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Think digital marketing is no more? Think again.
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Think digital marketing is no more? Think again.

Is digital marketing a dying area of marketing or has it simply evolved?
The question, “Is SEO dead” is likely something you have read or heard before. The naysayers insist that the practice is dead, or at least ineffective, while advocates continue to swear by it. I, being a practitioner am of course of the mind that it isn’t dead, it is evolving. But it’s this arrogant thinking that things can just come and go and don’t evolve that puts this look on my face:

And to make things worse, I’ve recently read an article that states your entire digital marketing department should be shut down because they are “no longer needed”!

So, let’s get into this and figure out what is actually going on.

Let me introduce myself. I’m Pull’s Head of Digital Marketing, and I need people to calm the *blank* down. Let me explain where I think digital marketing is going and what will happen in this area, starting with no. No - don’t fire your entire marketing department. This is completely and utterly stupid. Since when did everyone suddenly know how to build a site for SEO or optimise a complex Facebook campaign? I’m sure you can write good copy and are able to choose some targeting options. But do you know how to optimise campaigns to get the best results possible for the lowest cost? Do know you know which algorithms to be aware of and how they work? With far more channels available in the mix than there was 20 years ago, it’s unfeasible for a single marketer to know all the channel intricacies AND hold a suitably in depth understanding of their market and customer groups. This is why you need digital marketing specialists. We can look after these channels in great detail and work with the brand specialists to ensure that our brand is the best it possibly could be! The absolute absurdity that digital marketing is no longer needed, or you don’t need to hire the specialists anymore is complete absurdity. And rather ignorant.

Let’s break this down and begin with the actual phrase itself, “digital marketing”. Do you remember when digital marketing was called “internet marketing” or “online marketing”? Terms you wouldn’t dream of using in the boardroom now!
If we think back to when we probably heard the term “digital marketing” the most, it would have been around 2005 when things like Facebook and YouTube were launched. At the same time, Apple was leading the market in mobile design and technology with its launch of iPods and iPhones. Everything was focused on how things needed to be “digital” then, and therefore so were marketing job roles. It was around here that we started to see jobs for “Social Media Managers”, “PPC Analysts” and “Digital Marketing Managers” all over our job boards. If you didn’t know how to do a post on Facebook, then you weren’t hired.
So how does this tie back in to where digital marketing is going?

It’s wrong to think of digital marketing as something as narrow minded as PPC or SEO. It used to be that running a simple AdWords campaign (or rather, Google Ads campaign as it’s now rebranded to) was all a digital marketer had to do to earn their job title.
Thinking of digital marketing as something as focused as PPC or SEO is a dangerous way of looking at it. Take this picture for example, what do you see?

A mouse, right? This mouse represents a dated view of digital marketing. Now let’s zoom out…

What we can see now is the mouse being hunted by the cat. This metaphor does double duty here. It shows that the scope of digital marketing has expanded. It also shows if you’re too focused on the old methods, you’re going to get eaten alive.

There are other channels to consider, messaging to adapt, videos, gifs, and stories to create! Successful digital campaigns aren’t just about running some Facebook and Google ads. They’re about understanding your audience’s online behaviour. You need to understand how to engage consumers with your brand and use consistent messaging across multiple channels and touchpoints. Other than the obvious branding benefits, this approach allows you to integrate your message and value proposition to the same audience through multiple channels to ultimately increase your sales.

The problem with digital marketing, is that too many people think of it as the “silver bullet”. It’s that thinking of, “ah it’s okay, we’ll just chuck a load of money at the problem and all will be well” that gets people into trouble. Just because you spent £10,000 on a Google or Facebook campaign, does not mean your campaign will return hundreds of sales or leads. This is why digital marketing is under fire. It’s the assumption that £1 spent = 1 sale made (or lead, download etc). And who are the people that get most annoyed at this? The people who don’t believe in digital marketing anymore! It’s because they haven’t got enough understanding on all the different channels, campaigns, objectives or tracking to know how to build a great digital campaign. It’s why you need specialists in your team to guide you and help make the right decisions for your brand.

Where I do agree with this whole argument that digital marketing is redundant, is the actual term itself. Digital Marketing.

Digital marketing has become so part of a brands existence that it has morphed into just one thing: marketing. And this is why people are starting to think that digital marketing doesn’t matter anymore. This is one misconception that will cost your brand a lot of money if you’re thinking that your digital marketing department is redundant.

People think it’s disappearing because initially it was so different to traditional marketing. Now it’s starting to fall in line with more traditional marketing principles, people struggle to see the difference. However, there wasn’t a difference to begin with. It was just a different medium through which to market.

Digital marketing can be broken into two types; brand building and activation. Activation is targeting people who are ready to buy now. Brand building is driving awareness of your brand and targeting people who may buy in the future. These are the same principles that marketing has used for decades. And where does technology fit into all of this? Well, AI will help marketers better identify what stage people are in and help target those people. Machine learning will help craft better advertisements. Voice search will enable people to get what they want more instantly and conveniently. But it’s still down to the marketer to really craft an amazing campaign. A great example of a brand who is using voice search as part of their marketing strategy, is Nestlé.  

Nestlé created an Amazon Skill (skills are apps that give Alexa even more abilities, letting her speak to more devices even websites) that provides voice cooking instructions as you cook. Nestlé’s GoodNes skill for Alexa helps connect people with the right recipe, and provides step-by-step help along the way.

But I bet the person who implemented that Amazon Skill wasn’t a marketing generalist. It would have been a specialist. Which brings me back home to why you still need specialists in your team.

At the end of the day, digital marketing is no longer seen as a magic bullet like it once was in the early 2000s. You can’t build a brand purely through digital marketing. Just like you can’t get to the top of Google’s organic search results by writing a piece of content and spamming it with keywords.

If you believe that the complexities of digital marketing can easily be ‘consolidated’ into a singular role, then I’m afraid to say your brand is doomed.

There’s no way to tell what exactly will come out of digital marketing in the future, but I’m sure on one thing - it’s not going anywhere.


Well... the year 2020 certainly proved that digital marketing isn't dead didn't it! Ha to all you non-believers (yeah that's you Ritson). Some brands wouldn't have survived 2020 without digital marketing support. What 2020 highlighted (as per my blog) is that digital marketing is much more complex than a social post. Without advanced understanding of each digital channel and how your brand needs to fit in on it, you can't cut through the competition or reach the right people. Brands that have hugely struggled this year, I feel for you, I really do. Find me on LinkedIn for a chat or I have loads of content you can read/watch/hear that will help!

Posted 27 February 2019 by Virginia Girtz