What We Miss When We Talk About “Digital Marketing”

By Nicola Brown, MPC2014

It’s hard to imagine how life could function today without the interwoven digital streams that support and enable work, home life, and everything in between. We’re spending more time online than ever before and we’ve come to expect digital solutions quickly and cheaply.

Entire communications programs centered around digital-specific realms like content marketing or social media are popping up via online learning and more traditional educational institutions.

But with this growing digital enthusiasm come the dangers of siloed thinking when it comes to communication strategy. Let’s not forget the downfalls of the social media echo chamber and the very real-world consequences of not seeing the big picture when it comes to important decision making.

We’d do well not to forget that forward-thinking digital marketing needs to understand the importance of offline channels and how they can work in tandem with digital ones. New generations are platform agnostic, and there’s a growing demand and need for digital detoxes and a more tangible existence by those so-called millennials going through psychological crises (as a quick Google of “millennials and mental health” will reveal).

The same advice to step outside once in a while goes for the creators of digital content and strategy as well as the consumers.

Having just spent three weeks in Europe with very little access to the internet, I returned completely refreshed creatively, which one of my editors commented on delightedly as I flooded her inbox with new story ideas. Instead of turning to Google automatically for inspiration I was forced to simply look around me.

I visited one of my favourite artists in southern France and spent hours getting lost in his abstract creations, letting my imagination take over. I browsed old bookshelves, experimented with new recipes, went for long walks, and spent hours chatting with friends and family over wine at the table, nobody once glancing at their phone.

I realized it had been ages since I’d really disconnected for long enough to give my old child-like powers of imagination a chance to pipe up. Having broken out of my default mode of story generation I noticed how much range in my creative ability I had shut out by turning to Google first. In fact, it made my resulting digital marketing pitches much more creative and well received.

My advice to anyone struggling to figure out how to cut through the online noise and grab the divided attention of fickle consumers is to get right out of the digital rat race for a while and remember what the rest of life looks like. Take a pen and a notebook or sketchbook with you into the world (leave the phone behind; yes, you can do that) and rediscover the little things that spark joy: hand-drawn sandwich boards, funny road signs, interesting reflections in puddles.

Learn how to use these nuggets of real-world inspiration in conjunction with digital research to build ideas that are bigger than the micro-goals of SEO targeting. Think of the world in all its 3D existence and consider how ideas can live more exuberantly across both online and offline channels.

If we care at all about the impact of our communications on the shape of the world to come, let’s take the time to build a more dynamic existence for our marketing efforts, one that acknowledges we are real people who exist in the real world, not just online.