It’s Still Rock & Roll To Me

I was recently driving my kids from soccer practice and heard this classic Billy Joel song on the radio. I guess it was the song, but for whatever reason, my mind went back to a marketing conference I attended last year. In the room were about 30 marketing leaders from a wide variety of companies.

The moderator began the meeting by asking us what topics we wanted to do a deep dive on. The vast majority asked for “digital marketing”. When probed as to why, these respondents gave a bunch of replies, but one stuck with me. This marketer indicated, “I don’t know where to start. All of this seems really foreign to me, but yet I’m supposed to be the expert of all of this stuff at my company.”

Whenever I think back to this quote, I go back to a digital marketing training that I sat through during my P&G days. The speaker talked about how P&G, as a company, had to deal with the transition from TV to digital before. Think about it, marketers have always faced these transitions. Here’s a little history to prove my point.

Let’s first go back to 1922. Radio was the “new” media at the time, gaining a lot of traction vs. the dominant medium of the time, newspapers. Radio News magazine, in March 1922, boasted “The broadcasting of news by radiophone had long displaced the daily newspaper, and…” What happened? Marketers adapted — think of the first soap operas. They were branded content that was created and sponsored by P&G as a way for their brands to reach their consumers (stay-at-home moms) using the new medium of radio. Now, ask yourself this question — did newspapers, the dominant medium prior to radio’s rise, survive that transition? The answer, of course, is yes — albeit playing a different role in the marketing mix at the time.

When TV, the internet, search, or social media first appeared, we saw the same dynamic as I described above.

Now ask yourself the question — Is TV still around? Radio? Newspapers? The answer to all of these questions is “YES”.

Have their roles evolved? YES!! Has their entry made the marketer’s job a bit more difficult? YES!! That doesn’t mean that you, as a marketer, can’t make sense of it all. So, how do you do this?

Let’s go back to the fundamentals — understand your target consumer, understand how they receive information, defining your business objectives, figuring out how your marketing initiatives will deliver those business objectives, marrying the marketing initiatives against how your target consumer receives information. Leverage the Marketing 101 Principles of who? What? When? Why?

Now, I’d presume that you’re interacting with digital media, whether it be streaming services, search, social media, etc. Think about how you, your loved ones, and your colleagues interact with each medium and how each influences your own life. If you interact with a brand via social media, chances are others do as well.

Now, think about your specific brand and your target consumer — based on your interaction with these media platforms, develop a hypothesis on how you can leverage digital marketing to achieve your goals. Once you have that hypothesis, pressure test this with your agency partners and with your colleagues.

If you go through this exercise, chances are you’ll have a decent sense of how to leverage these new capabilities for your brand. As importantly, you’ll have a good sense of what you don’t know. With that in mind, engage the experts — agencies, thought leaders, friends and family who are digitally-savvy.

Do this enough times and you’ll get it. Like I said before, this transformation isn’t as daunting as you think. Plus, marketers have dealt with similar transformations before, so you’re not alone.