May 14, 2009

Analog, Digital, Social

Folks seem to be self-selecting themselves into three camps.

The first camp is the classic direct marketing crowd, rebranded as the "multichannel marketing" audience. I call this audience the "Analog" audience. This camp knows more about strategic direct marketing than anybody else in direct marketing, having been introduced to direct marketing as the credit card, the 1-800 number, and the database took prominence. This crowd reads Catalog Success and DMNews. This crowd attends ACCM and Internet Retailer. Ask this crowd to launch a new product or service, and they'll have a business plan for you in a couple of hours, one that spans multiple channels.

The second camp is what I'd call the "Digital" crowd, online marketers who burst onto the scene during the late 1990s and early part of this decade. This crowd knows more about classic online marketing than anybody. They can tell you that shopping cart abandonment is 43.84830048% if various criteria are met. They're great at SEO and Paid Search and Banner Ads, they know that the open rate on the last e-mail campaign was 22.438%. They know and love tactics. They can be strategic direct marketers, but seem to adore their form of marketing, are are willing to forego bigger opportunities to stay loyal to their niche. This crowd attends Ask this crowd to launch a new product or service, and they'll have your Google marketing plan coupled with an e-mail campaign strategy ready to go in just a few hours.

The third camp is what I'd call the "Social" crowd. This crowd is motivated by technology, the "shiny new toy", if you will. The shiny new toy might be an iPhone app, it might be getting 11,000 followers on Twitter, or it might be creating a viral campaign using Facebook. This person might be 55 years old, this person might be 25 years old. Ask this crowd to launch a new product or service, and you'll have your new product or service in a few hours!

What seems to be missing from the marketing departments of 2009 is a balanced representation of Analog, Digital, and Social strategy.

The traditional catalog brand spends 50 minutes of a 60 minute meeting debating whether 124 pages is better than 116, wondering if an 8 page insert will boost demand, considering whether a Wed-Fri in-home window might work better than Mon-Wed. Analog topics dominate the meeting.

The online brand struggles with driving traffic ... we'll over-think an e-mail campaign that will cause only 1 in 700 recipients to purchase, or we'll dig into our pile of 74,000 keywords to come up with micro-copy that will stimulate clicks. Digital marketers often need analog tools to drive traffic, but there's a fierce independence among this audience.

And then we have the social crowd --- everything is viral! If the product is good enough, it will stand out on its own and will create its own audience ... so let's make it free and social and then things will work. The wisdom of the digital crowd is missing, the strategy of the analog audience seldom surfaces.

In the 2010s, the opportunity exists for a leader to straddle each frontier ... analog, digital, and social. The leader doesn't have to be an expert in each area, but the leader has to hire folks proficient in each realm.

In the 2010s, the best strategies will incorporate percentages of Analog, Digital, and Social strategy.

In 2009, I sit in too many meetings where a faction with Analog, Digital, or Social experience dominates the meeting. Knowledge of the target customer, coupled with a strong mixture of varied experience, will yield positive results.


  1. Another words your team should have a running back that can play quarterback and wide receiver as well.

  2. That works. A head coach that that calls more than just running plays or screen passes helps, too!

  3. Kevin,

    I definitely agree with you, all the strategies you mentioned, Analog, Digital and Social, cannot live on their own. Their not isolated, but extremely correlated systems.

    The problem I think is that most of the time we think that being "proficient" in a certain area implies living in silo-environments, trying to achieve goals on our own without sharing information with other areas of the business. It's like internal competition. Insane!

    More and more we have to start looking at more integrated approaches, attribution models and warehouse environments to support decision making if we want to get ahead of our competitors.

    Very good post!


  4. Honestly, I'm fine with silos ... so long as there is excellent communication and cross-team education.

    I think your last full paragraph is well said.

  5. I agree that a linked-silo environment can work. Communication, that´s the key word. Nevertheless in so many cases its absence is at the root of the problem. We have to make it happen.


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