For a long time, digital marketing was seen as a purely complementary service, often playing second fiddle to traditional marketing and advertising. Among top brands, a digitally focused agency-of-record was nearly unheard of. And, through the early 2000s, it made sense. It doesn’t now.
Today, with people consuming more digital content than traditional, digital marketing needs to lead — not follow — your overall marketing strategy. For everything from product research to college searches, healthcare questions to concert tickets, consumers are turning to online channels first. Our behavior is digital; it is now the prevailing norm, not the exception. Today’s marketing strategies and advertising campaigns must integrate online and offline channels; but the connected consumer demands a digital-first approach. For brands and agencies alike, this requires a significant shift in mindset. Here I’ll tackle 3 common myths associated with that shift:
Myth #1: If You Build It, They Will Come
Fancy apps are nice, but they don’t mean anything if they don’t match the demands or behaviors of your customers. Leading with digital requires more than simply expanding your brand’s online portfolio. The channels may have shifted, but the fundamentals of traditional marketing are as important as ever: know your customer. What websites do they frequent? How, where and why are they sharing content? Just because digital marketing isn’t focused on billboards doesn’t mean its results are necessarily better. Marketing decisions, whether online or offline, must be rooted in solid research and strategy.
Myth #2: Digital and Traditional Agencies Cannot Play Nice
Taking a digital-first approach does not mean that digital and traditional agencies cannot coexist (they can), nor that brands should rush to designate a digital agency-of-record. But with increasingly rare exception, in today’s environment it makes very little business sense to ground any truly integrated campaign in more “traditional” media like print, TV and radio. A truly integrated” campaign is only as integrated as the brand and agency teams involved. Success hinges on collaboration.
Myth #3: “Digital” and “Traditional” Are Unnecessary Labels
In certain circles, it’s become very much in vogue to prophesy the end of ad agency distinctions like “digital” and “traditional,” the theory being that as the market shifts and agencies adapt, these labels will become meaningless. And perhaps they will; there is no doubt the lines are blurring — most established agencies, whether “digital” or “traditional,” are more agile than they were just a few years ago. But just like most people probably (hopefully) wouldn’t invest in a “one-size-fits-all” retirement plan, brands are unlikely to opt for “general contractors” in marketing. The fact that digital and traditional channels are increasingly integrated does nothing to discredit the importance of specialization — and collaboration.