It was never about what role ‘digital marketing’ should play in traditional marketing and communications. It was always the other way around.

I’ve worked in many various disciplines of public relations. When I decided to specialise in digital strategy, the majority of my peers in the traditional advertising and communications industry tried to convince me that I’d better set my mind on making my transition a temporary one.

Why? Because they were convinced that traditional marketing would catch up, and when it (meaning they) did, my specific line of business (“digital marketing”), would be degraded to a separate discipline.

“Enjoy it while it lasts,” they said.

The digital gap is nowhere near closing up

Now, depending on where you’d place the starting marker, I’d say we’re well over five years into the complete professionalisation of digital marketing. And traditional marketers and communicators… hasn’t really caught up yet. In fact, more often than not, they aren’t even close. Instead, the gap is wider than ever.

Digital marketing is like nothing we’ve ever seen before. As soon as you stumble upon something new, yet another endless abyss of potential knowledge opens up under your feet.

A few examples:

  • Multiple consumer touch points. The constantly emerging complexity of inbound and outbound SEM (search engine marketing) and SEO (search engine optimisation). Search engines can change the rules for how business is done from one day to another.
  • Tracking consumer behaviour. Big data acquisition and statistical social media intelligence, cross-referenced to the vast seas of internally generated data sets.
  • Branded journalism. The challenges with producing multimedia communication fast, cheap and how to seed it.
  • Online retention and loyalty. The explosive importance of inbound marketing in general and content marketing in particular.
  • Social media logic. A whole new body of knowledge on how to work with influencers who aren’t driven by reporting someone else’s news. And being relevant in a time when everyone has access to their own printing presses.
  • Permission marketing. The mechanics of e-commerce fuelled by list-building and socially sparked email send-outs, a complete and total shift from chronological to event-based communication cycles.
  • In-depth testing. The fascinating and never-ending science that is on-site conversion, with everything from eye-movement analysis and A/B-testing to advanced social psychology insights driving how we optimise online communication.
  • Marketing-as-a-Service. Moving from “marketing as fireworks” to MaaS (Marketing as a Service).
  • The money web. How the hippie web is quickly being replaced by a more exclusive and transactional money web.
  • Cross-functional teams. Working closely together with coders, programmers, art directors, interaction designers and big data engineers, incorporating them into the strategic communication process.

Analogue marketing is ‘business unusual’ today

Now, I hate to say it, but traditional marketing doesn’t just “absorb” all of this during business as usual. This is, to paraphrase Henriette Weber, business unusual. And, so what is in fact happening?

  • Instead of seeing digital marketing specialists disappear, they constantly get better positions within companies. and they start new innovative agencies.
  • I’ve helped several start-ups to recruit marketing specialists. And what main competence do they want for their first hire? Digital marketing specialists, hands down.
  • If you’re doing a campaign today, who does company want to establish the strategy? More and more, digital. Why?

If it works in digital, it’s easy to make it work elsewhere as well. To date, networked media logic is the best representation of how communication flows through a wired society.

Social marketing is a better representation of how communication flows through a society.

‘Digital First’ is the future for our profession

All types of marketing has merit; it all comes down to what you’re trying to achieve.

But digital is the prime mover of people’s perception of the world. It has taken over as our number one source for both information absorption and multi-level dialogue. So, what does this mean?

It means that digital communication is not a fad. It means that we must adapt.

Photo by Joshua Sortino on Unsplash.