May 2016

Got your attention didn’t I. Well I’m not talking about me, although I am sure there are many who would consider me an old dinosaur ready for the pasture. No, I’m talking about those “old channels” that just get in the way of progress. Heck, if I had a quarter for every time I heard that advertising agencies were done, that they weren't needed any more, I’d be rich.

One of my favorite debates about digital marketing goes like this: When will email be replaced by ___________ (fill in the blank)? Or when will brands stop using SMS? Even the internet is challenged: When will apps or Facebook kill the Web?

Rather than defend any individual digital marketing channel, I want to highlight an important fact: So far nothing has replaced anything in digital marketing. Instead, we’ve seen a layering of new digital channels on top of existing channels, which creates a rich tapestry of ways to connect with customers. The Internet of Things adds even more options for customer-to-brand interactions, and the most popular connected devices like FitBit use email and mobile notifications to reach users.

It’s striking to me how new channels typically build upon others instead of tearing them down. Let me give you some examples of layering in action…

AMAZON has not killed the RETAIL STORE. Retailers have long been concerned about online stores’ hassle free shopping and wide inventory. But instead of wiping out retail, online stores’ personalized product review and digital marketing programs are actually driving people to physical stores. The fact is, researching online and purchasing in-store is actually quite common.

DIGITAL has not killed PRINT. Magazines, handwritten letters and direct mail are not museum pieces; they are still part of everyday life. Print hasn’t disappeared from marketing strategies, either. Instead, print marketing is evolving from spray and pray to on-demand and one-to-one.

MOBILE MESSAGING has not killed EMAIL. LINE, WeChat, WhatsApp and their contemporaries keep people in touch, no matter where they are in the world. Yet email remains the top channel for the majority of in-office dealings and brand-to-customer communications, and plenty of personal conversations, too. Mobile has actually reinvigorated email with 53% of emails now opened on mobile devices.

INSTAGRAM and SNAPCHAT have not killed FACEBOOK. If there is one thing modern marketer’s love, it’s data. We have access to more data than ever, but we must be cautious about the conclusions we draw from it. I’ve seen study after study surveying consumers on their channel preference, and many of these studies proclaim that young adults and teens prefer Instagram and Snapchat to Facebook. In reality, Facebook is growing. That is no accident as Facebook regularly innovates with new features to keep users coming back, like live video for public figures and auto-play video. Instagram and Snapchat are growing, too, but Facebook’s growth globally and among older users is nothing to sneeze at.

AD BLOCKING won’t kill GREAT ADVERTISING. Apples IOS 9 introduced a new ad-free environment for iPhones, but ad blocking is an old school service. Think back to the pop-up blockers you likely installed on an old PC. While ad blockers are indeed becoming more popular and sophisticated, new ad platforms are also driving innovation for both customers and marketers. These new ads are emotional and entertaining storytelling vehicles, just like the best ads always have been. Add in the possibilities for super-targeted personalization and you can appreciate why the future of on-line advertising is bright.

The bottom line is that today’s marketers are fortunate that they have more channels at their disposal to serve customers than ever before, and they need to use those tools to create an integrated experience for their audiences. This means, you’ll probably need to include some of the channels that people said would be dead by now. I hope you didn’t bury them.

What do you think?

Joe Bouch
A full service marketing communications firm and advertising agency in Altamonte Springs (Orlando) Florida