the end of digital marketing?

Proctor & Gamble’s Global Brand Building officer, Mark Pritchard, hit the marketing trade press headlines by declaring, in a keynote at Dmexco, that “the era of digital marketing is over”.

I couldn’t agree with him more, but you have to read beyond the headline to understand that Pritchard isn’t suggesting that brands will shift away from digital, only that it has, and will continue to, become more integrated with all the other brand building and marketing activities:

P&G’s marketing team has stopped thinking of digital in terms of the “the tools, the platforms, the apps, the QR codes, augmented reality, holograms or whatever is coming next” or as a “mysteries medium with its own set of metrics”, but for what it is: “a tool to build out brands by reaching people with fresh, creative, campaigns”.

Pritchard added: “Let’s celebrate the end of digital marketing. Let’s focus on creating the great ideas that move people and build great brands. And let’s leverage the tools, platforms and technology to make them bigger and engage with people like never before….”

For more years than I can remember, I’ve been encouraging brands and organisations to think about generating digital and social media content by turning some of their internal processes – innovation, product and service delivery, research, editorial production – into content generating activities.

I’ve also spent a lot of time helping brands understand that approaching digital and social media from a strategic perspective, with activities in digital being part of an overall, holistic approach to marketing and communications, is far more likely to generate meaningful outcomes than the typical approach of choosing to “do digital” or “do social” then trying to figure out what to do there.

It’s nice to see senior figures on the brand side are starting to get this. Indeed, Forrester has predicted that 2013 will be the year that “Digital Marketing” becomes just “Marketing”. The same report discusses the importance of breaking down silos to enable digital and social media:

Budget should also be reorganised out of channel silos and into new cross-platform teams organised around consumer segments, with experts on the relevant media, channels and devices for that particular vertical, Muchbach says.

The report also advises marketers to maintain a shared “centre of excellence” for broader campaigns to help achieve scale for overlapping initiatives and to establish a multifunctional group from the marketing, R&D, IT and operations divisions to track how digital elevates their parts of the business to improve the brand experience for consumers.

So what’s all this mean? Soon, with any luck, we won’t think of digital and social media as siloed activities, divorced from overall business strategies and contributed to and controlled by only one business function, but as activities that are integral to multiple business functions, processes and programmes. Digital and social media can and should be discussed at the top corporate table, but that’s only going to happen when we’re able to demonstrate real evidence – not fans and followers, comments and likes – of having played a role in pushing the needle forward towards meeting strategically important outcomes.