7 obsolete digital marketing strategies

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Out with the old; obsolete strategy 1

When I entered into the marketing world as a PR intern in 1994, digital marketing consisted of multimedia demos on CD-ROM. The World Wide Web was just starting to take off, and fax machines were preferred over email for remote communications.

Since then, the digital universe has exploded, offering marketers unprecedented opportunities to reach prospective customers. Unfortunately, many of the old dogs of digital and traditional marketing are not quick to learn new tricks.

In the following article, I will outline obsolete digital marketing strategies still in widespread use today. More importantly, I will suggest alternative approaches for each of the seven outdated techniques that are more likely to generate a positive return on investment (ROI).

Building a digital marketing department
After nearly 15 years of corporations and agencies building "digital" marketing teams, some savvy companies are realizing this is outdated thinking. In this model, companies hire "digitally savvy" marketers (aka, recent college graduates) to fill in gaps left by the traditional marketing team. The problem is that, often, neither party respects each other and, thus, collaboration is lacking.

By definition, marketing should be agnostic to media type, and so too should the strategist developing and implementing marketing campaigns. As such, companies need to conduct a skills assessment of existing marketing teams to determine who might need training or who might need to be replaced with talent that natively understands both digital and analog worlds. That doesn't mean automatically hiring recent college grads either.

While there are a host of training and consulting resources available to "teach" digital to traditional marketers, it can be just as challenging to teach traditional marketing to younger, less-experienced digital strategists. Although ensuring your marketing team is able to truly integrate digital into campaigns can be challenging, it will be a requirement for companies looking to thrive in the new millennium.



Kent Lewis
Kent Lewis November 4, 2010 at 5:02 PM

Not closed! We never close!

Gary Cunningham
Gary Cunningham November 4, 2010 at 4:03 PM

Are comments closed here?

Roman Schauer
Roman Schauer October 19, 2010 at 2:05 PM

I think you are spot on with these except there is still plenty of room for "digital marketing" specialties within organizations. In fact, I would say now more than ever. While companies may not choose to segregate "traditional" and "digital" specialties, the marketing landscape in digital has become much more rich and varied and you should not expect all your marketers to be experts in each area. It could even be argued that search marketing is now too broad and requires it's own group of sub-specialists. Beyond that each channel in digital has its own rules of the road which may not be compatible with the marketing objectives. While I agree that communication among multi-generational team members is critical, you still need specialists to lead the way in their areas. The non-specialists can lead in strategy.

Nikki Piplani
Nikki Piplani September 14, 2010 at 3:50 PM

Hi Kent,
Good summary and some good comments here. To me, it all sounds like what's needed is a plain well, thought out integrated strategy based on feedback and data. From website design to email marketing to social media plans - if we could bring all sources together to look at the data and trends and tie them back to common business goals, it's not that hard to arrive at an integrated strategy. By doing that, we can make sure we are marching to a common goal and achieveing objectives. There is the need for specialists who understand the power and limitations of specific channels and media and then those with the skills and ability to tie all of those together in a plan.

Doing that, however, is harder to do than to go off and build plans and programs in a silo - which explains why a lot of the things you decry are still very much an established practice.


Carter Boatner
Carter Boatner September 13, 2010 at 4:18 PM

Great point about building digital marketing "teams". Oftentimes the appointees are gleaned from PR-related posts and have little in the way on ingenuity experience.

Kent Lewis
Kent Lewis September 13, 2010 at 10:54 AM

Thank you for your comments Lori & Jeff. I agree that branding metrics are certainly valid for a variety of situations. In the context of this article however, I was taking the stance that older modes of thinking will not sustain or grow a brand. Branding does not always correlate with sales, as Superbowl ads have shown us.

Jeff, good point on evolving vs. killing various marketing strategies. For the purpose of the article, I took a strong stance against a variety of outdated strategies. It doesn't mean I don't support them in theory, or that they can't work, but that they may not be as effective now as they once were. We agree though: think before you market. It's a complicated world out there and consumers are savvy and jaded as ever.

Jeff Cannon
Jeff Cannon September 13, 2010 at 9:37 AM

Nice overview on where people are going wrong by sticking to the tried and true. It is not necessarily that those tools no longer work, it is that they need to be adapted to how the medium has changed overall.

No matter what moniker we try to add to it, it still sounds like evolution to me. Which means the good agencies and brands evolve,or, well, we all know what happened to the dinosaurs...

So next time you need to move your business, Think.

Think Cannon


Lori Shecter
Lori Shecter September 13, 2010 at 8:55 AM

Great article. With the exception that, for many years (at least 5) my clients demanded a ROI on their online investment While this is an important part of the mix,it important to count brand awareness as a critical success metric with digital marketing. Brand awareness hopefully translates to sales where it counts--in store or online. Just like with TV, print, radio, etc. I'm all for ROI but lets not forget the impact Brand Awareness has on purchase patterns.
Lori Shecter