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Can We Finally Dispense With The “Digital” In Digital Marketing?

It’s 2017, and so much in marketing practice has changed since we opened our doors in 1997. The range of disciplines has widened beyond print, radio, TV, Outdoor, PR, product placement, sampling, and direct mail. Now the list should include e-mail, SEO and Search, web optimization, social media platforms without number, mobile, YouTube and related channels, Netflix, Amazon, and a host of integration and planning options to tie all of that internet activity together and use customer information to market products and services more effectively, more selectively, more tightly targeted, more high-impact.


There is very little left in marketing today that is not fully digital or directly stems from a digital source. Even the old stalwarts, like outdoor and newspaper, have gone fully digital. Digital signage has replaced movie lobby cards and wall posters in retail. Digital billboards aren’t yet ubiquitous, but will be soon, once the larger screen costs come down and the weatherproofing is perfected. Print? Ha! The files are digital in origin, the plates if used for large runs are digital, the output printer for smaller runs and standard substrates are digital, large format banners, billboards, fabrics and textiles, construction wrapping, you name it, all digital.


Images originate in digital form almost exclusively, and they travel digitally as well. They are taken with a digital camera, edited in a digital editing platform, transmitted digitally to the destination for use digitally or for output to paper on a digital printer or press. Video is shot on digital recorders, digitally edited, transmitted digitally, for display, rebroadcast, download and “sharing” on digital media platforms – ones and zeros from end to end.


E-mail has in part replaced direct mail and originates digitally, is delivered digitally, is consumed digitally, is acted upon (clicks or form completions, electronic purchase) digitally. Even in direct mail, the letters are written and edited digitally, often the order form is merely a link or PURL to drive traffic to the web to interact with (remember struggling to fit all the response form info on a single two-sided page?).  With no Internet, (digital) there would be no “search” to optimize, so everything to do with the internet is digital. Cookies, remarketing, banner ads and display campaigns, Google AdWords, all digital.


Television and radio are completely digital, nearly end to end, with the exception of the voice over (recorded digitally), and the actors (recorded digitally and edited with CGI). Often the product itself in TV ads is digitally generated, which gives producers and directors more flexibility to execute, saves time and money creating physical mock-ups, and eliminates things like prototyping and food stylists.


Promotional branded products? Sure, designed digitally using a CAD program, can even be printed digitally using a 3D printer, but if not, the molds are rendered digitally, using a computer to guide the cutting head with digital precision through the metal, and the resulting molded product is branded using a digital ink jet printer.


In-store display for retail? Sure. The boxes and stands are digitally printed, and often include a video screen for displaying digital video talking about the product, some with interactive capability, also digitally voiced and activated. PR is nearly completely digital, as releases and announcements are written and originate digitally, with interviews recorded on a digital recorder. Placements are made in digital media, transmitted and read in digital form, even the story ideas and go-to experts for articles, blogs, and newspapers are communicated electronically in digital form.


So at this point it seems clear, nearly everything to do with marketing is digital. So why, in position descriptions, media requests, consulting reports, research requests, management recommendations, internal and external memos and announcements and the like, do we insist on specifying “digital marketing”? It’s redundant at this point in history, and will likely take a while to drop from use entirely, but to my way of thinking, we no longer need it – it’s just marketing. We can assume that it’s digital, since there’s very little that isn’t. Art has given way to science, “feel” has been usurped by a mass of data (digital), and insight comes not from knowing how your friends and neighbors react to a product, but to scientifically-derived and researched customer insights and virtual focus groups. Tactile has been replaced by visual, and customer experiences have less to do with brick and mortar, with lighting, displays, music, and paint schemes, and more to do with how many clicks to reach the product you desire, and how easy it is too find the shopping cart, to complete the credit card form, to calculate your postage and shipping rates, to understand the return and personal information use policy.


Time to drop the digital and get on with the mission – reaching customers and prospect in a timely fashion, with the right message, at the right time, and making it easy to buy from you.

About David Poulos

Speaker, Consultant and Author David Poulos is known as the Marketing Doctor because of his proven ability to accurately diagnose and prescribe the most effective solutions for successful business growth with absolute surgical precision.

Comment (1)

  1. John Hyman
    December 14, 2016 at 1:19 pm · Reply

    A very astute observation, but this post does demonstrate one very non-digital fact: there will always be a need for experienced, educated writers and proofreaders! Incorrect use of punctuation and poor grammar exist in either “world”.

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