Digital Marketing -What Are You Really Selling?
As someone who has immersed themselves in a world of traditional and digital marketing, I have certainly picked up a few surprising things. I have learned to glean over data, look for retention, find what works and what doesn’t, and look into the latest in how technology is playing a role in things like implicit and explicit advertising.
But what intrigues me is the core of it all. What are marketers, digital or not, really selling? A lot of people assume that marketing and sales involve just getting the product to the consumer. From point a to point b. But if it was that easy, we wouldn’t have an entire study industry devoted to the concept. So, what is digital marketing? What makes it part of our culture on the Web?
Digital Marketing is Accessibility
I might be showing my age a little bit, but I remember a time before the Internet got big. My only access to the world before then was through documentaries on television and books, usually encyclopedias. Those pictures of faraway places like China, Argentina, and Kenya were more or less limited to my imagination.
But when the internet was becoming more mainstream, I was giddy, if not outright enthusiastic, because I was able to talk to people from so far away. I made friends, got into arguments, and offered support to people that were literally on the opposite ends of the country. I even talked to people from other parts of the world that I always wanted to go to. It was risky, very risky. But it still opened a whole new world of possibilities.
And I will be forever grateful for it.
Now, if some random person can gain access to people, places, and ideas that they have never heard of, what do you think the possibilities could be for an advertising group? If a digital marketing company makes it big, chances are, they not only had financial backing but also the flexibility of time, location, and new ideas on their side.
However, involvement is no guarantee of success either. After all, the internet is a ridiculously critical place, because EVERYONE has access. Meaning…
Digital Marketing Demands Creativity and Willingness to Keep Pace
One of the most frustrating thing that seems to butt heads with traditional marketing groups that have long been established, is that they can’t rely on the same tactics and messaging over and over again and expect different results.
While people are for the most part, habitual in their day to day activities, that does not mean that they don’t get sick and tired of being told to buy the exact same thing, at the exact same place, in the exact same way over and over again. Even though people in groups may be easily lead, individuals are getting smarter. They work harder to pick up on when someone is selling to them, and what is actually in it for them. What’s more, software, hardware, and algorithms are constantly changing in the world of technology. If you cannot catch up to any of it, you will be left behind.
Successful digital marketing cannot rely on laziness or complacency. The only thing that a company or a marketing group can do to shake things up is to at least alter the message, the format, or the product.
If you can do all that and keep up with the changes in technology, you will no doubt be ahead of the pack.
But how does a digital marketing company, miss the mark completely? What if they are missing the mark in communicating with the primary users of the latest technology, the youth? How do you even communicate with those Millenials and Aught’s anyway?
Digital Marketing Demands Sincerity in Message and Practice
The values of these two market demographics are vastly different if not outright incompatible with the messaging tactics of yesterday. For starters, these two generations are demanding something that exists way outside of the realm of traditional advertising sensibilities, authenticity. In the latest complaints about Instagram ads from its primary users, (ages 25-34), the biggest included:
- 62% of those displeased with adverting in survey stating that, influencer content ‘takes advantage of impressionable audiences’.
- 55% stated that aspirational posts were ‘too materialistic’.
- 54% of that group said influencers ‘misrepresented real life’.
This is a far cry from the assertion from older generations that claim that the latest generation is more narcissistic than ever. If anything, they are the exact opposite. And they put their money where their mouth is. According to Mckinsey.com, this implies three things that are up and coming for the digital marketing world with Gen Z as their target audience, “Companies should be attuned to three implications for this generation: consumption as access rather than possession, consumption as an expression of individual identity, and consumption as a matter of ethical concern.” This means that brands should expect to share a level of authenticity and demonstrate a level of ethics that is far past the comfort zone of previous generations.
Digital Marketing Belongs to the Young
So just tying a brand to an event or paying lip service will not cut it anymore. Especially not to the first generation that grew up as “digital natives”. This probably outright terrifies brands and marketers who are very much used to navigating a traditional landscape in Gen X territory. Because it is vastly opposite to Gen X-er values.
It means doing an exact 180 degree turn around in digital marketing strategies and even branding. And not all companies are going to be willing to adapt. That is probably why there is so much negative pushback between established forms of marketing and media vs newer formats today. They both embrace the opposite values. Because the old values of status, materialism, and competition are slowly dying out in favor of uniqueness, authenticity, and cooperation, they know that their days are numbered.
And it is certainly interesting to watch as the field of digital marketing keeps growing. We have seen so many changes in the past two decades alone in both the technological and marketing landscapes. Either way, Digital marketing has become a lot of things to a lot of people. It is accessibility. It is creativity and the spirit of change. Most importantly, it is diversity and sincerity.