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Why Digital First is Better

I've worked within many disciplines of marketing. Each and every one has merit, all depending on what the brand is setting out to accomplish through marketing.

It's not a contest, but many professionals sure are trying to make it into one.

When I decided to focus 100% on digital, the majority of my peers in the traditional advertising and public relations industry tried to convince me that I'd better set my mind to making my transition a temporary one.


Because they were convinced that traditional marketing would catch up, and when it (meaning they) did, my specific line of business ("digital marketing"), wouldn't be considered a separate discipline for more than a couple of years.

"Enjoy it while it lasts," they said.

The Digital Gap Is Increasing

Now, depending on where you'd place the starting marker, I'd say we're well over five years into the complete professionalisation of digital marketing.

And traditional marketers... haven't caught up yet.

In fact, in general, they aren't even close. Instead, the gap is wider than ever.

And this is quite in order; digital marketing is like nothing we've ever seen before. As soon as you stumble upon something new, yet another endless abyss of potential knowledge opens up under your feet.

A few examples from the top of my head:

1. The constantly emerging complexity of inbound and outbound SEO, SEM and SMO and what happens when penguins and Google authorships re-writes all known maps.

2. Big data acquisition and statistical social media analysis, cross-referenced to the vast seas of internally generated data sets.

3. The challenges with producing multimedia communication fast, cheap and how to seed it.

4. The explosive importance of inbound marketing in general and content marketing in particular.

5. A whole new body of knowledge on how to work with influencers who aren't driven by reporting someone else's news. And being relevant in a time when everyone has access to their own printing presses.

6. The mechanics of e-commerce fuelled by list-building and socially sparked email send-outs, a complete and total shift from chronological to event-based communication cycles.

7. The fascinating and never-ending science that is on-site conversion, with everything from eye-movement analysis and A/B-testing to advanced social psychology insights driving how we optimise online communication.

8. Moving from "marketing as fireworks" to MaaS (Marketing as a Service).

9. How the Hippie Web is quickly being replaced by a more exclusive and transactional Money Web.

10. Working closely together with coders, programmers, art directors, interaction designers and big data engineers, incorporating them into the strategic communication process.

Bonus. And oh, did I mention how content and platforms must work on all types of screens?

This Is Business Unusual

Now, I hate to say it, but traditional marketing doesn't just "absorb" all of this during business as usual.

This is, to paraphrase Henriette Weber, business unusual.

So what is in fact happening?

Boom. Instead of seeing digital marketing specialists disappear, they constantly get better positions within companies. and they start new innovative agencies.

Boom. I've helped several start-ups to recruit marketing specialists. And what main competence do they want for their first hire? Digital marketing specialists, hands down.

Boom. If you're doing a campaign today, who does company want to establish the strategy? More and more, digital.


Because, if you look at the simplified model below, if it works in digital, it's easy to make it work elsewhere as well. Digital is the best representation of how communication flows through a society that we have to date. socialmediaBecause digital is what moves people's perception of the world the fastest.

It has taken over as our primary outlet for both information absorption and multi-level dialogue. Then, what does all of this mean?

Digital First

As I said, it's not a contest. All types of marketing has merit; it all comes down to what you're trying to achieve.

But in case you haven't noticed—digital marketing is not a fad.

Remember that the day your Head of Marketing knows more about digital than anyone else in the Marketing Department, because that's simply why she or he got the job in the first place.

Or, remember that the day your traditional marketing agency is being sold to a powerful international network of digital agencies.

It was never about what role digital marketing should play in traditional marketing. It was always the other way around.

If you're with me in my conviction about Digital First, blog it up. Tweet. Discuss in those LinkedIn Group's where you're active. Plus it up on Google. Discuss on this secret groups on Facebook. It's time for us in digital marketing to stop excusing ourselves for existing.

Join The Conversation

  • May 6 Posted 4 years ago Yoff

    Couldn't agree more!  I spent a career as a publisher selling print and online advertising. I left to do digital marketing when my biggest and smartest clients started cutting ad budgets and shifting dollars to their own digital efforts. It's a hard trend. Budgets shifted away from advertising aren't moving back. The lack of accountability and metrics should discourage any CFO or CMO from that tack.

  • elisabet_lagerstedt's picture
    May 3 Posted 4 years ago elisabet_lagerstedt

    Hi Jerry,

    Communication and market communication are in themselves big topics. I started blogging about the area during 2010 and I am still far, far away from covering more than a fraction (, in swedish by the way).

    One thing is the message, another thing - equally important from my perspective - is the media or channel chosen for the communication. In that perspective, digital can be viewed as "just" another channel. Digital has however opened up opportunities that many still struggle to understand and utilize due to its compexity. And since consumer behaviour is changing rapidly, digital has become a vital component for whole businesses, not only for marketeers.

    I am the first to admit that digital is a complex area and I believe we will need digital specialists also in the future. Maybe even more than today since even more information and interaction will be digital in the future. That's why we need true enthusisasts and focused experts like you Jerry - to help the rest of us understand what is going on and how to utilize the digital landscape in a better way. 


  • May 2 Posted 4 years ago jsundlo

    Agreed and digital #ftw!

  • May 1 Posted 4 years ago Leyla Khorasani

    Very insightful, I hope more marketers would start seeing Jerrys points! 

  • May 1 Posted 4 years ago PR_Persson

    Great article and model! I will distribute the link to my network. Looking forward to future posts. /Johan

  • May 1 Posted 4 years ago Johan Larsson

    I agree. Try to measure the outcome of an analog image campaign?!

    Compared with a digital ... ah, we cant even measure the analog campaigns ...

    Kepp up the good work Jerry!

  • May 1 Posted 4 years ago Mats Janson

    Good points. Like the model.

  • evafidjeland's picture
    May 1 Posted 4 years ago evafidjeland

    Boom indeed!

  • doktorspinn's picture
    May 1 Posted 4 years ago doktorspinn

    I think that sums up the blog post in one sentence, cool!

  • Chinky Sioson's picture
    Apr 30 Posted 4 years ago Chinky Sioson

    Digital first is better because we live in a digital century.

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