Crossing the Divide: How Digital Marketing Connects Brands to Business


Calling all digital marketers: 2013 looks like your year. I’m sure you’ve noticed that we’ve become a nation of “multi-screeners” using smartphones, tablets, computers and TVs — sometimes simultaneously — to gather and process information. In this highly mobile and interconnected world, businesses are relentlessly looking for better ways to compete. Digital marketing has emerged as a critical factor for competitive differentiation and growth.

The traditional marketing funnel has changed into a screen; gone are the days of the linear sales and marketing progression. Consumers now start the sales process from a multitude of entry points including category awareness, brand preference, local availability to point of purchase promotion, and exposure to social media interactions. Today’s multimedia, multi-tasking consumer presents both risks and opportunities to brands that integrate their marketing strategy.

Yet in many companies there is a divide between digital marketing and branding. Short-term, campaign-oriented, tactic-heavy digital marketing is seen as a separate endeavor from long-term, awareness-oriented, image-building branding. Since the advent of Internet marketing, strategy has called for a careful calibration of branding efforts and direct response. But this doesn’t have to be the case. In fact, digital marketing can be the bridge to connect both brand and business goals.

Let’s gaze into the divide between branding and digital marketing. Does this sound like your company’s approach?

  • While brand development focuses on long-term goals, digital marketing tends to be relatively short term, only gazing as far ahead as the next campaign’s conversions.
  • Branding tactics are made up of “soft” components: targeting for contact, awareness, perception, future potential, and long-term value. Digital marketing tactics are focused on “hard” components: targeting for conversion, sales, traffic, clicks, and store visits.
  • Branding aspires to create one look, one voice, one message for the company. Digital marketing offers segmented, multi-targeted, personalized messages.
  • Branding uses indirect metrics and promotes intangible company assets. Digital marketing measures success with direct metrics and tangible company revenue.

If this is true of your marketing strategy, you’re not alone. Yet despite these real differences, there is a two-way interaction between brand and digital marketing that is mutually beneficial. Digital marketing has evolved to the point that companies no longer have to make artificial distinctions between brand engagement and lead generation. Stronger digital marketing builds stronger brands. Stronger brands outperform weaker ones in digital marketing. Well-integrated online campaigns offer powerful branding and direct response opportunities together.

Yes, Marketing with a capital “M” must ultimately generate and increase revenues. Each of its wide range of sub-disciplines, strategies and tactics – market research, product development, branding, communications, advertising, sales support, CRM, and more – is designed to grow the bottom line.

But more and more there is a need to demonstrate your brand’s promise at every point of each customer’s digital engagement path. Branding should influence virtually every digital marketing activity and in turn digital marketing will strengthen the company’s brand.

A recent Macy’s campaign is an excellent example of the possible synergy between brand and digital marketing. Macy’s sought to woo back customers with a “Rediscover the Magic of Macy’s” re-engagement email campaign. The email used Macy’s iconic star with a personalized message from the president of Macy’s and a digital call to action: “We miss your clicks! Come back now & start saving.” It’s just one example of a smart campaign that meets both brand and digital marketing goals.

With the arrival of a broad range of new opportunities — social marketing combined with SEO, SEM combined with DSP-enabled display, mobile, online video advertising, email, interactive TV — there are a myriad of new ways to accomplish these objectives. The challenge for today’s online professionals is to understand how these platforms overlap and how to capitalize on those points of integration.

Think of this as a four-step process.

1. Goal: Awareness

Tactic: SEO, Display, Affiliate Marketing

2. Goal: Engagement

Tactic: Mobile, Paid Media, Email, Social Media

3. Goal: Acquisition

Tactic: Paid Media, Mobile, Email

4. Goal: Retention

Tactic: Mobile, Email, Social Media

In 2013, attaining and sustaining a leadership position in a highly competitive market means being a digital frontrunner. This is the time to review your approach. Are you isolating your digital marketing efforts from your branding initiatives, or using each to bolster the other?

The platforms that are best at branding – social media and display – can and should be meshed with direct response vehicles like search, SEO, and email. As various social and interactive communication channels enter and transform the arena, CMOs can gain the advantage by blending these channels into one comprehensive interactive-marketing strategy. Not only is it possible, it’s absolutely essential for your success.



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