This week’s post is based on Mark Ritson’s confronting, thought-provoking Mumbrella’s video “Beyond Digital Marketing” where in a nutshell with shocking statistics he challenges the idea of focusing marketing communication efforts on digital and social media. He shows that brands’ followers on social media channels are not more than 1 to 8% of the brands’ existent customer base and that the number of those followers who actively engage with the brand is even smaller. He argues that traditional media is still the most effective channel to reach consumers, and the whole digital marketing phenomenon is a “tsunami of bullshit” that marketers are getting into as a consequence of social media being incorrectly sold as the only way to survive in today’s business environment.
To begin with, I have to say that I completely agree with him on the fact that a marketing communications strategy should not start by focusing on which digital channels should be chosen but on what communications strategy will work best. I cannot conceive a business that instead of assessing the different communication channels available and selecting the best one/s to achieve the communications objectives, gets straight into digital without considering first its strengths and weaknesses. For instance, not every company needs to be on social media. If social media works for some businesses, it does not necessarily mean that it will work for everyone. Many factors need to be considered first such as the nature of the business, the audience that wants to be targeted, the business objectives, and the budget.
Secondly, it cannot be truer that marketers cannot be proper marketers if they only know about digital marketing. Mark Ritson pointed out an important argument for marketing students or recent graduates who are trying to develop a career in that field. As marketers, we should understand the whole picture and digital marketing is just one piece of the picture. Hence, I could not believe when I heard Mark Ritson saying that there are companies that have their marketing departments split into digital and marketing. It is worrying as these functions should not be treated as silos, but as a whole in order to have a real integrated marketing department.
However, I disagree with Mark Ritson in the way he presents traditional media as the panacea and social media as a useless marketing channel. He is doing himself the same thing as the “rubbish editorial” he is criticising. It is not true that traditional marketing is completely dead nor that social media is a channel only for people to socialise so brands should not participate. Reflecting on the latter, I do not think either that people sit down to watch TV because they want to watch advertisements!! So applying his logic, brands should not participate in TV channels either because they are not invited.
I think the point here is not to discuss if traditional media is better than digital or vice versa. What matters is to see what works best for the particular type of business and the communications objectives that want to be achieved. For instance, digital channels are a great opportunity for small businesses that do not have the budget to convey their communication messages through TV or radio. Likewise, big companies like Lenovo have found that social media has been a great channel to engage with and provide more value to consumers. On the other hand, companies like General Motors stopped their advertising on Facebook because it was not working for them.
So, traditional or digital media? The answer is either or both. Actually, a better question would be, what communication channels would work best based on my business and communications strategy and objectives? Every channel has its strengths and weaknesses. Indeed, many successful campaigns have used traditional and digital media for a more integrated marketing campaign. For example, “The best job in the world” campaign aimed at promoting Australia – and especially Queensland – as a potential tourist spot, used print advertisements and digital media as the main channels for the campaign. Another example is the Commonwealth’s bank “Can” campaign, which started off online and then moved to TV and outdoor ads such as billboards.
In the end what matters is where your target audience is and that you communicate your message through the most effective channel/s. Thus, traditional media is not dead, but neither is digital and social media. What do you guys think?