Digital everywhere… but in the end, it’s still marketing.

Digital everywhere… but in the end, it’s still marketing.

“It’s not about doing ‘Digital marketing’. It’s about marketing effectively in a digital world” – Diageo’s CEO Ivan Menezes.

digital hype org chart

This post about Digital transformation on marketoonist really resonated with me. With the coming of the internet and online marketing came a slew of new business opportunities and buzzwords … “digital first”, “mobile first”, “digital natives”, “Social listening”, “retargeting”, “online personas”, and I’m sure I missed a couple of hundred more. It makes you wonder what happened to the rest of the marketing mix in some people’s minds.

It’s Marketing. Period.

It’s neither digital marketing, nor traditional marketing. It’s marketing. Period. Start with your customer. Define who they are, where they get their information (in modern speak (buzzword warning) create personas of your customers), check if your product matches with this target market. This will help determine the channels you will need to use (whether it be online, print, events, “word of mouth” marketing, cold calling, whatever), and the money you can afford on these channels.

Let’s be honest, “Digital” and “Mobile” are one of many channels to get your content out. Marketing and – of course – sales both start with the customer. Whatever your product is, it needs to appeal to the right customer, and you need to get it in front of that customer. Do your homework first on who your customer really is, what he/she needs, and then you use the right channel to get to him/her. Does that include digital? Yes. Does it include Mobile? Sure, if that is a mediums that YOUR target customer uses. Just don’t lose sight of the basics in the move to mobile and online.

Granted, things are more measurable now. Gone are the early days pre-google and pre-facebook where it was a challenge to measure the effectiveness of your marketing. But still, for those millenials: the first spam mail was sent in 1978 already, banner ads have been around since 1993,  doubleclick hit the market in 1996 and pay-per-click was introduced in 1999 – check out the history of online advertising.

Even  “back then”, there was “content marketing”, now touted by some as the holy grail of digital marketing. For those unfamiliar with the term, “Content marketing is a marketing technique of creating and distributing valuable, relevant and consistent content to attract and acquire a clearly defined audience – with the objective of driving profitable customer action.” Well…getting the right content and call to action in front of your customer has always been important, the current trackable world just made it a lot more measurable.

nihil sub sole novum

Content marketing has been around for decades, you can read that in this iscoop article. Did you know that one of the first books on content marketing was published in 1999? It’s called “Make Your Website Work for You: How to Convert Online Content Into Profits”. From the back cover: “You’ll find the basic rules for online marketing and the reasons why content marketing works. You’ll learn to create content that drives consumers to your site and sells products, and how to track and use consumer information to build profits both on- and off-line. “Content is King, ” advises author Cannon, who presents ten simple steps for developing and managing effective content. Discover how to optimize your site’s “metatags” so that search engines draw the greatest number of contacts.” In 1999…

On and offline / digital and traditional need to come together, and there’s hope. According to Smartinsight’s research on Managing Digital Marketing in 2016  progress is made as marketers move towards integrated planning of digital and traditional activities, but as the report says “there is still plenty of room for improvement with only one-quarter of companies satisfied with their level of integration across digital and traditional communications and 5% fully integrated and optimised.” If you’re stuck in your traditional marketing, snap out of it and embrace digital. But also vice versa, don’t forget the basics of marketing.

Weaving storytelling into your marketing

Weaving storytelling into your marketing

Everybody loves a good story, whether it’s in a book, a movie, or told by a great speaker. No wonder then that stories are an excellent way for companies to get their message across.


So what is storytelling? Wikipedia tells us that storytelling is
“the social and culture activity of conveying stories in words, sounds, and/or images, often by improvisation, theatrics, or embellishment. Stories or narratives have been shared in every culture as a means of entertainment, education, cultural preservation and instilling moral values. Crucial elements of stories and storytelling include plot, characters and narrative point of view.”

