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Jeff Schmidt

Digital is DEAD!


Procter & Gambles global brand building officer Marc Pritchard proclaimed digital marketing to be DEAD."

Pritchard urges marketers to look beyond the pipes and plumbing of digital and social media to what really matters: engaging people with creative campaigns. In his recent speech, Pritchard said to marketers, Try and resist thinking about digital in terms of the tools, platforms, or QR codes, and all of the technology coming next. Instead, the future lies 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."

Frequently, when Im talking to business owners and the topic of marketing comes up, someone will say, We really need to create a better digital strategy. Many radio and TV stations are trying to maximize. their digital selling efforts.

This is likely to be unpopular, but my question to both is, WHY?" Please dont misunderstand; Im an early adopter. I think the digital world is fascinating, engaging, and distracting all at the same time. It can delight the senses, engage the audience, and go viral in a hurry. The problem, as I see it, is that its not the PLATFORM that is doing the engaging, its the message.

In my work as a brand strategist, I always start with the message, and the message always starts with the consumer or end user. After identifying the consumer, you analyze the competitive landscape to find your point of differentiation. Once you have created a brand marketing strategy, then and only then can you start to explore where to execute the strategy.

Digital is a platform. The cool thing about digital platforms is they are user controlled.  This is also the ugly side of digital platforms; all the control is in the hands or fingers of the user. So if you arent grabbing their attention and engaging them in the first few seconds, theyre gone. With traditional media -- television, radio, and newspaper -- theyre more likely to "sit through" the commercials. As an example, consider the gateway videos that play on certain websites or YouTube. So fickle is the audience that the producer of the content has to put a skip this ad" banner at the bottom. After five seconds, you can skip right to the content you want. Ninety-nine percent of the time I skip. Thats the ugly side of digital as platform -- you have five whole seconds to get my attention and keep it, or Im gone. Thats a brutal reality and substantiates my theory that its not about the platform, its about the message and the strategy.

Pritchard talked about a recent campaign strategy for Braun electric shavers that initially ran only online. Pritchard says of the success, It wasnt the digital component. It was the campaign.

Do you think consumers know the difference between a digital ad and a traditional ad?  Thats lingo only marketing people use. My dad, for instance, doesnt distinguish an email blast, a Facebook gutter, or column ad from the radio ads he hears listening to the Detroit Red Wings. Ive never had a discussion with him about the digital strategy of a company. Hes the first to tell me, though, when he finds an ad in poor taste or offensive. It was comical to hear him complain about the first time he got a porn pop-up. I still get a good laugh at that.

Heres the big idea. You dont need to worry about platforms, delivery methods, or digital, unless and until you have an outstanding brand strategy in place. Unless you start with the brand strategy, you will be chasing your tail after the latest shiny thing to come on the market in the form of another advertising tool.

Dont be the tool. Be the craftsman/woman. Create your message; identify your core values, your point of differentiation in the marketplace, and your desired outcome. Determine how you are going to dramatize that and what you want your customers to do as a result of the message. Then determine what tools best fit within your budget.

Digital as a platform is not dead. Digital as THE strategy was dead on arrival. Many who tried to create a strategy around the platform saw an ugly and perhaps expensive death of their campaign.

Some companies have done amazing things with digital execution of a carefully created brand strategy. Starbucks, United Airlines, and Walgreens -- just to name a few -- have maximized brand strategy using digital. I know this because I have their digital products in my Passbook" on my iPhone. The caution is this: its not the cool app that matters to me, its that I can go to Starbucks or Walgreens, flip out my phone, and have them scan it for payment. Thats convenience. Book a flight, check flight status, board the plane, and get email or text alerts of delays . . . all part of a digital platform being used properly to maximize brand strategy and for MY benefit.

Strategy is and always will be KING. The platforms are just the vehicles that carry the king around. A car without a driver may look nice, but it goes nowhere. A platform without a strategy is cool . . . until someone with a driver and a cooler vehicle goes zooming by.

Ill be at the DASH conference in Detroit this week. ( Im looking forward to learning some amazing things about radios impact in the dash. Lets find each other and talk about digital, technology, or anything else.

Think Big, Make Big Things Happen!

Jeff Schmidt is EVP and Partner with Chris Lytle at Sparque, Inc.You can reach him at,, follow him on Twitter @JeffreyASchmidt, or connect via LinkedIn