Why is so much digital marketing lazy?

by Nigel Hollis | November 29, 2017

This set of interviews with top Chicago marketers on the topic of the challenges and opportunities of digital missed calling out the elephant in the room. Most digital campaigns lack what is required for them to be effective.

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Charles Rasmussen, Vice President of digital at Burrell, came closest to calling attention to what is missing from most digital campaigns when he states,

“I see a lot of what I call ‘lazy marketing.’ We live in a world where we have seemingly unlimited data, and we have consumers who expect to have personalized experiences and communication. On the other side, we have clients who prioritize speed and cost efficiency, and are really focused on the bottom line while not taking advantage of the resources that exist.”

Being cost-efficient is not necessarily a bad thing, unless, of course, it undermines effectiveness. And that is where the laziness comes in. Most marketers do not specify ahead of time what they are trying to achieve, how the campaign will actually make more money for the brand.

The interviews do a good job of highlighting the opportunities of digital and manage to bring out all the buzzwords – different, data-driven and dynamic – but they fail to acknowledge that success in digital marketing is hugely variable. Kantar Millward Brown’s Brand Lift Insights find that there is huge upside potential to the best digital campaigns; for instance increasing purchase intent by seven percentage points, but at the other end of the spectrum many campaigns are so weak that they put people off buying the brand.

Why might this variability exist? I believe it goes back to basics. Most successful campaigns clearly identify the behavioral change that they want from their target audience and how best to achieve that change. They do not rely on generalities like “increase acquisition” but focus in on the specifics of who is in the target audience and what might shift their behavior. For a well-known and liked brand it might be as simple as reminding people that the brand exists, for other brands a combination of media may be required to seed interest and then deliver more in-depth information (in which case different targets will likely require different messaging).

But it is not all about the targeting and the nature of the message. I believe for far too long we have been relying on technology to do the job that only creative can fulfill. Yes, we can deliver the right message to the right person at the right time, but unless that person attends to an ad and the ideas and impressions it seeks to deliver get off the screen and into people’s minds, all that media investment is wasted. We still have to earn people’s attention and the best way to do that is ensure your hero creative will deliver a compelling impression.

If brands want to improve their effectiveness in digital marketing not just their efficiency then they need to create content that not only fits with what the brand wants to achieve, but also what people are willing to engage with. I believe that requires truly understanding the minds of the target audience not simply relying on technology and data to do the job. But what do you think? Please share your thoughts. 

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  1. Avi Chand, May 16, 2018

    Hi from India!

    We (www.avichand.com) had a similar challenge with a client in India - an eCommerce clothing retailer. He wanted digital to do the "magic" for him by reaching out to the right customers at the right time with the right offer - and was totally smitten with the notion of efficiency and buzzwords like programmatic ad buying, re-marketing, and analytics. It took us a lot of time to convince him that unless his brand communicated the right value proposition to his customers through effective creative, efficiency wouldn't be possible. It is the same old notion - both efficient and effective.

    It did not work out with the client, because it was drilled into his head that digital is "cheap and effective" - he just was not willing to afford a branding campaign! We stopped trying to close the client as we knew that unless he took our advice, he was bound to just end up spending millions on programmatic ad buy and wouldn't see results. We would much rather work with clients with open mindsets!

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