Why I believe Digital Marketing is dead... | Haider Alleg

Digital Marketing is “dead”​ – Finally!

That’s right. This is the end of an era. And for quite sometimes already. What happened? Recently just before Cannes, I followed some controversies going on and even if I wasn’t there myself, the web was full of people relating these stories. The CMO of Calvin Klein, invited to chat with the Editor-in-Chief at Think-with-Google, talked about the irrational way to split marketing still today in 2 worlds: off and online. The customer behaviour we see is not split that way and consumers tend to expect the same level of services, care and quality whatever the channel is. Surprisingly, seeing Google pushing in their columns could seem odd at first but it makes total sense to me.
The end of digital marketing is here. I spoke to Marie Gulin-Merle, Calvin Klein’s chief marketing officer and PVH’s chief digital officer, at Google Marketing Live, about why it’s time to shift our marketing mindset. Watch the video to learn why she believes we’re now in an era where digital marketing is just marketing.

Digital marketing is marketing done with a different culture and experience

Personally, I hated the word digital all my career. When I started in this industry, this didn’t have a name, we called it simply IT – Information Technology – and it was horrible to do business with such tagline. Then it switched to e-Business which somehow was better as you started to report to commercial functions, but the scope of these departments was merely anything the business couldn’t spend time to understand. I remember being attached to this department early on because I was the only one in the company having the foundation of search marketing and email marketing. I was doing marketing, it just happened I was using a different set of tactics to achieve the same goals. And as such, digital marketing back then and to some extent even now in the pharmaceutical industry, is considered as the easy road to do marketing: do more with less, faster and cheaper… We all remember the social media fever with juniors running critical streams of communications and marketing campaigns…

Digital marketing was fashionable and it was bound to die

Putting prefixes to differentiate a capability to scale it later: I understand. Making it fashionable to attract talent, budget and political interest: I get it. But branding a capability to create a vacuum of people taking the titles and no go fighting in the commercial ring: that is wrong. For too long people understood that the next step in their career was to get closer to the money and commercial and marketing departments are often the shot callers. What I witnessed too often is a rise of digital marketers getting appointed internally to “switch” the organisation from within, but the culture wasn’t there. People were the same: they were running their shop as business as usual. Marketing plans were still plans with somehow agencies jargon copied-pasted from previous pitches. Budgets were designed to have a year to year increases in spending, but not too much people asked the real question why? Why have a team that is holding a black box of activities where all the measurable output the company understand is again, classical commercial goals? The fashionable traits of digital marketing did help in the early days to test and fail, but soon some companies that haven’t got the right culture, decided to question it again and I know a lot of C-level execs that were highly unhappy with such departments, sometimes blaming the talent pool in their regions (e.g. we need to have a centre of excellence in the US in the Bay area, this is where it is happening). Again, this is wrong as a few years later, once they hired a new CMO that actually gets it, they are back in a test mode with a world that moved on and actually integrated the digital component of the business to a point that it disappeared.

Marketing has changed / Branding has evolved

Now people confuse all the time marketing and branding and communication. Yes, getting mechanically your message out is tremendously simplified with a new way to understand, reach and penetrate new markets. Does it mean you created a brand that will last long in your customer’s mind? Nope. Having a team that understands the obsession of customer-centricity, calling people to actually check if they are happy or organising memorable experiences in real life that would connect your brand with your audience is still the hard part. Creation an emotional response with a video, understanding the beauty of minimalist product design, having the courage to acknowledge failure and co-create with your customer: nothing digital in here… we are back to basics with cultural attribute. Now let’s finish with communication and it is important to not mix the mechanical way of running short-term marketing activities around a product, the long term activities around a brand and stories that will glue all of it together. Yes, stories are important to convey relevance, teach and attract people to you. Personalities of brands that will go to your products would be impacted by the way you are talking to your audience (at all touchpoints). Can digital channels help; yes for consistency and scalability reasons but the core is the same. A story needs to be well prepared to move you and it is not because you will distribute it on Youtube that it would be a better one. In the opposite, the constraints of the channels would actually add more complexity to your organisation to adopt lengths, style and formats to each audience type. In conclusion, I feel lucky and fortunate to have started my journey in this space so early, and I am even more happy that now it is considered a business like anything else. Do I still have concerns? Yes, especially when I see the same fashion trend with innovation departments. A company that doesn’t innovate is bound to fail. If you can’t adapt you will for sure struggle in this world where anyone can sell anything super quickly. Let’s be aware that no one owns digital, or innovation. These are just new DNA branches of our daily activities that any employees should just do. If we would need a new department, it should be one that ensures the culture of a company is sustained and tailored to the future we need to co-create. Enjoy your vacations folks! Haider out.

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