When the CMO of Calvin Klein, Marie Gulin-Merle, told Google recently that it was “the end of digital marketing”, I knew what she was trying to say.
In fact, I’d been saying something similar for years: in an ever-more integrated world, there’s a danger of siloing digital as if it has some kind of magical quality.
But to say that digital marketing is just marketing is akin to saying that print is the same as TV, or that their definitions are redundant because they fall under media.
Both print and TV are means of communication, after all, and they often perform a similar function. But they don’t deliver the same kind of impact, and they rely on different mechanisms to make that impact.
Non-digital media has its own appeal. At the start of 2018, there was a rise in print advertising spend for the first time in years. Across titles such as the Sun, the Daily Mirror, the Daily Mail, the Daily Express and Metro, there was an increase in print display advertising of 2.8 percent in Q1.
Equally, the media company Ink continues to see growth in the readership of all their print publications as the airline sector grows. Experiential, live-media and outdoor advertising are all experiencing similar periods of growth.
It might sound strange to hear a digital marketing agency founder shouting down the importance of digital, but different channels serve different purposes, and make a corresponding impact in the media and marketing landscapes.
In the marketing world, digital can operate on its own. It can create powerful brand awareness through interesting and engaging content, pull users down the funnel with reviews and testimonials, and take them right through to conversion with intelligently designed forms and e-commerce pages. Combined with traditional channels, however, it becomes an entirely different animal.
Traditional marketing brings with it time-tested ideas such as the study of audience, product development and price. Though it is important that digital is considered a main pillar of the marketing mix, it deserves to be treated and understood as a separate area of marketing as well.
Understanding this leads to better outcomes, and helps business owners to approach their marketing activities in an intelligent way. For instance, some sector marketing can work only with digital, or mostly with digital. Some can work with fully integrated campaigns. Others still can work with one or more traditional channels.
If we remove the nuance from our understanding of marketing – in other words, if we see all areas of marketing simply as ‘marketing’- then problems arise.
Our own evolution at the tree reflects this. We came into being as a content marketing agency, then grew, diversified, and specialised. We realised both that businesses appreciate focus and that focus leads to better results. In the agency landscape, this is the future.
As others have suggested, everything that Marie Gulin-Merle suggested during her conversation with Google also benefits Google, and it seems as if she does not truly want to break down the boundary between traditional and digital marketing but push trackable digital technology into the entire marketing sector.
This is still only an application of digital in the traditional realm, however, not the total absorption of digital into the broader description of marketing.
Ultimately, marketing is about more than traditional and digital. It isn’t about philosophising or creating complexity, but about getting the basics right: applying certain principles, and using empathy and information to relate to audiences and establish long-term relationships.
In our digital era, we should think less about shiny new gadgets and more about the risk of commodifying audiences or allowing our means of communication to become more important than the essence of good marketing itself.