We live in the digital age. There are more than 3 billion people connected to the internet. For every 100 people on the planet, there are 96 mobile telephone subscriptions. And more and more of our everyday objects—cuddly toys, cars, even kettles—have created an “internet of things.” Marketers, in particular, hope that so-called digital marketing will allow them to gain new customer insights, refine customer segmentation, and communicate to customers more efficiently and effectively. They anticipate that the digital age will offer possibilities for new product innovation, advanced methods for engaging customers and original vehicles for creating brand communities. Despite the pervasiveness of digital technologies, however, digital marketing is seemingly still in its infancy. Contributions from both academics and practitioners who are experts in the field explore the realities of digital marketing.
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About the Author
John Branch is Clinical Assistant Professor of Business Administration at the Stephen M. Ross School of Business, and Faculty Associate at the Center for Russian, East European, and European Studies, both of the University of Michigan. John is also Visiting Fellow at Wolfson College, University of Cambridge in Cambridge, England.
Marcus Collins is a culturally curious thinker with an affinity for understanding the cognitive drivers and environmental factors which impact human behaviour. He is a Golden Apple Award nominated faculty member at the Ross School of Business at the University of Michigan, and leads the Social Engagement practice at Doner Advertising. Marcus was recognised as Ad Age’s 2016 40 Under 40 bright young minds who are reinventing and reshaping marketing’s future.
Eldad Sotnick-Yogev is an experienced strategic marketer who has worked with such companies as Ford, Jaguar/Land Rover, NBA, Fitbit, Zurich Insurance, and Eurostar, helping to steer their global digital and performance marketing strategies and analytics across paid, owned, and earned media channels. He has been published in Drum Magazine, WARC, and within the WPP Reading Room, and has spoken on AdTech panels.
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New Paradigms, Perspectives and Practices
John Branch, Marcus Collins and Eldad Sotnick-Yogev
Jeff Goldblum, Jurassic Park and Digital Dinosaurs
Jeff Goldblum has played many characters during his distinguished forty-plus-year acting career. Certainly, his first professional cinematic job, portraying Freak #1 in 1974's Death Wish, might not be particularly memorable. But who can forget Michael Gold in The Big Chill (a movie whose setting, somewhat coincidentally, was the University of Michigan)? Or what about Seth Brundle in The Fly, a role which won Jeff Goldblum several guild awards?
More recently, however, Goldblum has become a household name – more of a household face actually – as chaos theorist Dr. Ian Malcolm in the four Jurassic Park movies from 1993, 1997, 2001 and 2015. (A fifth instalment is scheduled for a 2018 release.) Based on novels by best-selling writer Michael Crichton, the movies centre on the catastrophic attempt to create an amusement park (Jurassic Park) which features cloned dinosaurs. The stunning computer-generated visual graphics, the human fascination with these awe-inspiring creatures and the nostalgic nod to the 1933 classic King Kong have made the movies one of the most beloved and financially successful movie franchises in cinematic history.
From a more philosophical perspective, however, the Jurassic Park movies, which at first glance appear to be intellectually light fare, belie a more cerebral undercurrent. Indeed, amidst all the dinosaur action chases ar e fundamental ontological questions about human existence, human experience and human evolution. Consider the following exchange between Goldblum's Dr. Ian Malcolm and two other characters:
Malcolm: If there is one thing the history of evolution has taught us it's that Life will not be contained. Life breaks free, it expands to new territories and crashes through barriers, painfully, maybe even dangerously, but, uh ... well, there it is.
Hammond: There it is.
Henry Wu: You're implying that a group composed entirely of female animals will ... breed?
Malcolm: No, I'm, I'm simply saying that Life, uh ... finds a way.
And so it is with technology ... or maybe, Technology, with a capital 'T'. That is to say, Technology, like Life, will find a way; it will also not be contained. To paraphrase Dr. Ian Malcolm, Technology breaks free; it expands to new territories and crashes through barriers, painfully, maybe even dangerously. In other words, Technology evolves through the sometimes wrenching replacement of existing versions – that which Schumpeter (1975) called "creative destruction".
