Shortly after the internet revolutionized our lives, digital marketing developed into a new marketing channel that quickly became as important as the likes of traditional marketing channels that have been used throughout the 20th century. The exponential growth in the adoption of digital marketing was due to its unique abilities to track and target users, segment them based on various behaviors and demographics, and attribute digital marketing exposure to the sale of a product or service. Paired with cheap distribution networks, investment in digital marketing quickly became a lucrative medium for businesses. While this still holds true today, the rules of the game have changed with regulatory decisions on user privacy by both government and big tech. Where once digital marketing had an endless supply of user data that could be deployed to eerily run targeted ads that felt like they were listening to you, regulation has created anonymity that reduces or completely removes the effectiveness of commonly used targeting techniques. This impact has also spilled over into the ability to measure digital marketing effectiveness. The result has left many businesses in a difficult position to find direction with their paid digital marketing efforts, while others have realized to succeed they must adopt the tried and true traditional marketing techniques to allow them to keep their edge and drive revenue.
What User Privacy Regulations?
As I have mentioned in various blog posts before, digital marketing has been going through its most revolutionary transformation as government and corporate intervention with user privacy has limited or completely denied the tracking and sharing of user data. Where once marketers and advertisers could identify individuals or pseudo-individuals via device information like IDFA (iOS), GAID (Android), IP addresses and cookies (Browsers), government intervention with the likes of GDPA in the EU, CCPA in California and corporate intervention by Apple (ATT) and Android (Privacy Sandbox) have signaled an end to the era of free data sharing. The end result has left publishers without their most valuable algorithmic signal and analytics tools without proper measurement of the impact of marketing efforts. With poorer targeting and less visibility into proper attribution, digital marketers have had to revisit, or in some cases, learn the traditional principles of Marketing to be able to measure and optimize their strategy and tactics.
Marketing is Human
The ways of marketing were lost as digital marketing evolved with a greater dependence on technology to handle many aspects of marketing like figuring out who, where, and how you would get your message to the right customers. What was overlooked is Marketing’s objective to develop and manage successful exchanges among various entities including the company, customers, and collaborators. Success comes from value generation between these entities and the value is not always in monetary terms. It is not black and white as input money and content and receives sales as the output.
Marketing is focused on cross-organizational collaboration and a mindset that turns everyone into a marketer. This type of thinking is a far cry from the mindset digital marketers have had with reliance on publishers and their technologies to deliver and dictate the performance of efforts. While not a completely wrong action to take in the sense that the capability to speak directly to individuals was revolutionary in the digital age, it also created a new generation of marketers who never truly learned how marketing works. As a result, the collapse in attributable measurement and the ability to feed user data black-box algorithms has become an immense hurdle to clear to deliver the same results prior to privacy changes.
In order to sustain success in the new world you need to get back to the basics of Marketing. Utilize the principles and enhance them with digitally native information you collect like organically provided 1st party data that can help optimize your marketing strategy and tactics. Measurement and reporting will never be as direct, but just as we did to build businesses prior to the internet, various statistical techniques, experimentation, and information can be combined to evaluate what is and isn’t working with your marketing.
Adapt and Survive
The change to how digital marketing works might be overwhelming to most but in reality, the changes driven by regulation have brought us to adapt back to the foundational principles of Marketing. In the same way, marketers would adapt to changing market dynamics and performance hits. The biggest difference is leaning less on the technology that previously informed our decision-making and more on the techniques previously used to understand the value creation with all entities involved. It requires a lot more effort to make that pivot, but those who adapt, succeed, while those who resist will ultimately lose.