Marketing: Post-Digital Marketing – Success Factors for the New Era


We opened The Marketing Director’s Handbook by referring to the Bob Dylan classic ‘The Times They Are A-Changing’.

Change is the lifeblood of marketing

Understanding it, and adapting to it, is Darwinian theory applied to marketing.

When a new era begins, it manifests as a hybrid of the past and the future. Remember how LPs gave way to CDs and now the likes of Spotify; how celluloid gave way to tv, then Betamax, VHS, satellite, DVD, You Tube, Netflix et al. Sometimes it is difficult to see the wood for the trees during a period of change. Sometimes there is resistance to change or an inability to embrace it. There are always leaders and followers, and those that judge incorrectly. The result is that new opportunities pass by some businesses leaving them shadows of their former selves. Equally some adapt and become more successful.

Digital marketing has given way to post-digital marketing. While there remain an enormous number of digital disciplines, and specialists occupying a variety of niches, the specialists are increasingly becoming mainstream. Joining together to provide a greater range of services, being absorbed into larger groups, or broadening their focus. In the same way, digital has merged with traditional marketing to create new value propositions, new brands, new business models and new routes to market.

Rightmove, a new digital brand
Rightmove, founded in 2006, is now the UK’s number 1 property site

Examples are everywhere. From ComparetheMarket.com or ComparetheMeerkat.com, to Rightmove, Uber to new Government services, to ALS’s ‘Ice Bucket Challenge’, Always’ ‘Like a Girl’ and Sport England’s ‘This Girl Can’ media campaigns. So what constitutes success?

Post-digital marketers put the customer first.

They understand his or her needs, attitudes and meet them. This wasn’t the case in the late 1990s Internet boom. It’s the reason so many businesses went bust. Back then I recall a well-known client, who had spent the best part of a million on a new website looking for evidence they spent their money wisely – with a budget equal to just 2 customer groups. Today’s digital marketers have learned the folly of pushing technology when there is no evidence of a need. They better understand and manage the risks and rewards.

Post-digital marketers know how to maximise their promotion bangs for bucks.

They know it’s the combination of insight, a great idea and digital connectivity must come together to generate awareness and demand. Always’ ‘Like a Girl’ video has been viewed over 85m times and rising. It echoes yet rebuffs a stereotype, it connects emotionally and the pay-off is feel-good. It gets a message across at much lower cost than a traditional tv advertising campaign. In the post-digital world digital is mainstream, a creative communication and distribution vehicle, on a par with the 30 second Coronation Street slot and Tesco gondola end. It’s why Marc. S. Prichard, P&G Global Brand Officer, says the company is quickly shifting to a digital-first approach to building brands.
Post-digital marketers use multiple of methods to capture customers.

Ice Bucket Challenge
One of the many folk dunked during the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge

They recognise we live in an always on world. It isn’t enough to plan and launch campaigns. The days of shot-gun marketing are gone, though post digital marketers need to be more like gamekeepers. Setting traps, baiting, luring and nurturing (less than wild) life 24-7. Understanding where customers are, when, how they behave, what is required to engage and build relationships. The ALS Ice Bucket Challenge was a success because it fulfilled participants’ desire to socialise (reach out and connect with mates), look good (even if the experience was a little self-deprecating), and entertain. ALS understood the criteria for social sharing, and in so doing found an idea to promote its good cause. And probably in that order.

Post-digital marketers plan budgets to achieve outcomes.

At a recent Chartered Institute of Marketing event on how CMOs should influence CFOs, we asked for a show of hands on how delegates planned their budgets. Most take what they are given, or start with last year’s budget and increase it in line with expected sales. Less than 5% calculate the impacts and cost of impacts to meet the required sales. A post-digital marketer uses the ‘objective and task’ method and knows the relative promotion costs per sale across all media. He or she doesn’t view the digital budget in isolation. This also requires the customer’s journey, the media consumed, and enablers and barriers to demand at each stage to be understood. Only then can media be planned to intervene, at the right time, with the right message, and right impacts to change behaviour.

Post-digital marketers know how to maximise their promotion bangs for bucks.

They are sceptical of the relationship between impacts, clicks and sales. In the world of Google, as well as tv, there is lots of waste. They know what they don’t know. They know they don’t know who clicked and why. Understanding cause and effect relationships is difficult but they know it must be done. They look before they leap and test, learn and then replan promotion activities. They invest in small-scale tests before going large. They use econometrics to clarify causes and effects.  They may take a risk on a new medium but it is a calculated risk.

Post-digital marketing means connecting with the business.

While digital is code, and the realm of coders, coders are no longer just hunched over a computer in a back office. Digital should not be separate from, or different to, ‘business as usual’. Post-digital marketers have come out of closet; they are rightfully understanding and connecting with customers and influencing the business.

Marketing Inspiration

1. Post-digital marketing is business marketing. As business leaders, CEOs and CMOs define the entire business strategy, of which digital strategy is one important element.

2. CMOs and CIOs should work together – and with the customer as the arbiter of what’s right.

3. Focus on optimising products, creating new products, choosing the right distribution and promotion channels as well as getting your message across.

4. Stay truthful and authentic. The digital world is subject to more scrutiny, less forgiving and word travels very fast.

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