Stories can become a powerful tool to bind people to your brand and/or product. A good story elicits emotion, so in comes “emotional marketing”. I like the definition on 602 communications,  which defines emotional Marketing as “messaging that builds your ego. It makes you feel smarter, bolder, more sophisticated, or just about any other emotion that is fundamental to your self-esteem. By making you feel better about yourself, the brand transcends mere product status and becomes a friend. This is what gives your brand that special something that builds life-long attachment. These are brands that share your values and priorities. You name-drop the brand name to say something important about yourself. They “get you,” and you get them. People are so passionate about these brands that they wear the logos on their chest, tattoo them on their body, and herald them in the social networking profile.

So it comes down to addressing the ambitions of what people really want to be, want to feel. Emotional marketing can help your brand appeal directly to people’s emotional state, needs and aspirations (the higher parts of Maslow’s pyramid).

A framework: the hero’s journey

In the definition of storytelling above, one element was the plot. Good examples of the plot and character can be found in what we call The hero’s journey. The hero’s journey goes back to the 1949 book “the hero with a thousand faces”  by Joseph Campbell, in which he explains the “monomyth” and the steps of the hero’s journey across religions and traditions. It’s not a requirement to follow all steps, you can focus on specific parts for your own brand or product story. Here’s some more information and examples.


The take-aways here are to know your audience, make it relevant to them, be authentic, be consistent, and to put the customer at the heart of the story, not your brand. That last one is linked other part of the storytelling, the narrative point of view. To get the best out of your brand/product story, it needs to be centered around the people, not the product or brand.

Tip1: if you have no idea on how to get going on this, go read Ryan Holiday’s article on how to market your boring business.

Tip 2: If you are looking for inspiration, it starts with good content ideas and where to find them. (As they state there, “hope is not a tactic”, you need to work on it.)

One great example I personally like is Under Armour. Started as an underdog in the fitness and apparel world, the company has a long line of great ways to promote the brand. Case in point is the “I will” campaign. Going back to 2010, the first iteration was the “protect this house” campaign:

This particular video one got 500K views on youtube, but just read the reactions to the youtube clip to see how it resonated with people.

Consistent with the messaging, later in 2014 they used the personal story of Misty Copeland as an example:

Now this one already got 10M views, showing that Under Armour did create a loyal following, and grew their brand exponentially by then.

And today, linked to the Olympics, of course, the Phelps story:

This one already has 10M views and counting, and ties it all together with hashtags like #iwill and their new slogan #ruleyourself.


The story is not enough. Granted, UA is a top brand now, and we don’t all have the budgets to create these. But maybe you don’t need to. All it takes is a good story that goes viral, and your users/fans will do the distribution for you, courtesy of the internet and social media. Which comes down to the basics of marketing: first know your audience, know your product and know the overlap. How does your product help your audience, and how can you tell a story around this? When looking at examples, I thought of Voiceitt, one company from Israel I worked with and that creates a mobile application for people with speech disabilities. Here’s their story:

Inspirational, yet, no million views. Targeting the right customers, telling a compelling story, so why didn’t it get more views? Timing? Did people not like it enough to spread the word? There’s no easy way to predict success, it’ll need a lot of experimenting and experience. If people love your story, they’ll share it with others. Creating the story is hard, getting it out there is even harder, but that’s for another post.

Now it’s up to you to find your story and bring it out there. What story can you tell? What bond can you make?

Reading: Value Based Marketing for Bottom Line Success: 5 Steps to Creating Customer Value

Reading: Value Based Marketing for Bottom Line Success: 5 Steps to Creating Customer Value

Value Based Marketing for Bottom Line Success: 5 Steps to Creating Customer Value (Nicholas, Debonis, Balinski, Allen)

Marketers get too caught up in selling features and competing on price. Because, when all is said and done, customers buy and and will pay well for value. To be successful in today’s marketplace, a company must integrate its traditional business functions to provide superior value to targeted customers. This means creating an offering that echoes in the customers’ consciousness. Why? Because the value provided serves customers best interests. Value Based Marketing for Bottom Line Success provides a 5-step model and critical tools necessary for creating and managing a successful Value Deliver
marketing strategy. Customers buy value, not product or features. They buy from the company that provides the most value. And they buy what’s in their best interest.