Over 4 years ago, I wrote a post called “The Great Internet Marketing Lie.” I just read it again today, and I stand by every word I said then. I won’t repeat its contents here, so if you’d like to see what I had to say back then, please take a moment to read it.

This issue has been on my mind once again due to a recent situation to which I was privy
in which a digital marketing agency took unabashed, irresponsible, and Digital Marketing Liecompletely self-serving advantage of a struggling company I was brought in to help point in the right direction. The offending agency charged this company multiple times its annual profits for their services that were supposed to significantly increase revenues. Instead, sales plummeted.

I took the opportunity to meet with the agency, and was entertained (although not amused) by the pats they gave themselves on the back for taking this company from position 157 to 73 on Google for obscure search terms very few people were using. They further paraded their design awards for me, pointing out how much prettier the company’s website was now compared to the “ancient” look they previously had. (That “ancient” website was making money, however, which seemed to be lost on these non-business people.)

In the end, they were not willing to let the suffering client out of the 12-month contract they had entered into, despite the fact the agency had failed to perform on a number of the specific services provided for in the agreement. They were unapologetic for the wasted six-digit investment of this small company. (“Hey, no marketing effort is guaranteed, right?”) And, they had no potential solutions to offer beyond increasing the budget to get more exposure and services. Truly disgusting.

The Internet is not magic, as I stated in my previous post on this subject. Mobile marketing, video marketing, and other digital marketing tools are not cure-alls for sagging revenue pictures. (By the way, I dislike terms like “[blank] marketing” because they mislead unschooled marketers into thinking a single tool or vehicle is, perhaps, a marketing solution in its entirety.)  Digital marketing tools shouldn’t be a black box unwitting end-users pay through the nose to use because they feel hostage to the “gurus” who [supposedly] know how to use them. They are nothing more than vehicles to carry a properly crafted message, targeted at an appropriate audience, for the purpose of creating engagement and action–a function that hasn’t changed since the dawn of marketing.

“Digital Marketing” is a dangerous term, if not properly understood. All the elements that make up effective marketing still apply here. The latest digital fad is not “the new face of marketing.” It’s a new tool–just like billboards, bumper stickers, radio, TV, direct mail, and many other message vehicles were when they were introduced.  And, just like other message vehicles through the centuries, these digital tools, too, will change over time.

We live in a very exciting time. The rate at which new digital technologies allow us to engage with our audiences is staggering. Used properly, they can be very effective. Otherwise, they are shiny distractions that suck time and money while returning nothing to their users. Don’t fall for the lie that “digital marketing” has replaced “traditional marketing.” (Again, I dislike those terms.) Effective marketing is, and will always be, the same set of principles applied using an ever-evolving set of implementation tools. Keep this in mind the next time you’re presented with the latest, greatest marketing breakthrough.

Bryan Waldon Pope
America’s Chief Marketing Officer

I help business owners and marketing decision-makers engage in marketing that works. If your marketing isn’t working the way you’d like it to, contact me and let’s fix that.