We need to keep talking about digital in communication and marketing. To many people digital is still something unknown. They don’t have a handle on it or a digital mindset. In many cases, they still don’t really get it.
One thing that you hear more and more in marketing and communication is that we should stop singling out digital. That when we talk about digital strategy, digital marketing and digital communication we’re really making a misstake by not calling it just strategy, marketing or communication. We would never talk about analog strategy, marketing or communication, is a popular way of expressing this idea.
It’s all communication
On the face of it, this may seem like a very reasonable objection. I would agree with it myself. Of course we shouldn’t separate digital from all other types of communication, just like we shouldn’t keep social media off to one side, and not integrated with everything else we do. It always annoys me when I see blog posts titled ”10 things a digital marketer should know” and similar. There is no such thing as a digital marketer. If you work in marketing you have to know a bit about every kind of marketing, analog or digital.
Digital is dead
I was at a seminar recently where the speaker was making the point that we should forget about digital and instead focus on networks. Digital is dead, he stated. What is interesting is the networks individuals and organisations create.Digital is just the tools we use to facilitate and maintain the networks. Again, it’s a persuasive argument. And up to a point I agree with this also. Digital is certainly tools and ways of doing things, while people and companies create networks.
Digital maturity is still lacking
But even so I still believe that we need to talk about digital strategy, digital communication and digital marketing for a while longer. And quite a long while at that. The main reason for this is that to a lot of people digital is still something unknown, they don’t have a handle on it, they don’t have a digital mindset, and in many cases, they don’t really get it. We can see this again and again in surveys of senior management, CMOs and others. Many of them lack digital knowledge, and many of them feel they lack a way of making digital work.
If we suddenly stopped talking about digital, and how that changes the way we do communication and marketing, how it changes customers relations, and how it offers us tremendous possibilities to gather and analyze data, they would never acquire this knowledge. They would never find ways of understanding digital and how to make it work. Many in top management would probably go back to ignoring it altogether. Many CMOs would go back to pre-digital marketing, because that is what they feel most comfortable doing.
A digital mindset
One of the biggest changes digital offers us in marketing and communication is the opportunity to move from a fairly one-sided exchange with customers to real interaction and conversation. In the past I’ve written about how Netflix is interacting with their users, both in customer service and in personalizing content via data usage. Social media offer us immense opportunities to interact with and help our customers. Companies that are adapting their digital presence to the increased use of smartphones are making life easier for their customers. In this context, digital is more than just the tools, it also a mindset and a way of looking at the world. If we were to remove digital from that work, there is a great risk that we would revert to the old ways of interacting. The old ways of control, lack of flexibility and inside-out thinking. We shouldn’t forget that digital transformation has brought about this as well.
My point is this: The real reason why we need to talk about digital is not to separate it from other ways of communication and marketing, but to make sure that what it can do and what it can offer us is fully understood. And until it is, the worst thing we could do is to just talk about strategy, communication and marketing – because that would be interpreted from a pre-digital way of viewing the world. And we still need to fully understand just how much digital is changing the world we’re used to.
Should we stop talking about digital, and just use communication, marketing and so on? Or do we still need to single it out? Let me know what you think in the comment section below.