The End of “Digital”

Through the past 20 years, digital media has played a bigger and bigger role in marketing communication. But for those twenty years, we’ve treated it as something different than everything else.

We’ve had digital agencies, digital experts, digital this and digtal that. I myself have worked in digital agencies as much as I have worked in traditional agencies. But now, it’s time to make a change. I don’t believe in the myth of “digital” anymore. I don’t believe in the idea of digital as a standalone tool that has nothing to do with other communication channels and sits outside the business’ core strategy. It’s time to see digital for what it really is, a crucial integrated platform to create engagement, drive results and spearhead innovation.

I mean, digital is not dying. Not as a communication tool, not as a way to connect with consumers and certainly not as a major part of our global culture – or our way of life. Digital technology, and especially mobile, is definitely here to stay, and we have only seen the beginning of the digital transformation revolution. But the approach to digital is changing. What used to be an afterthought in the creative process is becoming the main vehicle to deliver brand engagement. What used to be a support medium, is now the mainstay of many brands’ approach to marketing. We have to see digital as not just an extension, but the platform for all communication. We like to call it digital centric communication, but we might as well call it customer centric. Because what we see now is a full embrace of digital channels amongst all consumers and B2B buyers.

Unfortunately, we also see that many brands are still treating digital as a communication channel without heart and without creativity. Search, display, programatic and sponsored content is providing the eyeballs (although the eyeballs are looking elsewhere on the page), but it’s not providing connections,

it’s not conveying stories and it’s not very useful for anyone, not for the brand – and certainly not for the consumer. This can only come through a more visionary and creative approach.

Since its infancy, digital has now become the new TV. It’s also the new service centre. The new print ad. The new mall. The new library. The new record store. The new photo album. Pretty much the new everything (and not even that “new”). Yet, it is still treated as something else in many marketing communities. Many companies have digital directors, many companies brief different agencies to handle digital and traditional channels and many companies still insist on seeing TV and print first, before they go into digital. So they keep creating standalone activities in digital that leaves the consumers confused and disconnected. Of course, since technology is ever-changing, many marketers find it hard to utilise new ideas without becoming too gimmicky or lame. But it is the only way.

Using technology (and especially mobile and wearables) to make life easier or more entertaining for people will always be a good strategy. It makes it easier to provide the right consumers with the right information at the right time. But it can’t be just about the technology. It has to be about humans. It has to be about ideas that grow and connect over time. As much as every brand out there wants that video to go viral, in most cases it is not a sustainable strategy. We have to stop pandering for views and start creating engagement – and lasting connections. Every company and brand on the planet needs to sit down and look at their business strategy, their communication strategy and their digital strategy and say “why are these three different things?”

They need to be fully integrated. They need to revolve around the customer and the brand touchpoints. They must treat digital as one of the core building blocks of the company. Because if they don’t, someone will.

Erik Ingvoldstad is the Founder & CEO of Acoustic.
Follow Erik on Twitter @ingvoldSTAR, follow Acoustic at @AcousticGroupSG
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