This week’s topic of Digital media and Integrated marketing communications (IMC), highlights a growing concern of mine that Digital Marketing is treated as new and a separate discipline to traditional Marketing, and shares the title of my blog.
Universities and other organisations offer courses in Digital Marketing as a separate stand-alone subject – positioned as they way of the future and out of context from the discipline of Marketing as a whole.
I’ve seen this in the workplace as well – many large organisations have separate departments for Marketing and Digital Marketing – often with different reporting lines. The justification for this is that Digital (including social marketing) is a new and two-way form of communication requiring different skills – and therefore the assumption is made that it is its own type of Marketing, It’s often treated as an alternative to the traditional discipline of Marketing – not just a different channel of communication or delivery.
While it is true that digital communications do require different skill sets and utilises different ad agencies to older traditional forme of advertising such as print or broadcast media – it is not a different type of marketing – just a different way of communicating to and reaching out targeted consumers.
The growth of digital communication channels has displaced and, in some cases, replaced ‘traditional’ media advertising. The table below, however, demonstrates that while digital is taking a larger place in the consumers’ media usage – traditional media is still part of the marketing mix.
Treating Digital Marketing as a separate from Marketing puts at risk the heart of what marketing is all about – the who! Who do you want to serve? Whose needs do you want to satisfy? Who is your market? Who is your target audience?
It is only after understanding the who of your market – can you then develop products and services to satisfy their needs. And only then should we consider how to communicate to them.
Digital Marketing is an answer in “how” we communicate to our target audience – and even then – it may not always be the best way to communicate to everyone. We as marketers need to understand the customer first, and their needs second; and only the then start understand their habits and be able to create a strategy to communicate to them. This may or may not be using digital channels.
My problem with Digital Marketing being taught as a stand-alone course, or as a separate department in an organisation is that it is a “how do we communicate to them” tool –a communication channel – rather than a pure market focused tool.
By taking it outside the umbrella of overall Marketing – we run the risk of focusing on the channel rather than the customer. The focus becomes the message delivery system– but not necessarily delivering what the customer wants and needs.
The channel offers so much excitement with new communication channels opening up every day, it’s easy to become seduced by the glamour and the adrenaline of digital marketing.
But, this too can become a trap – as marketers we should be driven by excitement of our brands and our customers and our driving need to satisfy the needs of our customers. When we focus too much on the channels we use to communicate to our customers – we risk losing focus on what is really important about being marketers.
Digital Marketing is not a separate discipline that needs to work in conjunction with traditional marketing practices, it is a channel of communication which like all other channels should be used when it’s the best way to reach our customers. It is not an alternative new way of marketing – just a new way of communicating and delivering products and services via websites and online media.