Traditional and digital marketing timelines have split

DeLorean in a car park

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Snapshot : Our simple view of traditional and digital marketing and how they operate in parallel universes. Like the timeline split in Back To The Future. But if you can be open-minded enough to see the benefits of the other side of marketing, you have massive opportunities to grow your business. You want to be in the Marty McFly version of the marketing world and not in the Biff Tannen version.

We’ve recently added new content articles around digital marketing to our marketing skills section. Because the world needs more content about digital marketing, right? Um, no. But it did make us think a lot about how traditional and digital marketing operate in almost parallel universes. Like somewhere along the way, digital marketing split off in its own direction from traditional marketing, but the traditional marketing universe carried on more or less regardless. 

So, no, the world does not need more digital marketing content. But it does need more marketing content that actually bridges this divide. Because like the world of Back To The Future we believe there’s two different marketing universes now operating in parallel. And that’s a dangerous situation to be in. So our new content covers a lot of the knowledge we’ve picked up about digital marketing. But it’s written with an audience of traditional marketers (and even non-marketers) in mind. 

Traditional marketing

We’ve led many traditional marketing projects over the years. And a wide variety of different types of marketing. Market research, brand identity development, new product launches, we could go on banging our own drum. But unlike many marketers, we won’t. We let our accomplishments speak for themselves. But all there ‘traditional’ marketing projects are all the Kotler-esque topics that senior marketing leaders in many businesses cut their marketing teeth on too. 

If you have some years in traditional marketing, think about the time spent learning the process of qualitative and quantitive research. Think about the many workshops and planning cycles to create brand essences and personalities. Remember all those waterfall-approach projects to create and launch new products to market with ideation, concept screening, test market launches and more. 

If we were being kind, we’d call this ‘classic’ marketing. But no-one other than old boomer marketers would use that term. And we could be mean and call in ‘old-fashioned’ marketing, but while it is ‘old’ in that it has been around for a while, we believe it still has a lot of relevance today. So, traditional marketing.

Digital marketing 

And then along comes digital marketing.

We’ve built many digital campaigns and websites and run many social media platforms. Our experience covers the set up of major technology and data infrastructure for marketing teams. And we have launched successful e-commerce stores as part of our own journey into the world of digital marketing. Back to banging our own drum. Sorry, about that. But we are proud of our digital marketing achievements. And they’ve been very successful for the business we delivered them for.

And the reason they were successful is that we kept going back to the core marketing principles which existed before the Internet was even a twinkle in Sir Tim Berners-Lee’s eye. Like consumer focus. Like brand building.

But to our frustration, we’ve found much of this new generation of digital marketers to be full of people who reject or ignore the past. They have little to no knowledge or interest in any of the thoughts, concepts and principles of ‘traditional’ marketing. Who arrogantly dismiss such thinking as market research, brand building and waterfall NPD  projects as out of date. Market research? Let’s just read a few of our social media posts? Brand building? Get a freelancer on Fiverr to whack up a logo and we’ll be good. NPD? Just keep putting prototypes and mock-ups developed in agile sprints until something sticks. 

What traditional marketing offers digital marketing

Probably the most frustrating trait we’ve come across in the world of digital marketing is the de-humanisation of the consumer. Yes, in digital marketing you generate loads of data. Great. But unless you can turn that data into an engaging experience that impacts a real human being, then all you have is a nice data file in R or a fancy spreadsheet. (For the non data / statistical read, R is statistical programming language much used in data analysis. And we love the story of why it’s called R. Gotta love Kiwi creativity sometimes!)

Traditional marketing is based on the holistic view of actual consumers, actual people for whom you create a brand experience to meet their needs. We’ve found those from a traditional marketing background much more easily create experiences and content that feels more people-centric. 

And while we are aware of a lot of the work that goes on in the (digital) world around Customer Experience, we’ve also found most of the terminology that’s used in CX has been shamelessly pilfered from the traditional marketing world of adoption funnels. CX may proclaim itself as the shiny poster child of modern marketing, but it’s worth bearing in mind the adoption model was first hypothesised, not in the last century but the one before. E St Elmo Lewis developed the AIDA model in 1898 for crying out loud. 

Funnels. That you click.

And yet on a daily basis, our social media feed is snarled up with some version of a funnel system that you click on (no names, but easy to work out who the worst offender is) that seems to ‘guarantee’ successful leads and acquisitions, just by following the process. Not win over the hearts and minds of consumers. No actual consumer insight or understanding of what makes people tick, just an endless barrage of content. This barrage of terrible content may creates a huge amount of noise, but also a huge amount of waste. And creates the type of environment where ‘marketing’ is not seen as a job to be proud of (yes, thank you #scottyfrommarketing).

We think this is why so many old school marketers shy away form digital marketing. Like they don’t want to be tainted with that brush. They want to focus on content that serves a purpose, That builds a deeper relationship with an actual real, consumer. It drives us crazy the language of acquisition, when it talks about leads and prospects. Its just so the opposite of what marketing should be about. This throw shit at the wall approach is not the way forward. It’s the Biff Tannen marketing world of the future. And you know what happens to Biff Tannen in most of those movies.

What digital marketing offers traditional marketing

So if traditional marketing is the wise old (Doc Brown) campaigner of the marketing game, what role does the relatively (Marty McFly) ’rookie’ of digital marketing play?

Well, here’s the thing. By applying a few marketing principles to your digital marketing, you can become a bit of a super player. The pace at which digital marketing generates data and insights is amazing. We grew up in a world of brand health equity studies that took weeks or months to tell you how your brand and campaign was doing. Now, thanks to digital marketing, you can get that type of data in more or less real-time. As a ‘traditional’ marketers, that’s both exciting and scary at the same time. 

The world of marketing automation, where you can set up the touchpoint for your consumers and have them only be set off by an action by the consumer, is like the flying skateboard of marketing. Write a welcome email and have a machine send it out whenever consumers register on your website. No way. (We know automation can get much more sophisticated than this, but even something simple is still pretty amazing).

So traditional marketing should be looking at digital marketing as a way to make marketing overall better. To create better insights, better experiences and stronger commercial returns for your marketing efforts. 

Three-brains digital marketing skills guide

That’s why our marketing content update covers all the key digital marketing terms but written with a traditional and non-marketing view of the world. We include our RESTART (Reach – Engage – Sell – Technology – Analysis – Resource – Transformation) in our digital business model skill guide.

And then we cover digital media, websites, technology, data and insights from how they work and what they do, to what they do for the consumer and your brand. 

And in our final article in that section, we share our view on how to be a better digital marketer. It’s the key point of this whole article. To be a better digital marketing, you really need to connect to the traditional marketing world and not just live in a a digital marketing world. 

We can’t bring the two universes of traditional and digital marketing together on our own. But if your business wants to learn from both marketing universes, we’re happy to offer a ‘drive’ in our marketing ‘De Lorean’ through our coaching and consulting services. We push the accelerator up to 88mph every chance we get. 

Photo credit : DeLorean Photo by Franck V. on Unsplash

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