Why digital is driving short-term marketing

Earlier this week I read an article where one of my favourite people in marketing, Les Binet (Head of Effectiveness at Adam and Eve DDB), was discussing how digital has driven marketers to focus too much on sales-activation short-term marketing. In other words, digital marketers have been spending too much time on short-term sales-boosting activity when compared to longer-term marketing.

I think that Les has a good point (I’m sure a great relief for him!) and it is interesting to consider why that is the case.

One of the key benefits of digital marketing over traditional offline marketing is measurement. The ability to see the performance of a campaign within hours of it starting and then being able to go back into the campaign, adjust it and then see the results of those amendments within hours was mind-blowing to marketers a relatively short time ago.

Now imagine that you are the CEO of a company. When your marketing team spend their digital budget on short-term sales activation marketing you see the results directly on your bottom line. So why on earth would you want them to spend time doing anything else? If you can impact positively on the bottom line, why wouldn’t you? And this is why I think there is an increased focus on short-term marketing.

Also, brand building is notoriously difficult to measure. In contrast to short-term marketing, brand building takes time, tends to have a broader reach, engages the viewer’s emotions and in recent times is about storytelling. From the CEO’s perspective, all interesting, but what metrics are we tracking?!

The truth is that there needs to be a mix. A business which focuses purely on brand building will struggle to generate sales in the short-term and a business which focuses on sales activation marketing without a brand ends up selling a commodity. There are some great examples of how this mix is being used. John Lewis’s tear-jerking Christmas adverts are great examples of brand building as are any number of Nike’s campaigns. But both organisations will have a balance between long-term and short-term marketing which is right for their business. Les suggests 75:25 (in favour of long-term) and while every business will be in a different place, a focus on brand building helps to secure sales not just in the short term, but long into the future.

So as part of your marketing planning for 2019 (you’ve started, right?), you should not just consider the split between online and offline, social and search, print and events: you should also think how much of your time and money is spent balancing short-term sales activation and long-term brand building marketing. Your business’s future will thank you.

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