Why Digital Marketing Needs a Reboot

Break Those 'Tradigital' Habits

By Published on .

David Armano David Armano also writes the popular Logic + Emotion blog.
Once upon a time, newspapers, TV and radio entered our lives. These wonderful inventions spawned yet another one -- multichannel advertising. Then along came things like DVRs and everything digital, which spawned yet another invention, the backlash of traditional advertising. For the record, traditional advertising isn't going away anytime soon, and despite the pronouncement of its death, it will live on -- albeit in an evolved format. And it actually still works. I look at billboards on highways. How can you not?

But "tradigital" could be another story. Tradigital, in my opinion, means using traditional marketing methods in the digital space. For example, creating an advertising campaign and "extending it digitally" usually ends up as a checklist. Micro-site? Check. Online banners? Check. Social media? Check. Mobile? Check. But these days, I'm thinking digital people have even tougher challenges than our traditional cousins. And "tradigitalists" may have it toughest of all. Why? Because some of us on the digital side have become just as set in our ways as our traditional counterparts.

Old habits die hard. While consumers are out there spending countless hours on social networks, file-sharing applications, chat, community sites, buying stuff, selling stuff and using multiple devices, some of us tradigital old fogies are still reaching for our beloved toolbox of the past in the hopes of getting their attention. While online user behavior tells us that people respond well to simplicity, we labor to create complexity in the form of experimental navigation and sites that take forever to load. When YouTube arrived on the scene, we responded by putting our TV spots on it or -- better yet -- creating spots that looked like they were made by amateurs. Little did we know that the real action happens in the comments. Have we thought about talking back to people, or are we really just interested in telling our stories?

And what about online gaming? It's a fixture for tradigitalists. Yet, many popular online games weren't created by agencies and don't have brands associated with them. Scrabulous, anyone? I don't follow Cannes closely, but with a few exceptions it seems to reward "tradigital" creativity. How clever was the idea? How good was the storytelling? These are all hallmarks of creativity, but I also see creativity as solving business problems. I really like My Starbucks Idea, because I think Starbucks will gain insights from the feedback they get there -- these insights may eventually contribute to Starbucks re-capturing some of the loyalty they once enjoyed, and that could reflect well upon their stock price. Would My Starbucks Idea win a Cyber Lion? I really don't know. It's not flashy, it's not terribly original (Dell did it already) and hey, where's the sound effects? But if Starbucks plays its cards right, it could become a powerful tool for turning their ship around.

It's time to come to terms with how people really use the web (hint -- it might not be to figure out your experimental navigation) and how we can harness the true power of digital. Digital marketing doesn't need more tradigital creativity -- it needs more creative problem solving. It just might be time for the industry to reboot.
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