your brand awareness programs. Your content marketing is not separate from your coupon program. All of these things have to work in concert if you want to maximize the benefit from them. And your digital efforts need to be at the forefront.

With a little creative thinking, it should be relatively easy to align your digital strategies with your real-world strategies. App-based loyalty programs should work in close connection with those little cards hanging on your keychain. Your location-based marketing should work well with in-store promotions. And content marketing isn't just for the company blog-the publishers in your niche should be more than happy to help distribute your message to a wider audience (for a price, of course-you can't expect publishers to subsidize your marketing).

Call a marketing department meeting, and banish the "digital marketing" phrase. It's time to start thinking more comprehensively.