Four Digital-Era Marketing Myths That Are Hurting Your Brand

This is the media landscape we’ve inherited.

A vast digital network connecting nearly every person on the planet.

Free from the constraints of physical space, we can interact with people in ways that were previously impossible.

We no longer need old, expensive technologies to reach consumers.

Traditional marketing is dead.

We're in a new paradigm of digital commerce.

Let’s take a moment to remember the Trabant.

Introduced in 1957, the Trabant was manufactured in East Germany under the Soviet regime.

It was an advanced car for the time, having front wheel drive, an independent suspension and a body made from plastic and recycled cotton waste from the Soviet Union.

Over 3 million Trabants were made between 1957 and 1990.

Demand was so high that there was a 10 year waiting list to buy one.

Unfortunately, the Trabant was a terrible car...

It was uncomfortable, unreliable and severely underpowered.

Early models didn’t even include a fuel gauge, so drivers had to guess when they were running low on gas.

But since the Soviet Union banned western manufacturers, there were no other options for East Germans who wanted to own a car.

Its success was solely due to the environment in which it was made.

An environment that operated under a different set of rules and assumptions to the rest of the world.

An environment divorced from reality.

Marketers are also living in a fantasy world of their own.

Much like East Germany under the Soviet regime, we are now in an environment that can only be sustained by ignoring the outside world.

Our assumptions are not supported by facts, but feelings.

We ignore data in favour of digital myths.

Myth #1

Organic content trumps paid media.

Brands grow through engagement, conversation and virality. Social media is more

effective and efficient in reaching new consumers than traditional paid media.

The reality

Paid media is still the best way to reach consumers.

Engagement does not measure effectiveness. Consumers rarely want to converse with brands. Viral content is rare, and very difficult to create.

You have to pay to get your message seen.

“A $500 [paid] investment drives greater visibility than a [Facebook] page can achieve organically with 90 Million fans.” — Wes Finley, Global Social Media Marketing Lead at Facebook

Myth #2

TV is dead.

Most people, especially younger people, don’t watch TV, and TV advertising is an inefficient waste of money.

The reality

TV is thriving.

Younger people watch nearly as much TV as older people, and TV advertising is still the most effective way to build a brand.

Myth #3

Consumers want timely and relevant advertising.

People prefer ads that are personalized to their needs. Digital advertising allows us to do this efficiently and effectively.

The reality:

Consumers hate the digital ad world we’ve created.

People think that digital ads are annoying and invasive. One in four internet users choose to block digital ads, with the number expected to rise.

Myth #4

Brand purpose is now integral to success.

It is no longer enough to just sell products — consumers now demand authentic, purposeful

brands. Strong ideals beyond profit drive growth and success.

The reality:

No-one cares about your brand’s purpose.

There is no evidence that brand purpose results in superior success or growth. Consumers do not care about a brand’s ideals, and are rarely willing to pay more for them.

“A true brand purpose doesn’t boost profit, it sacrifices it.” — Mark Ritson, Adjunct Professor, Melbourne Business School

The digital revolution has destroyed campaign effectiveness, and hurt the bottom line.

In our eagerness to embrace the new, we’ve blinded ourselves to the realities of our profession.

Our strategies and tactics are often ineffective and damaging.

The new tools we use are not as effective as we think.

Why is this important?

For East Germans, cars were expensive and unreliable — that’s just how things were.

Everything they knew about cars was wrong.

Trabants were bad cars.

But no-one realized it, because that’s all they were allowed to use.

Until everything changed.

After the Berlin Wall collapsed, the Trabant become an object of ridicule, a symbol for the backward ways of the political system that created it.

The company could not compete with the newly available car brands from the West.

After the reunification of Germany in 1989, they became so worthless that most owners abandoned them on the street, leaving them to rot.

Want to avoid a similar fate?

1. Become media neutral

Digital media isn’t better or worse than traditional media. Your market research and strategy should dictate what mediums you use to deliver your advertising messages.

2. Invest in creative, long-term brand-building campaigns

Your brand’s purpose is to sell products or services at a profit, not to save the world. Be distinctive and memorable.

3. Focus on paid media

Promote your best content to ensure people see your messages.

4. Measure the right things

Short-term metrics like ROI deliver small, immediate successes at the expense of larger, long-term growth. Figure out what KPIs your business needs to succeed, and measure everything you do against it.

Download a printable PDF version of this report, which also contains references, more charts and data, fancy pictures, and links to further reading.

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© 2020 by Ian Barnard.