Digital is not a channel, it is part of your product

How about we start from scratch? How about we look at the different pieces of the organisation and figure out how to apply digital, mobile, social, broadband and interactive to the existing structure? How would things look different if we started from a zero sum base?

To start with, I think social wouldn’t want to know about marketing – not that they couldn’t be friends, but I think social really belongs with PR and customer care; after all what does marketing really know about having a two-way conversation with the consumer? Marketing has always been about taking product attributes and trying to package them up in a way that answers a consumer need, trying to position the brand in the competitive set and making sure that consumer awareness picks us up on the shelf more than anyone else. This sounds very much like a one-way conversation, there isn’t much about interacting with the prospect, potentially a little bit of engaging and then sending a lead down the sales funnel (we’d like to think the sales funnel is dead, but the fact is that it is still alive and well in corporations today). Sales might have an interest in social, but they’d probably always want to be pushing that ‘checkout now’ button in their face as they are brandishing their ABC (Always, Be, Closing – Glengarry Glen Ross) mentality.

What about the corporate website and product microsites, well they don’t seem to belong with marketing either – they have more to do with product packaging and store design than they do with communicating a sales or marketing message. In today’s online world, the shopfront and the website are more or less different ways of approaching the same objective – delivering the product in a conducive environment to prospects and customers; I’m not sure that marketing handles packaging and store design, let alone store operations. Mobile is potentially the same thing, if we are building an app that helps our consumer to interact with our product, or brand, then this sounds like an operational approach – just because it needs to be well designed, marketing most definitely doesn’t hold the monopoly on good design. When we start to look at the technical end of things, it most definitely isn’t part of the marketing mandate, and beyond operations, IT needs to take a strong role to make sure the right technologies interface with each other.

So how did all this new fangled ‘stuff’ end up with marketing, and are they really qualified to handle it? I don’t want to put myself out of a job on the agency side, there is after all still a great deal of work to be done within the ‘digital’ space by marketing and agencies, not least the development of campaigns that do engage the consumer wherever they might be, and above all defining a search strategy and thinking about the consumer journey and experience – but maybe, just maybe we should stop and think; digital isn’t new, digital isn’t complicated, there’s no reason today, in 2010, that it shouldn’t be part of the entire organisation and that we go back to a more structured approach to managing our businesses.

By Lex Bradshaw-Zanger

A digital native and integrated brand marketer with a passion for marketing-communications and product design, Lex has a truly international outlook and experience, having worked both in major marketing agencies and client-side brands across Europe, the US and the Middle East.


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