Why fear of the unknown is holding back digital marketing

Our Managing Partner, Clive Baker, recently wrote this piece in WARC looking at marketers’ fear of digital and how to overcome it. Here’s the article in full.

In a recent chemistry meeting, an experienced CMO from anFMCG group confessed that his business was lagging behind in digital marketing.He put some of the blame for this at his own feet, as he and his team weren’t up to speed on what tools were available and how they should use them. To solve this, he’d been trying to learn about the full digital marketing ecosystem.He’d been to conferences, read articles, logged on to webinars, but he’d come away none the wiser.

It’s hardly surprising, and he’s certainly not the only one who feels like this. While digital marketing is on the rise, with advertisers finally spending more on digital than traditional TV for the first time last year, there’s still a sense of the unknown when it comes to digital. It’s not helped by the fact that we’re presented with a seemingly continuous run of scandals when it comes to digital(Uber vs Fetch Media, Fake News, Cambridge Analytica) that highlight exactly how the wool has been pulled over the eyes of consumers and marketers alike.It’s incidents like this that lead to slower than expected adoption of digital marketing – a survey from last year found that nearly four in 10 marketers had no plans to digitally transform their company.

Digital marketing has evolved so quickly and spectacularly, that it’s almost impossible for anyone to have a full grasp of every single element, especially at a senior level where people aren’t usually digital natives. It’s human nature to play where we feel safe – especially with huge budgets on the line.

Part of this digital fear is due to an over-reliance on historical models. Over the last few decades, brands have built models that clearly show them the input of investment into traditional advertising, versus the sales that will result from it. They know what they will get for their money, and as such it’s considered relatively safe. Digital is much more of an unknown to CMOs – how can an ecosystem of banners, SEO, social, apps, web, and more work alongside their ATL to help them meet their business objectives? What often happens is that brands dedicate as mall budget to a digital execution, then struggle or simply neglect to fully measure its direct output – and it remains unproven.

But the relationship between consumers and brands has changed, and continues to change. One-way broadcast communications has now evolved into media that allows, facilities and even encourages conversation between people and brands. This means that user journey models are completely different to how they used to be, and the models that have historically served brands well, are now out of date.

What is essential is that clients to get the basics right -and those basics haven’t changed. Start by identifying your business objectives. Don’t give your agency a target for site visits or impressions. Ask them to deliver an increase in brand relevance, persuasion, loyalty, sales; and ask them to recommend the tools that to do it. Don’t get distracted by novelty for the sake of it – some agencies tend to run away with new technologies and platforms, but it’s not right for every brand. There’s often something to be said for letting others test the waters first. Make sure the work you commission is simple and intuitive for the consumer, and that it offers them something worth while in return for their time.

People are using digital media in their droves. They are looking to the internet for answers. They are spending more and more time on social media. Marketers’ fear of digital isn’t stopping them, and it’s up to brands to be present where people are, not the other way round.