Not another digital marketing article

‘Digital marketing’ has become something of an in-joke here at the B2B Marketing. If the lion’s share of marketing isn’t digital, what is it? Discussing ‘digital’ marketing is akin to asking for a 'lager beer’ at a pub and paying with 'pound sterling’ – experience has rendered the word unnecessary. So when the latest marketing trend (and leading line of this year’s dmexco conference) ‘digital is everything – not everything is digital’ was first bandied about, alarm bells started ringing. But like most paradoxes, it takes a little unpacking.

And as is usually the case, it took attending an event and chatting to a few real-life marketers to realise my knee-jerk millennial cynicism was all askew. Actually, the notion accepts that advancements in technology are necessary and good, but also addresses the widespread feeling that digital is obvious and pervasive. In short, it challenges marketers to engage with the physical world through digital technologies to create compelling customer experiences. For practitioners in B2B, this is easier said than done.

One of the ways people are going about it is by forming intelligence based on both micro and macro data. Understanding what’s going on in the world beyond the confines of any secluded industry can be a powerful tool, not least in areas such as moment and real-time marketing.

I recently heard an interesting example of this relating to the consumer world. Have you noticed that over the last 10 years people have become (slightly) less interested in celebrities and more interested in themselves? Our social feeds are now clogged by people taking photos of themselves and their food; at gyms and on expensive-looking holidays. Well, through online activity and god knows what else, some data scientists believe they can track the exact event which catalysed the transition from celeb-obsessed moron to narcissistic moron. It was when Britney Spears shaved her hair off in 2007. “Justin Timberlake and Cameron Diaz have broken up, Lindsay Lohan has checked into rehab and now this? I’m going to the fucking gym.”

While this example may seem a little far-fetched, the notion that real-world events change people’s perceptions should be taken as read. (Our lives aren’t literally sectioned off into two areas: work and life.) Consider how the proliferation of mobile is bridging online and offline. We’re checking the things hundreds of times a day, and spending hours on them. All the while we’re interacting with brands, talking on social media and consuming news – the iPhone is the window to the soul.

And of course, there’s the emergence of VR and AR – a prime example of digital and physical merging, and also further proof the two are not separate propositions. These immersive experiences are now accessible; marketers can take the best elements of digital (graphics and the suspension of reality) and physical (all things sensory) to tell complex and visual stories. Another way marketers are doing this is through ABM.

I recently spoke with someone from a leading ABM agency (which will remain anonymous lest I’ve misremembered any details) who told me about how she used outdoor advertising in a campaign it ran for a tech company. The agency found that one of its big-ticket target companies was recruiting for a batch of new IT roles. With this information they deduced that the company was likely to soon be investing in some new technology for its staff-in-waiting. Knowing the propensity to invest was there, the agency spent big on an extravagant and unmissable advert right outside the target’s office. Align those impressions with digital activity and the target buyer will already be on their way through the cycle.      

It all leads back to the customer experience and their expectations. As is often the case, B2C is leading the way, spoiling consumers to the point where they expect instant interaction with a brand whenever and wherever suits them. Those consumers are also B2B buyers, and their expectations do not change. Building a presence that caters for both the physical and digital world makes achieving aspirations of seamlessness and consistency a real possibility.