Digital Marketing

The Real Reason We Cling to Traditional Marketing

November 2017
Che Stevenson

To the younger generation the path seems clear, but many longstanding business leaders still haven’t fully adopted digital marketing. I think I know why they haven’t made the leap.

I spend a lot of time thinking about this, and a lot of our customers are ‘digital virgins’ if you will, so I think I have a pretty good insight into what’s at play here. To me, it boils down to a combination of understanding and emotion.

Understanding Digital Marketing

For ‘Digital Natives’ understanding digital marketing is not that much of a stretch. ‘Digital Immigrants’: not so much. It’s easy to forget that before you can wrap your head around digital marketing channels, you have to first understand the cultural shift that digital media has ushered in for our society.

Digital Culture

The internet has fundamentally changed how we consume information and how we make decisions. Search engines, social media, online shopping, crowd sourcing, digital media. All of these things were either non-existent or in their infancy just 15 years ago.

People seem to forget that YouTube started in 2006, Facebook launched in one college in the US in 2004, Twitter 2006, Instagram 2010. The Google and Amazon of 2001 were a shadow of their current selves.

These examples are just things: services, products, platforms. What is revolutionary is how these things have changed society.

This is a topic of great interest. There’s just too to cover it all here, but if you’re interested in reading more on the societal shifts that the information age has driven, I can’t recommend highly enough Seth Godin’s Tribes. Check it out.

What I can do is talk about this shift in personally relatable terms. A microcosm of this seismic shift…

Buying a Pram

My first daughter was born in 2001, just four days before September 11. I remember that time like it was yesterday. Our fourth child arrived in May 2012, and the experience of buying a pram couldn’t have been more different.

In 2001 we went down to the local babywear store – Helen’s Baby Wear to be specific – we walked down the pram aisle and chose the best pram that we could afford. An old-style four-wheeler, navy blue.

Fast-forward 11 years and we need a new pram. We wanted to get the best pram for our money – no different than before – but how we went about it couldn’t be more different:

  1. Hit up Facebook. “Who’s bought a pram recently, what’s good?”
  2. Get a bunch of answers: three people mention the same brand.
  3. Search online for other reviews of this brand. Shit, the reviews are pretty good.
  4. Visit the website of this previously unheard of boutique New Zealand pram brand.
  5. Order from their online store
  6. A spanking new Pram arrives in a box a week later
  7. For the record, it was a very compact three-wheeler, black.

All the technology, all the new media, is meaningless without people. It’s only when you start to look at digital media in terms of the personal human story that it’s deep, deep impact on society comes into stark relief.

We have to internalise this fundamental shift in the way we communicate, research, and make decisions before we can even attempt to approach an understanding of digital marketing channels.

Digital Marketing Channels

Once we understand modern digital culture we can turn our attention to the marketing channels themselves.

  • Social Media
  • Search Advertising
  • Display Advertising
  • Websites
  • Search Engine Optimisation
  • Email

Each of these channels touches users at different parts of their online experience. We have to understand that online experience – specifically as it relates to our brand – in order to fully appreciate how these channels work and what we need to do.

Are we giving someone a first touch of our brand, are we deepening a connection with an established customer, are we verifying our quality before the final purchase? The possibilities are as endless as the businesses and consumers that exist online.

The Emotions of Change

Maybe some business owners might not fully understand digital culture and digital marketing channels, but in reality most of them do. And in 2016, it’s rare to find someone that doesn’t believe that digital marketing is important.

Why then are so many sitting on the fence or merely toe-dipping? They’ll tell you straight-up that their Yellow Pages, Radio, TV advertising, etc. isn’t really working anymore. Yet they keep doing it, while their website remains untouched since 2004, and their Facebook page looks like a ghost-town.

I’ll tell you why: fear and uncertainty.

We fear what we don’t know

We all know this to be true. It’s why a moonless night gives chills. It’s why dad has to make sure the closet door is closed at night (yep, I still do that!). This fear of the unknown has an evolutionary purpose, it keeps us safe, teaches us not to eat that purple berry, or trust that stranger.

But in this case that very same base human emotion can hold us back from embracing the new. We know digital marketing is good, we have heard of other that have done really well, we are told it will be great for us.

But when it comes to applying it in our own business, how do we do it, what will it cost, what will happen, will it work for us, will we get a return? These unknowns lead to uncertainty and uncertainty leads to inaction.

Uncertainty leads to inaction

Sounds like a Master Yoda quote. I can hear his voice now!

But in business, so often it is true. We’re not sure, so we do nothing. If I try this new thing, it might work but it might not. If it doesn’t work I’ll get the blame, so the best bet is to keep doing the same. At least I know that doesn’t work! ;)

There is a certain sense in this. But this defeatist attitude can be crippling.

It’s especially damaging when this new channel is ‘tried’ for the first time: if astounding results aren’t achieved immediately, we become gun-shy. Our worst fears have come true! It really doesn’t work. Not for us anyway. Oh well, we gave it a shot, best get back to the tried and true.

In reality you’re almost guaranteed to fail at first. How many times did you fall off your first bike before you rode it? Did you say, see I told you I can’t ride, bikes suck anyway, I’ll just go back to walking? Sadly you probably did (I know at least one of my kids did!). But in the end you faced the truth that bikes are awesome, stuck with it and were riding like a maniac before you knew it.

It’s the same with digital marketing. Its here to stay. You can’t deny its power. If you’re not doing it you should be. If it’s not working for you it could be.

Just get back on the bike.

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