I was recently invited to share my thoughts with students at HSE University St Petersburg on the topic of Trends in Digital Marketing as part of their Career Week. I shared 2 trends that came to mind…
1. Digital Marketing seen as Marketing
Think about it… everything is now digital – yes, including TV, radio, and newspapers.
Just as it is ridiculous to talk about “internet businesses” as a special kind of business, it is now increasingly pointless to talk about “digital marketing” as a special kind of marketing. Digital and the internet are simply technological advances that have completely changed the way businesses operate.
The trend is this – businesses are starting to recognise that “digital marketing” is not a special kind of marketing. Whilst it may have been meaningful in the 2000s to announce that we are “on the internet” as a business, or in the 2010s to claim to be “doing digital marketing”, it is no longer useful to make that distinction.
“There’s no such thing as a digital marketing team now, all marketing is digital marketing.”
-Alistair Pegg, Marketing Director at the Co-operative Bank
And when banks (which traditionally tend to lag behind trends) start to recognise this, we should take note. In early 2019, the Co-operative Bank announced that its digital marketing team would no longer be called a “digital marketing team”. The team would simply be a part of the wider marketing function – where they rightly belong. As the Bank’s marketing director, Alistair Pegg, said, “It has changed how the team operates. There’s no such thing as a digital marketing team now, all marketing is digital marketing.”.
My advice therefore to students and aspiring marketers was to develop themselves with broad marketing knowledge, and not to pin a “digital marketer” label on themselves. Ultimately, the most valuable marketers (even for those with a specialism) are those who understand the bigger marketing picture.
2. “Digital Channels” seen as Mass Media
“Digital channels” differentiated themselves from traditional mass media by emphasising their ability to allow advertisers to micro-target consumers. The point of differentiation on Facebook and Google is supposedly how you could target ads at a 26-year old teacher who lives in a one-bedroom flat in Brighton with her pet cat and who enjoys hot yoga and pasta on a Tuesday evening.
But as with every trend, everything eventually reverts back to the fundamentals. Yes, there is a value in targeting ads at audiences which may be a better fit. But increasingly, “digital channels” are being seen as mass media and valued for their reach rather than a focus on their ability to target.
As marketing effectiveness researchers Les Binet and Peter Field identified in their 2013 work, The Long and the Short of it, campaigns with a broader reach outperform targeted campaigns in driving long-term success. I advise clients to spend a majority of their online ad budget on long-term brand building campaigns. In practice, this means using that budget to serve ads to a large proportion of viewers on platforms (e.g. Facebook and Google) and treating those platforms as mass media platforms.
As more advertisers recognise this, it becomes easier for Facebook to concede ground to privacy concerns. For example, I previously wrote about how Facebook had in August 2019 launched the “Off-Facebook Activity” feature which allowed users to prevent themselves being targeted based on their internet browsing habits.