Our opinion on... Digital marketing as a “ core skill ” Digital marketing is not a core skill for sales/marketing professionals any more than typing or mimeographing and licking stamps were core skills for marketing professionals in 1975. It may be a skill, but it is certainly not the heart of the marketing discipline. The heart of the marketing discipline is the ability to bring relevant products to the attention of primed buyers at the right time, in the right place at the right price. If the customer is not in the market for your product (is not a primed buyer), if your product is not relevant to the buyer (in terms of functionality, quality, and extrinsic and intrinsic value), and you don’t bring it to the attention of the buyer at the right time, you will not make a sale. In a simplistic way, that sums up the complexity of what marketing really is. Digital marketing is one resource that can help accomplish this objective. Because of its breadth, it is possible to capture more primed buyers in a short time, or capture details about who they are so that they hear or see your message at the right time, with the most relevant product. However, it is not the only way of accomplishing this. Human word of mouth, for instance, performs exactly the same function; or simple direct mail; or personal sales or even, heaven forbid, mass advertising. When all of these things work together, it is like a symphony. As you remove components the music becomes thinner, but the music is still there. Ask yourself the question: in ten years time when digital looks completely different from how it looks today, will the fundamentals of marketing still be the same (relevant product, primed buyer, right place, right time)? You would be misleading yourself if you answered “No.” The digital resources to help accomplish these fundamentals will have morphed. But marketing fundamental remain the same, as they have throughout the transitioning of the marketplace from catalogue, to newspapers, to radio, to television, to direct mail (again – catalogue redux) to email, to websites, to blog, to mobile, to social networking sites, and so on to the next next big thing. The more the world turns to digital marketing as a means of executing strategy, the importance of fluency in the underlying principles of marketing grows exponentially. As possibilities become increasingly fantastic, and the speed of accomplishing the fantastic increases, it is essential to be able to understand the business implications of each new level of fantastic, immedi-
Protean Strategies is a Toronto based management consulting firm. Since 1997 we have been helping large and small companies convert brand value into higher margins and bottom line profits by understanding their stakeholders needs; building powerful strategies; and aligning business practices with marketing and sale to a common goal.
ately; it is equally essential to be able to make strategically sound decisions based on the outcome of the fantastic immediately, if not sooner. At this point, while knowing the mechanism by which a networking site resembles a viral expansion loop is nice, I suggest that knowing how to profit by adjusting prices in the virally changing climate created by the loop, is more important.1 In other words, digital marketing
skills are cute and may impress some people occasionally. But then so was the ability to stuff three hundred envelopes an hour for a direct mail campaign, or edit the music in a radio commercial. Even if these skills were core skills, which they are not, they are likely to be out of date by Friday. The real core skills, the strategic understanding of the fundamentals of marketing, will never be out of date.
1 In case you’re wondering, a viral expansion loop is a state which grows by itself because, to use the social network example, each member invites other members who invite other members, and so on. And while this is exciting in the context of the Ethernet, it differs only in speed, from the growth of telephone networks and later mobile phone networks. It is interesting to point out that telephone growth came to a rapid and unfortunate halt when a new technological paradigm was introduced – will this happen with cell phones or the internet itself?
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Laurence Bernstein is the founder and managing partner of Protean Strategies/The Bay Charles
Protean Strategies 80 Cumberland Street, Suite 1503 Toronto M5R 3V1 Canada 416.967.3337
Consulting Group Limited. He has been a leading proponent of the “new order of differentiation” and has written and lectured on the subject of experiential branding and intrinsic/extrinsic research methodologies in Canada, the US and China.
Laurence has held senior positions in major global agencies Saatchi and Saatchi, TBWA, Young and Rubicam. In addition he has worked on the client side with Westin Hotels and was the EVP of the Canadian Restaurant Association. Laurence attended the University of the Witwatersrand in Johannesburg and CornellUniversity in Ithaca , New York
Published on Jun 27, 2010
Digital marketing abilities are not core skills necessary for marketers even in this highly technologically driven, social media dominated w...