Wednesday, May 08, 2013

Digital Marketing IS DEAD

Long live marketing!

A while back, I wrote a post about how digital marketing is just marketing. The same rules apply, like the three Cs and four Ps, positioning, communications fundamentals, all of that. These rules are just applied in some relatively new media, like search, display, and social.

Recently, Vanessa Colella, Citibank's North American head of consumer marketing, said something very similar but from almost the opposite perspective. In fact, she said it far better than I did.

According to Vanessa, her first order of business in her position was to "eliminate the digital marketing department."

Vanessa Colella
"Why? Because everyone in a company's marketing department needs to be fluent in digital strategy. "There's no path for you if you don't," she said."

This is music to my ears. Every marketer must now be a digital marketer. 

For example, if you're a PR specialist, and you're not well-versed in not only social media and online community-building, but influence tracking tools, SEO, campaign tagging, and analytics and conversion attribution techniques, then you won't be fully effective for your client or employer. You'll eventually be replaced by someone who is comfortable with all those technologies and techniques.

Similarly, marketing education needs to be synonymous with digital marketing education. I recently taught a university course on digital marketing, covering a broad range of topics: search, social, video, mobile, display, tracking and targeting, websites, analytics, conversation optimization, etc. For most of my students, my course was the first time they had explored many of these topics in detail.

But these topics need to be integrated into every class in the marketing curriculum. For instance, the marketing communications course that begins the path to a newly-minted PR specialist should include all the digital techniques I described above, in order to create a foundation for a successful communications career.

I have also been guilty of describing myself as a 'digital marketer,' thereby continuing this obsolete differentiation between digital marketing and traditional marketing. In reality, I was doing 'traditional' B2B technology marketing for a decade before I ever added digital techniques to my toolkit. So I have begun to change how I describe myself, instead focusing on my strength as a demand-generation strategist, as opposed to a branding specialist, for instance.

For the marketing profession, this transition is slow in coming, but inevitable. Ultimately, the modifier 'digital' should, and will, drop from the marketer's lexicon.

(Skull image provided renjith krishnan and graduate by David Castillo Dominici, both at

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