traditional media

The Confluence of Digital Marketing and Traditional Brand Marketing

I had an interesting conversation with a friend of mine who is a SVP of marketing for Bank of America that reminded me the importance of bridging the gaps between digital and traditional marketing. Now as a digital guy, I usually think about it in terms of what traditional marketing has to learn from the digital world, but this conversation reminded me that it's a biased approach.

Digital marketing, most specifically Internet marketing, is amazing in it’s exacting nature and real time feedback. I can put a campaign up targeting 36-45 year old married women who have expressed an interest in cheerleading and that day know what I spent, how many of them came to my site, whether they registered, whether they created a group on Weplay, whether they invited anyone and how much they spent. These are the important things to my business and I can know exactly how the campaign performed and make changes. Maybe I change the wording, the creative of the ad, and in fact on launch I probably had at least 2 versions up to test which one did better (A-B testing). And I probably A-B tested the landing page too. So I am constantly optimizing. As soon as I have enough data to declare a winner, I use that as a baseline and try a new test. As long as the incremental value is worth my effort, then I keep testing until I am a well-oiled machine.

Of course I also do this across all my campaigns, targeting and segments so I am slowly weeding out the campaigns that don’t perform so the aggregate performance is great. There are some tools that help with this automated bidding, since campaigns can be optimized by single metrics like cost per registration, cost per group, revenue per cost, etc. The key mantra is always be testing. Always be improving. The only creative, and thus human, decisions on an ongoing basis are wording and basic creative, which a very junior person can do. It’s a machine.

The problem is that traditional media doesn’t have the metrics and real-time feedback so this process is completely different. Imagine creating multiple TV commercials and trying to measure which one was more effective. Tough. Even if you had an answer, how long would it take to change the programming, the budget, reshoot a commercial and leverage that info. The tracking and correlation is difficult and takes too much time. Clicks are instantaneous. And imagine the damage of having a bad ad. I can quickly pull an ad off the Internet, each of the tests in digital are small so they don’t need the same level of effort, creative or buy in. Traditional marketing is slower, more time intensive and each campaign casts a wide net.

So the exact mantras of digital marketing set an unrealistic expectation for traditional marketing. And frankly, the digital guys look down on the traditional guys. How can you run a high cost marketing campaign and not know the ROI? Well, large enterprises have developed sophisticated models to help calculate the ROI, but it still is a little fuzzy and there are a lot of moving parts so you can test the overall ROI, but not pinpoint the exact phrasing, creative, or in store collateral that converted the customer.

But it’s too easy to get caught up in the glory of digital as my friend pointed out. For Bank of America, digital is fine, but they don’t run their business by pure cost per reg. People go into the banks to set up accounts. And measuring how the Internet ad affected consumer behavior and brand impression is not something us digital guys specialize in. When you care about branding and traditional commerce, we are less sophisticated specifically because it’s contrary to our exacting and real time philosophy. It’s not that we can’t apply the same models measuring the impression of a brand before and after an ad just like traditional media does with ad spots. We just don’t. It’s not that we can’t cast a wide net with a single ad to measure effect, it’s that we think it’s against our principles. Why not optimize and measure the clicks, exactly?

Well, it’s easy to forget in our digital fantasy that the world is more than clicks. For Bank of America, it’s brand that drives the business. When you think bank, who do you want to go to? And for a traditional media guy who believes in art as much of science, I imagine digital looks like task work for ajunior guy. It’s a tactic, not a strategy. I imagine they look down on us.

Well traditional media is declining and digital marketing is expanding, so we’ll see an increasing mix of exacting methodology. But in the process, I expect a lot of the traditional guys to come over and teach us digital guys a thing or two.