Now, the specific technology which is the subject of this anthology, and which is part and parcel of this broader Technological evolution, is digital marketing. 'Digital', when used as an adjective, refers to a series of 1s and 0s. Accordingly, a digital signal is a signal which is composed of 1s and 0s. A digital watch is a watch whose timing is actuated by 1s and 0s, not balance springs and escapements.
It follows, therefore, that digital marketing – by definition – is marketing which is expressed in a series of 1s and 0s. Stated this way, the term 'digital marketing' is meaningless, nonsense, a load of rubbish. And as such, digital marketing could be written off as nothing more than a buzzword, a catchphrase, the soupe du jour.
A more mindful reflection on the term 'digital marketing', however, leads to a different and more nuanced understanding of the phenomenon. We suggest that digital marketing ought to be viewed as marketing which employs – harnesses, leverages, exploits – digital technologies. Ponder those pesky pop-ups on your favourite newsfeed site and you realise that they are promotional advertisements on digital media. How about those (Orwellian) text messages which you might receive when walking past the GAP, tempting you with personalised discounts on a new pair of jeans? Or consider Bank of America's mobile-telephone deposit application which allows customers to deposit cheques straight into their accounts using their mobile-telephone cameras, thereby freeing them of long queues, tedious deposit slips and all the other hassles of traditional face-to-face and even drive-thru banking.
Viewing digital marketing this way extends the boundaries of digital marketing beyond the street-level notion that marketing=advertising. That is to say, digital marketing is not only digital communications. On the contrary, digital marketing can and ought to include all types of marketing activities, from marketing research, to the STPs, to the other three 'P's of the marketing mix. Consider Klout, for example, a company which developed an algorithm to assign a word-of-mouth score according to a person's influence on various websites.
Viewing digital marketing this way also intimates that any digital technology, although important, is subordinate to marketing. Indeed, despite the moniker, it is marketing first, digital second. Consequently, one conclusion which might be drawn is that the essence of marketing has changed little, if any, over time, despite the rapid advances of Technology. In other words, marketing – the act of going to market with a product to exchange for money with a customer – remains the same, irrespective of any digital technology which is employed in service of going to market.
This foregrounding of marketing instead of digital also reminds us that human behaviour is very slow to change, even in the face of rapid advances in Technology. A digital technology often encourages a behaviour, making it more prevalent and more frequent, but it rarely alters that behaviour. Digital readers, for example, enable people to read in more locations, and perhaps even to read more books. But the act of reading remains the same.
So, if the essence of marketing is fundamentally the same, and if human behaviour is relatively static over time, then why all the fuss about digital marketing? Why indeed? The answer to us is simple – that digital technologies transform the market, thereby presenting marketers with many new opportunities (and simultaneously many new challenges) that point to new marketing practices: new research modes, new product designs, new pricing models and so on.
A market, from an economics perspective, is the site of an exchange (between a company and the customer). It is the place where buyers and sellers come together. It is the nexus of supply and demand. But to many marketers (because we love alliterative models), a market is comprised of customers, the company, competitors, collaborators and the context. In this model, both the company and competitors make up the industry. Collaborators are those entities which help the company go to market. And the context is the business environment.
Using this model of a market, therefore, it ought to be obvious that digital technologies have indeed transformed the market. Beginning with customers, they now have new choices for their media, for example, and their preferences for which media to use have changed. They rely on different influencers in their purchase decisions. They have different expectations from the industry. Consider the immediacy with which customers now expect their complaints to be resolved. According to the Lithium-commissioned study by Millward Brown Digital (2013), 53% of people expect a company to respond to Tweet demands in less than an hour.
Digital technologies have likewise transformed industries, and in turn the nature of competition within these industries. Where oh where is Blockbuster these days, once the darling of the media industry? Hilton Hotels and Resorts faces trouble as its room count is surpassed by the number of listings on Airbnb. And how about Uber, which, without owning a single vehicle, is disrupting the entire transportation industry, and whose market capitalisation is greater than that of both Ford and General Motors?
