Is 2016 the year the word 'digital' is finally consigned to history?
A view from Staff

Is 2016 the year the word 'digital' is finally consigned to history?

Just as technology has become an integral part of consumers' lives, so 'digital' - once thought of as a highly specialised advertising field - has become a core platform no brand marketer can afford to ignore. Is it time the marketing industry updated its terminology to reflect this?

Each month The Forum questions members of The Marketing Society on a hot topic. For more on membership, visit www.marketingsociety.com.

YES

Katy Taylor
Group marketing and customer experience director, Go-Ahead Group

Almost every customer journey now includes some element of digital interaction, whether social, mobile or interactive. Our customers expect consistency across all channels, including face to face, and demand high standards of service across all the ways they interact with us, whether that be passenger information, retailing, campaigns or customer services.

We need to deliver the right quality of experience for each context, regardless of whether the passenger receives it through a digital device or in the physical world.

In the latter, we are keen to improve the analytics that have been developed in the digital environment. That’s a field in which specialist digital skills can help. But all marketers need to have one foot in the physical world and one in the digital world, so that performance across all channels can be measured and improved, and brand promise delivered consistently. 

NO

Joshua Graff
UK country manager and senior director, marketing solutions EMEA, LinkedIn

When it comes to digital, and its transformative effects on consumers and corporations, we’re still in the teenage years. While silos have broken down, many organisations still have far to go before digital is truly embedded in the boardroom.

They’ll only get there with the right talent. Companies need not only a digitally proficient workforce, but also specialists and digital advocates who can constantly bring others up to speed. It’s reassuring to see some organisations recognising this and giving digital its well-needed seat at the board. But penetration isn’t high enough and we have to do more.

The goal of any digital expert is to educate, steer and embed it in their organisation so that digital becomes second nature. Get this right, and, in theory, their role becomes redundant. In reality, digital is evolving at such a speed that the skills gap is widening and these roles will be critical for many years to come.

NO

John Watton
Director, digital marketing EMEA, Adobe

The phrase ‘digital marketing’ may not be around forever, but companies will still be talking about it in 2016.

The barriers between our physical and online worlds have become weaker, and the growing use of in-store technologies (such as iBeacons) is a good example of how digital marketing has broken free of the confines of our computers. Just like cloud computing is becoming simply ‘computing’, the same will happen for marketing. ‘Digital’ will become the norm wherever consumers are, and the term will be dropped.

We shouldn’t dismiss ‘digital’ prematurely, however. A vital aspect of any campaign is knowing your channels well. Maintaining a consistent customer experience across all platforms is key to ensuring brand loyalty, and having the right digital expertise is essential to using these channels well. Until all marketers are cross-platform experts, organisations need dedicated digital specialists to lead the charge.

MAYBE

Rob Pierre
Chief executive, Jellyfish

There’s no getting away from the fact that the physical and digital worlds are blurring, and have been for a while now. More and more, we are seeing this convergence in our industry, with this year’s Women’s Aid ‘Look at me’ campaign marking a UK first for digital out-of-home.

The emergence of programmatic and its likely move into TV is another example of how digital is becoming intrinsic to every campaign.

In years gone by, digital would have been seen as an add-on to a traditional above-the-line campaign, but today’s marketers tend to think digital first. It’s clear that it can no longer be treated as a silo.

However, digital is still a specialism, and so, as a marketing term, it still serves a purpose. As the physical and digital worlds continue to blur, the term ‘digital’ may indeed become irrelevant – but I don’t think we’re there yet.