Have we shoveled enough dirt on the standalone concept know as “digital marketing”?
Perhaps. Perhaps it is once and truly buried. So, long live whatever comes next.
No matter the lexicon that grew up around the digital dynamic that has, over the past twenty years, radically altered what was considered the sacrosanct marketing mix, what we are now operating in is a new world where internet, interactive, ecommerce and digital fail as accurate descriptors. Content and context now drive market conversation and customer engagement and, by extension, power today’s marketing machine. We now dance digitally in a world where the tried-and-true, expensive marketing tools and campaigns of that other era are less and less correlated with market success.
So, where do we go from here?
After years of making such a fuss about digital as a new and unique way to deliver the marketing mission and amid claims that “it” requires a special skill set, it is time to accept that digital marketing really has become marketing. That recognition imputes that a new approach, model, focus and set of tools forms that foundation of the marketing art and science. We are digital and digital is us! So, does that signal that we should close the doors on the standalone, discrete digital marketing department and go forth bravely into this new post-digital world? Yes, but maybe, no. That depends, greatly, on where your organization sits in the digital marketing maturity curve. Been doing it a long time, then you probably have evolved and transformed your marketing by embedding digital/social/mobile into every channel, tool, campaign and piece of content you employ. Still struggling with the when, where, who, what and how to integrate digital capabilities. Then, maybe, wait a bit.
One thing that really hasn’t changed from the “old days” is the importance of content. The marketing department of the present and future will focus on creating, managing and leveraging great content. What has changed, primarily due to all the digital tools available to marketing organizations – search, analytics, social listening, etc. – is the ability to understand and utilize context.
In a very real sense, this post-digital marketing model focuses more and more on micro-managing the buyer’s journey. We possess the technology to know who they are, where they are, when they are there and why they are there, all of which are quite ephemeral. A buyer’s context today will not be their context tomorrow and the information they require to increasingly formalize their decision needs will align along and across the journey or no sale.
So, the days of digital marketing are numbered, even for those enterprises that are still on the upslope of the maturity curve. Marketing models of the future will not distinguish between digital and analogue, bought, earned or owned. From here forward, the story a company tells its market constituencies must be refined and consistent across all content and channels. This will drive marketers to jettison the old org chart that divided marketing into discrete functional units that handled PR, research and analysis, marcom, advertising, events and, later, email, social, SEO, content and web. Every piece of content, in whatever form – slide deck, press release, video, podcast, etc – must be considered as inventory for each and every channel available to connect with the target audience. So, the marketing organization of today and tomorrow must be more integrated, more agile, more engaged, more analytics-driven and, yes, more digital.