And it is plain to see that digital technologies have also transformed both collaborators and the context. Companies can issue coupons with the assistance of digital promotional 'agents' like Groupon, for example. Retailing and sales transactions can be outsourced to the likes of Amazon and Alibaba. And society no longer views the online search for a mate as vulgar and inappropriate.
As stated previously, however, all these market transformations which have resulted from digital technologies present marketers with many new opportunities (and simultaneously many new challenges) which point to new marketing practices. And therein lies the rub. Many companies are unprepared to seize these opportunities because they lack the requisite skills in digital marketing. Worse still are those companies whose future depends on developing these skills in digital marketing in order to overcome the many new challenges which the transformations present. If not careful, these companies might go the way of their Jurassic brethren, becoming, in a very Darwinian sense, digital dinosaurs.
It is not surprising, therefore, that companies around the world are scrambling to up their digital competencies. Nestlé, for example, was one of the first high-profile global corporations to implement a reverse-mentoring program for members of the C-suite. Under the leadership of Pete Blackshaw, Vice President of Digital and Social, the 150-year-old FMCG company has tapped young 'digital natives' to educate the older generation of Nestlé executives. "It's such an unbelievable experience because it's not only understanding the digital world it's also understanding different perspectives from different generations," explained Guillame-Grabisch, Chief Executive of the company's German division, reflecting on her experience of being mentored by a twenty-something employee.
It will take more than chats over coffee, however, to avoid becoming a digital dinosaur. Indeed, the opportunities and challenges which are presented by the market transformations necessitate a more sophisticated grasp of the basic and evolving nature of digital marketing. They point to the need for robust theories on digital marketing – theories which can help explicate consumer behaviours in the digital age. And they require the development of specific digital marketing practices to facilitate the execution of digital marketing. Voilà, the inspiration for this anthology!
This anthology is the product of a symposium, the format of which is based on a model from John's colleague Claus Nygaard from Copenhagen Business School. About 10 years ago, Claus noted that professors (and practitioners) often attend conferences at which they present their research in a 10–20 minute session, receive a few comments then 'head to the bar for a drink'. The conferences can be very expensive and they rarely lead to any tangible output. He proposed an alternative, therefore, which returns to that ancient Greek format – the symposium – at which co-creation is key and which generates a physical product for the participants.
So, about six months prior to a symposium, a call for chapter proposals which has a relatively tightly focused theme is announced on various electronic mailing lists. Authors submit chapter proposals accordingly, which are then double-blind reviewed. If a chapter proposal is accepted, its author is given four months to complete it. The whole chapter is then double-blind reviewed and, if it is accepted, the author is invited to attend the symposium. There, all authors revise their own chapters, work together to develop each other's chapters and collaborate to assemble an anthology which, a few months later, is sent to the publisher.
For this anthology, the theme was digital marketing. As the call for chapter proposals made plain, we now live in the digital age. Indeed, there are more than three billion people connected to the Internet. For every 100 people on the planet, there are 96 mobile-telephone subscriptions. And more and more of our everyday objects – cuddly toys, cars, even kettles – have been connected to create an 'Internet of things'.
It is no surprise, therefore, that companies are eager to harness this digital world. Marketers, in particular, hope that so-called digital marketing will allow them to gain new customer insights, refine customer segmentation, and communicate to customers more efficiently and effectively. They anticipate that the digital age will offer possibilities for new product innovation, advanced methods for engaging customers and original vehicles for creating brand communities.
Despite the pervasiveness of digital technologies, however, digital marketing is seemingly still in its infancy. To begin, what exactly is digital marketing? The term is bandied about but its meaning – its scope, outline, boundary and limits – is far from concise. Second, digital marketing is still very atheoretical. To date, it has largely been based on assumptions, guesswork and conjecture. And third, digital marketing is conducted ad hoc, with few (if any) standardised policies, practices or procedures.
For this anthology, therefore, the editors sought chapters which explored digital marketing. They welcomed chapters from professors and practitioners alike, and they were open to any methodological tradition. Specifically, the editors were guided by the three broad but interrelated themes which were identified above. These were:
1. Conceptual: What is digital marketing? Are there different types? How is it situated within marketing more broadly? Answering these types of questions will sharpen the definition of digital marketing. Proposals were evaluated, therefore, on their contribution to our understanding of the nature of digital marketing.
