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Brand Management

Brand Management And The Death Of Digital


Marc Pritchard, Procter & Gamble’s global brand building officer, proclaimed digital dead at Dmexco and urged marketers to look beyond the pipes and plumbing of digital and social media to what really matters: engaging people with creative campaigns.

In his speech, Pritchard suggested that marketers need to:

Try and resist thinking about digital in terms of the tools, the platforms, the QR codes and all of the technology coming next.

Instead, he suggested:

… the future lay in building brands with campaigns that matter, make people think, feel and laugh. We have the chance to do all of those things now in a way that is so much more exciting than we did before.

Pritchard is correct to suggest that digital is dead. These days the division between digital and traditional exists only in the minds of marketers and engineers. Consumers simply see digital as part of their day-to-day lives.

Over 2 billion people now access the Internet worldwide, about one third of the global population. Facebook reaches one seventh of the world’s population. And in a few years’ time, smartphones will ensure that the reach of both is even greater. But the people that use these tools do so in conjunction with all the other aspects of their lives: relaxing, shopping and exploring. So a brand that is encountered online is no less a real world encounter than when it is seen in a store.

Pritchard alludes to another good reason to declare digital dead. The current fixation with pipes and plumbing has led to a back to front focus on how to do things rather than what the brand needs to achieve.

If you have read any of my other blog posts on the use of digital media, my big concern has been that the technology has trumped taking a consumer-centric view of the world. But it also seems to have trumped taking a more strategic view of brand management. What the brand needs to achieve needs to come first, and then we need to ensure that the means fits with how consumers relate to brands and advertising across the different channels we use.

So what are your thoughts? Is digital dead as a separate discipline?

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Twitter: berenicekalan
on October 08th, 2013 said

Hi there, your above article really made me laugh and I just had to comment. Digital is not Dead, in fact it is very much alive and well. How can a platform (or medium) be dead when it’s still in its infancy, unless you guys want to kill it off? Brands rely heavily on this new medium to connect with tech savvy consumers. And consumers rely on brands to bring them new ways to engage with their brands across this platform.

Brands may have their own goals about what they need to achieve, but the consumer (and the digital era) is in the driving seat here.

Bode on October 08th, 2013 said

The fact that digital has evolved and become part of the fabric of the consumer’s life doesn’t imply its demise. As long as there is room for innovation and invention, it will be somewhat shortsightedly to consider digital dead, more so when brands continue to use it as part of their communication platform.

Jeff Schmidt
Twitter: JeffreyASchmidt
on October 08th, 2013 said


I couldn’t agree with you more! Fantastic article. It’s inspired me to write one of a similar nature for Radio Ink, a publication I write for.

People are TOO FOCUSED on the latest “shiny” thing. (Digital) Digital is great, but it’s just another platform to extend the brand. Some companies have done amazing things with digital engagement, but it has very little to do with the platform and much to do with the brand strategy they are executing.

Strategy MUST remain the focal point, then you adapt the messaging to the delivery mechanism you choose to use. Many radio companies for instance call their digital strategy, the “streaming” of their terrestrial signal and a FaceBook Page. To maximize a brand, you have to tailor the message to the platform and the users of the platform.

Strategy is and always will be King. The platforms are just the vehicles for the King to arrive in.

Thanks for the inspiration.

Bob Wilhelm
Twitter: rjwilhelmjr
on October 09th, 2013 said

Digital as a marketing tool may be perceived by customers as “just another part of their day-to-day lives…” But I don’t agree that this perception is reality. Companies realize that digital strategies encompass a broader customer experience design potential….including communication, customer service, transaction, relationship management, etc. And these require longer-range strategic planning, potential capital commitment, deeper organizational engagement, etc. So while digital may be “just another” campaign tool, it is still unique because of its other applications. And that’s why companies often must focus on digital in a unique way.

Todd Thompson
Twitter: Todd_Thompson
on October 09th, 2013 said

I find it interesting that the author declares the mediums and platforms as dead given they are (at least now) critical in delivering any brands message and / or engaging the brands clients. In my opinion what he is really saying is marketers have done a horrible job of doing their job which is creating campaigns that truly engage, get people to think, laugh and feel. The technology and digital mediums can deliver this but only if the marketers and campaigns are created to achieve it.

Nigel on October 10th, 2013 said

I find it fascinating that the first two commentators don’t understand the meaning of my post but Jeff and Todd do. No, of course, digital is not dead as a channel but the way many marketers approach it should be. To assume that consumers “rely” on brands to engage them via digital is just delusional. Kudos to Todd who took the time to think about what I was really saying. Engaging people in any medium requires suspending your own viewpoint and really creating something of value to them.

Twitter: berenicekalan
on October 14th, 2013 said

Nigel, I am not at all delusional. I have carried out lots of research on this and consumers want brands to engage with them via their preferred means of communication be that online, mobile, console, tablets etc. If brands don’t then consumers quickly swap to brands that do. Marketers have a difficult job today trying to engage consumers well via all these different platforms and agreed some do that better than others. Brands need to realise that not one brand strategy fits all platforms and that some platforms lend themselves well to humour, feelings, thoughts etc. and brands must adapt where possible.

Walter Adamson
Twitter: adamson
on October 28th, 2013 said

Of course Digital is only at the beginning of it’s transformational power, and far from being dead — it’s only barely understood by the majority of business leaders. That’s the problem to which you allude. Having poor knowledge allows them, indeed entreats them, to engage the lowly end of the professional scale. They can’t understand the difference between core principles and skills and techniques and employ the “social media experts” who are barely more than home Facebook users. As Todd says, Marketing are their greatest enemy. I agree that the level of digital expertise currently exhibited has had it’s day.

Alesia Krush
Twitter: alesiakrush
on November 15th, 2013 said

Nigel, I believe Todd nailed it.
At the same time, with due respect to Mr. Pritchard, or whoever covered what he said, this is just much ado about nothing.
There was a time around 2006 when online brand management was something new and different from JUST brand management.
In 2013, the 2 are tight. YouTube is more popular than TV, Google is more popular than the good old Yellow Pages, so it’s not possible to do marketing or any branding without relying on these channels.
That said, it really goes without saying these days that both marketing and branding are multi- and cross-channel.
Just think about it, would Dove’s latest campaign or the Gangnam Style phenomenon be even possible without the digital?

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