Marketing has changed.
Many of us already have in mind a picture of a traditional marketing agency. We may conflate these with advertising agencies, much like the ones shown in Mad Men with account executives and their liquid lunches, and artistic directors with pitches in front of a boardroom. Much of this behavior is an artifact of the past. In fact, a great deal more has changed as well.
In the past, the media for which campaigns were built were limited. Originally, there was only print; this meant that a singular campaign might be created. This might include little more than a logo or an image, and some text which became shared across all print media; advertisements in newspapers and magazines were the norm.
Television marketing changed the game a little, as had radio before it. New focuses were built for these methods of getting information about a product in front of a consumer. These areas were largely siloed. The logo might stay the same across all channels, but the language used, and advertisement was geared specifically to one channel or another.
Innovations did occur. The Sears catalog was a staple in American homes, with kids going over the “wish book” to identify the toys they wanted. Direct mail was its own animal, a rare form of measurable marketing efforts. It was relatively easy to determine if a direct mail campaign was successful; this could be measured in purchases or returns of those ubiquitous postcards we all received. However, it was not always clear as to why one campaign worked and others didn’t.
As marketing has evolved, various marketing analytics were introduced to track how well a campaign did, with measurements of sales in one region or another, and whether one approach returned success and another did not.
What is Digital Marketing?
With the advent of the internet came a whole new range of channels for gaining access to consumers. Not only has there been an increase in places where one can market, but also what we can know about what drives actual purchases.
We can measure the success of many advertisements directly through their click-through ratio. Are people responding to an ad? We now can see this in real time. This is, however, just the beginning, as our methods of gathering data and information have improved considerably. Now all marketing is “digital” in some way. Modern integrated marketing is now generally:
- Data driven
- It regularly uses targeted brand promotion through technology.
- It is highly organized,
- and unlike before, it can deliver real time results.
We can make changes to our campaigns in mid-stride. However, with this comes a whole new set of challenges. To effectively make use of all this new information requires a new set of skills which previously did not exist. Data Science, or the art of mining data to gain an understanding out of seemingly unrelated phenomena has enabled us to more carefully target individuals who are specifically interested in our products. We can create artificial personas of our ideal target consumer, and identify their likes, needs, and wants with a precision that has never before been possible.
Digital Marketing Agency
Enter the digital marketing agency.
Digital marketing agencies will continue to use some of the same approaches taken through traditional methods (if it works, keep it), but add in a quantity of new methods. Let’s go over a few of these.
Evaluate brand needs
Marketing has become more of a science; we can identify ways in which a brand is successfully getting an image across. This is accomplished not just with focus groups, as had traditionally been used by many agencies, but also by looking at real time responses. We now can measure the success or failure of a campaign throughout each step of the process, often in live campaigns (through the use of methods such as A/B testing for email marketing campaigns, or other formats).
Develop strategies for maximizing profits
Agencies now work to develop strategies for maximizing profits, and focus on placing advertisements or other marketing activities in places where they will have the greatest positive impact on the bottom line.
Identify the Ideal Buyer (target persona)
We now have more data about individual consumers than we ever did before; we know a great deal about what sorts of interests people have (they voluntarily supply them through social media) and we have detailed records of purchasing behavior.
Digital agencies focus specifically online
One of the primary functions of a digital agency is to focus specifically to online markets; as many people do much of their purchasing online, we are able to gain a great deal of valuable information as they leave behind data at each step of the process. We can track, for instance, behavior through an online store, such as which items were “picked up” (i.e. placed in a digital “shopping cart”). We can start recognizing patterns. For example people who purchase product A may also be interested not just in product B, but also a combination of products L, M, and Z but only when purchasing R, etc.
One thing we’ve learned from Steve Jobs is that if we market products directly to the consumer, rather than trying to get consumers to adapt to our already existing models, we will have much greater success. The main focus of a good digital marketing agency is on the consumers themselves. We focus on what it is that the consumer wants. We have moved from “how to get consumers to buy product X” but to “how to find the correct product” to meet the needs and desires of the consumer.
Digital agencies are not necessarily focused on the advertisements which “wow” or win awards, but on the ones that actually produce results. By focusing on ROI, there’s less of the self-congratulatory focus we associate with marketing agencies of old, and more on what specifically generates the most amount of revenue for the least amount of expense.
Need to “future-proof”
One thing that has become a reality within marketing is that while we have a wide range of new platforms, there are always new ones that appear which can be complete game changers. We couldn’t, for instance, have predicted the popularity and success of smart phones. Suddenly it became important to design web pages that were responsive, that could handle display in a much wider range of resolutions. What looks good on a desktop computer does not necessarily look good on a tablet.
As a result, new paradigms for delivering content became necessary; the creation of a “mobile-first” philosophy helped us adapt. By assuming the barest minimum of resolutions, if we could create something that would work well within this environment, and enable it to scale upwards for higher definition machines. In this way, we are able to future-proof our campaigns; we don’t simply lose a third of our market because our carefully designed marketing campaigns do not look professional or are (in some cases) unreadable or unusable.
We can’t always predict what is coming next, so we need to adapt new agile methodologies to allow us to turn on a dime and make changes as soon as necessity or opportunities arise.