DIGITAL MARKETING : Going Digital – Marketing’s big makeover

Digital marketing works because it is another powerful channel for organisations to engage with audiences – their customers and stakeholders, says Mark Evans, director of technology communications company Swaytech and founding chief executive of New Zealand’s Interactive Advertising Bureau (IAB).
Digital marketing probably won’t completely replace other communication channels such as radio, magazines, television and newspapers or, for that matter, direct mail, outdoor advertising or even face-to-face but, says Evans, “it strongly supplements” them. “Digital marketing is increasingly the glue that helps knit together coherent advertising and marketing strategy that relies on multiple channels,” he says.
A marketing campaign might, for example, include competition advertised on tv, radio and in print inviting entrants to register online or via text messages. By taking part, the marketer builds its customer prospect database.
The database can in turn be used to drive customer research (web surveys), direct mail advertising, text or email campaigns, conduct referral campaigns to further build the database, build social network profile or, simply enable customers to communicate back about what they liked or did not like about the organisation and its products.
So, as Evans puts it, digital marketing has some inherent advantages over other media channels. It is:
Immediate Has the ability to communicate almost instantly;
Bi-directional Provides the ability to create dialogue with the audience. It is not just broadcast, one-way communication.
Multimedia channel Includes text, images, video, audio and application functionality (such as gmail, online games etc).
Enables communities to coalesce Both threat and an opportunity. Communities can, for instance, unite against an organisation such as they did with Cadbury over its changed chocolate recipe. Or, digital technologies and strategies can facilitate the creation of brand advocates such as Lego’s Mindstorm – product created in large part by extremely happy and committed customers.
Visible Dialogue happens in the open on blogs, in forums, on facebook, twitter and so on. Brand owners can effectively monitor what happens when stakeholders discuss products.
Facilitates research Through, for example, advice postings, reviews and product comparisons.
Growing rapidly in popularity and usage Individuals are spending more of their media time online than anywhere else.
Measurable Consequently marketers find it easier to see the results of their marketing activities and to measure the return-on-investment (ROI) of their marketing activity.
Inexpensive At the most basic level, anyone with computer and an internet connection is effectively both media producer and media consumer.
As Evans says, unlike other communication channels such as tv and radio, digital is both channel in its own right and platform that enables other channels. Radio, tv and print are all being delivered in digital formats.
There’s no question digital marketing is changing the face of both marketing and the media. Traditional publishers and broadcasters are frantically trying to find new business models to sustain their empires as the revenue once generated by “faith-based” advertising just keeps slip sliding away and the conversion to digital media options accelerates. But really, that is another war story.
This is about digital media and how it is changing the marketing mix. Research suggests that three quarters of technology marketers in the United States will increase their spend on digital marketing options and decrease their traditional media advertising and in-person event spending this year – in most cases by something over 50 percent.
It seems probable that New Zealand marketers will follow American marketing trends and, if so, more marketers will spend good deal more of their marketing budget on developing and using their organisation websites, finessing their email-based marketing campaigns and honing their search engine marketing skills and strategies and increasingly use mobile technologies to make contact with their audiences in 2010.
But digital marketing is, says Evans, only different from other marketing options in its tactical execution. As in other, more traditional media advertising and marketing, it is important for marketers to clearly understand their strategic objectives; to define the audiences they wish to engage; to send crystal clear messages that effectively express the value proposition of the product or service and, to have defined process for managing the resulting audience engagement.
US marketing blogger Michael Gerard warns, however, that before senior management hands over the “key to the city” to digital marketing teams there are important things to consider. In his opinion, the rest of the marketing mix will continue to be an important part of strong marketing strategy and the balance of the mix “will only get harder”.
The reasons for this are, among other things, generational, personal preference and life-habit based. So the marketing mix of the immediate future will need to address the information consumption patterns of each and every organisational and personal life role – hence need for role-based marketing.
Like Evans, Gerard warns against rushing into digital marketing and leaving Marketing 101 learnings behind. Marketers should, for example, continue to “leverage market intelligence as part of marketing segmentation strategy; to identify target customers; to understand what information is most relevant to customers along different stages of the buying cycle, and understand how and where customers consume their information,” says Gerard.
The points are well made but, says Warrin Tobin, chief executive of Auckland-based mobile technology and marketing company Altaine, what digital marketers must still provide is “something of value to the consumer”. It is not, he adds, “enough to just push logo or and offer onto mobile phone or place banner ad on website”.
Altaine, which has worked on the mobile strategies of successful digital marketers like fast food company Subway and restaurant chain Wagamama, helps clients deliver coordinated digital marketing strategy and approach. “Our job is to help brands better connect with consumers via mobile phone platforms, taking other digital platforms into account.”
Mobile marketing will undoubtedly boost the impact and spread of digital marketing and, because New Zealanders are “early adopters of digital marketing strategies” and understand the capabilities of mobile, Tobin expects the pace of transition to digital and mobile marketing to quicken significantly this year.
He thinks 2010 will see the “focus of digital marketing move to (mobile) handsets and the development of more disciplined digital strategy”. “But,” he adds, “while mobile is vitally important, placing service on device is not digital strategy.”
In other words, digital marketers must have all channels covered, be it mobile, social media, web, text and even traditional media.

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