The Nature Of The Digital Marketing Beast

Please note this is an opinion piece. Different businesses will experience different results, depending on how smart they are about the choices they make as they build their businesses.

The good old reliable 80/20 Rule of Almost Everything clearly states that about 80% of all the content created for businesses by the so-called content creation services is crap. By crap, I mean that it does very little to create a sense of relationship between the reader and the company sponsoring it.

Judging from the number of content creation services all around the world it’s clear that a lot of businesses don’t really care about that.

Or that a whole new generation of people have taken over who were raised on it and believe it’s the cat’s meow. Or that maybe, at the end of the day, it doesn’t really matter as long as they toss something out there regularly to keep the company name in front of their customer base.

This attitude, in turn, explains why, you guessed it, only about 20% of this content really has any effect on the reader.

The Mechanics Of Old School Communication

I grew up, professionally, in a world where advertising media was limited but very powerful. Where targets were carefully defined, where something called Brand Character played an important role in shaping the messages that people were exposed to, and the messaging was held together across the various media platforms through something called Synergy.

The Brand Character made sure that the messaging had the look and feel of the brand, which added to both recognition and trust. The Synergy ensured a consistency in the overall branding approach across various media.

And for almost 30 years of my advertising career, myself and hundreds of other creative people in the ad industry followed this formula and created and built brands that made a definite promise they could keep and built influence with their target audiences by making sure the messaging was consistent, thus creating a building effect, across all media.

The Digital Divide

Then a strange thing happened. The Internet came along, and with it came the hordes of digital marketers, propellers on their beanies spinning in the wind, carrying the message that the brave new world was here and that if you wanted to survive and thrive, then this was the place to be.

It was a slow build because many smart marketers simply did not believe that anything could unseat TV, radio, and print as the be-all and end of media choices.

But here it was, staring them right in the face. The next big thing.

So a lot of them started dipping their toes in the pool. In the beginning, and I was there for it, it was a lot of email marketing that would direct you to a website. It found a place in the B to B market, simply because these people were early adaptors.

But the consumer market was a tougher nut to crack. So the digital marketers started selling these advertisers on the idea of having a product page on the big social media sites like Facebook. And while they sang the praises of this new digital media with all the fervor of a Louisiana gospel choir, the proof was not in the pudding.

Countless millions, appropriated from mainstream advertising budgets, were spent experimenting on getting people to participate in The Big Conversation about their brand.

Turned out that people really only tuned in to social media to see cute little animal pics and keep up with what was going on with their friends.

Couponing worked to a limited extent. But then eventually, and in the way of things on the Internet, couponing sites sprouted like dandelions. This was a medium advertiser could understand so they flocked to it, because for their placement fee, somebody else did all the grunt work of building traffic.

But still, The Big Conversation was nowhere to be found. In fact, it was avoided like the plague. But in the meantime, millions went into creating what really amounted to lousy and virtually valueless advertising on these product pages and in other places in the social media world.

Recently it’s come to light, especially in the US, that many of the results that digital agencies were feeding into their clients were actually fraudulent, faked, or exceedingly exaggerated in terms of their effective reach.

Where Have All The Ad Heroes Gone?

On the ad agency side. A lot of the old-school advertising guys had made their money and went off on their own, mostly to B to B clients where they got to do elaborate videos, trade ads, and websites, and they could still flex their creative muscles a bit. Or they retired and started writing books on marketing. Or they became speakers and travelled the globe telling ad agencies all about what they were doing wrong.

And where did the consumer advertisers go? Well, here and there. But a lot of them just re-diverted a large portion of the money they were spending on digital back into the media that were actually carrying the weight and which, with the exception of big-time newspaper advertising, had really had only lost marginal bits of their effectiveness. They still paid attention to digital marketing, But mostly through content designed to draw people to their website so they could read the same product story that was in their advertising.

And so the digital marketers found their place in the world. Doing crappy little social media ads and creating content, some of it good, some of it relevant, but most of it as generic as a pair of black socks.

Oh, they are still chanting the same mantra, and they are developing tracking mechanisms that allow them to put messages right in front of consumers at the moment they are thinking about that stuff. But now with ad blockers and a lot of the new restrictions on tracking that will be coming into place, and with new instances of fraud being reported weekly, digital marketing really is a caveat emptor world.

The Right Marketing Help Can Make All The Difference

Over the past few years, the incredible rise of entities like Facebook and LinkedIn especially, have really turned what we used to call digital marketing into something called Social Media Marketing.

And there are a lot of people out there who know how to do it.

In fact, both Facebook and LinkedIn offer all kinds of help for those who wish to market their business in this area.

But always remember that these folks have an agenda that may be either too complex or costly and perhaps even a bit too generic to suit your specific needs.

In my opinion, you may be much wiser to find someone who comes at this kind of marketing from the outside. My friend John White is one of those people. He has made it his business to help people get where they want to go in social media, and his track record for doing that is extremely good.

I’m not promoting John, per se. But I am promoting the idea of finding a social media marketer who has experience on both sides of the Digital Divide because that means he or she will have an objectivity and a knowledge base that most pure digital marketers simply don’t have.

The bottom line here is that if you are starting a business of any kind, or are looking at establishing your brand in the social media marketing area, you really need to do all you can to make sure you have a consumer promise and that promise is coming across in every single piece of communication you create.

And if you really believe that the digital marketplace is where you need to be, be prepared for a long hard slog. Because that’s the nature of the digital beast.

If you’re not willing to do all the work required and find the best people to help you do that, you will just be another business tossing money into the gaping maw of the Internet and getting very little in return.


Jim Murray
Jim Murray
I have been a writer since the age of 14. I started writing short stories and poetry. From there I graduated to writing lyrics for various bands and composers and feature-length screenplays, two of which have been produced. I had a  20-year career in senior positions in Canadian and multi-national agencies and a second career, which began in 1989, (Onwords & Upwords Inc), as a strategic and creative resource. Early in 2020, I closed Onwords & Upwords and effectively retired. I am now actively engaged, through blogging and memes, in showcasing businesses that are part of the green revolution. I am also writing short stories which I will be marketing to film production companies. I live with my wife, Heather, in the beautiful Niagara Region of southern Ontario, after migrating from Toronto, where I spent most of my adult life.

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