2. Theoretical: How does digital marketing work? What are its effects? Can it be controlled? Answering these types of questions will raise the significance of digital marketing. Proposals were evaluated, therefore, on their contribution to our understanding of the mechanisms of digital marketing.
3. Practical: How is digital marketing conducted? What are its different channels? In which contexts does it work? Answering these types of questions will increase the application of digital marketing. Proposals were evaluated, therefore, on their contribution to our understanding of the function of digital marketing.
The call for chapter proposals resulted in more than 30 submissions from around the world which covered an array of different aspects of digital marketing. The subsequent review and re-submission process served to whittle these down to the 15 chapters which follow in this anthology. The symposium at which the chapters were revised and the anthology was assembled was held in October 2016 at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor. In addition to the academic symposium activities, authors strolled the campus of the University of Michigan, seeing, among other things, the spot at which President John F. Kennedy announced the American Peace Corps program. We enjoyed Michigan's culinary delights, including a Lebanese feast, chocolate-covered cherries and nibbles from Ann Arbor's 'famous' Zingerman's Deli. And we watched the home team, Wolverines, beat the visiting Illinois Illini in American football at Michigan Stadium – a.k.a. The BigHouse – the nation's largest and the world's third-largest stadium.
The Editors and Digital Marketing
As editors, of course, we bring our own perspectives to the role, which are based on our own experiences in and with digital marketing. We have our own philosophical assumptions about human nature which, in turn, influence our views about the appropriateness of digital marketing. And of course, we have our own career paths which have dictated our engagement with digital marketing.
It is often said that today's children make up the first generation of 'digital natives'. Indeed, in their new book, Born Digital: Understanding the First Generation of Digital Natives, authors John Palfrey and Urs Gasser argue that these children were raised – to paraphrase the age-old saying – with a silver device in their hands. And consequently, the authors claim, they constitute a new generation which has its own unique worldview, its own specific behavioural patterns and even its own distinctive philosophical life approach.
At almost 50, I would definitely be considered too old by Palfrey and Gasser to be part of this generation. But I suggest – perhaps in a very Generation X self-centred way – that it is my age peers and I who are the true digital children. Huh? My reasoning is simple. We lived through the digital revolution. We witnessed first-hand the launch of all the new-fangled digital products. We listened and watched in awe as digital technology transformed our lives.(Continues…)
Excerpted from "Contemporary Issues in Digital Marketing"
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Table of Contents
Chapter 1. New Paradigms, Perspectives and Practices John Branch, Marcus Collins and Eldad Sotnick-Yogev,
Chapter 2. Systems Marketing Laura Sawyer,
Chapter 3. And She Told Two Friends – The Power of the Network in Digital Marketing Marcus Collins and John Branch,
Chapter 4. Location, Location, Location – The Influence of the Digital Marketing Context Marcus Collins and John Branch,
Chapter 5. Marketing as a Service Jon Bond,
Chapter 6. Digital Marketing in Emerging Markets Thamer Ahmad Baazeem,
Chapter 7. The Seven Stages of the Digital Marketing Cycle Tom van Laer and Ian Lurie,
Chapter 8. Building Communities of Influence Andrew Zarick,
Chapter 9. Dimensions of Voice in Social Media Stephanie Leishman, Frédéric Brunel and Barbara Bickart,
Chapter 10. The Shared Brand David Fossas,
Chapter 11. Designing Organisations for Holistic Digital Success Shalonda Hunter,
Chapter 12. Social Utility – Useful Services, Applications and Content as Digital Marketing Bryan Pedersen,
Chapter 13. Ideological Capital, Networks and Social-media Strategies Yotam Shmargad and Jameson Watts,
Chapter 14. The Past, Present and Future of Digital Marketing Content Deborah Goldring,
Chapter 15. Conversing through Content – The Intersection of Social Media and Digital Media in Music Ed Suwanjindar,
Chapter 16. Using Technology for Smart Localisation Francesco Rocchi and Eric Watson,