The Emperor is wearing clothes…but it looks like a leisure suit.

Many of us may be familiar with the children’s tale “The Emperor’s New Clothes.” For those that are not, our good friend Wikipedia describes the fable thusly…

“…a literary folktale written by Danish author Hans Christian Andersen, about a vain emperor who gets exposed before his subjects.”

The Emperor is made to believe he is wearing new clothes, when in fact he is wearing nothing…zippo. (Doesn’t sound like a children’s tale, but go with it anyway.) That also describes how I have been feeling for a while in the digital “space” of a local legacy-media company…virtually naked. 

For so long, being the digital “expert” at your favorite local media company meant you were considered somewhat of an expert on new ways to market things. But a funny thing happened on the way to the 21st century. Being “digital” for local and regional business is no longer (never really was) about advertising or marketing for that matter. We can talk about sophisticated targeting, social media habits, and my favorite, Google Advertising certification. But as I used to say when I lived in the San Francisco bay area, “all that and $5 won’t get you across the Golden Gate Bridge.” 

It’s not that they aren’t buying what we are selling…it’s more like we aren’t selling what they are buying. 

There is no doubt that so many digital leaders and/or digital experts at legacy local media companies are well trained and educated. However in today’s business environment that expertise is out of alignment with local and regional business needs. It’s not that they aren’t buying what we are selling…it’s more like we aren’t selling what they are buying. 

Consumers today are already in a digital world when it comes to their purchasing habits…consumer and B2B.  Nobody should have to be convinced of this. Add the impact that the pandemic has had on how we conduct our lives, the concept of “being digital” for small and medium sized businesses extends well beyond the subject of advertising. The digital focus in “non-advertising” concerns far outweighs those that are limited to paid advertising. Consider the following:

  • According to the Wall Street Journal, e-commerce, as a share of global retail sales, is up by 50% in the 2nd quarter of 2020 compared to the prior year.
  • Macy’s  now reports that e-commerce makes up 40% of their total sales. 
  • In a recent global survey, more than 50% of businesses are planning to add more online experiences like digital events.
  • In the same survey 40% of businesses plan to introduce additional contactless payment methods and additional online services like “virtual try-on’s.”
  • According to Borrell Research, 57% of SMB’s  expect content marketing will be a higher priority in 2021. And while content marketing is paid advertising, someone has to develop the content.

The bottom line is that being “digital” is not an advertising thing. It hasn’t been for a long time. And to be perfectly honest, it’s really not a “thing” at all any more. It’s a ubiquitous part of our world today.  The Digital Expert at a local media company today, could be viewed as yesterday’s Vice Presidents of Electricity, a real job from the early 1900’s. (Techcrunch.com 10/14/15.)

So being digital in 2021 is going to be less of a real specialty from which everyone will need to source. Everyone should already be digital and that extends well beyond advertising.  Things like inventory management, payment systems, content development, optimization, etc. are all going to be on the agenda, or should be for local SMB’s. And these are areas that, in many cases, do not fall within the sweet spot of current “digital specialists” at media concerns. This will change (and already is changing) in the most progressive and aware media companies among us. But my recommendation for all individuals within this space is to not wait for the company to make that adjustment. Every one of us can expand our perspective more holistically for our customers and clients. What SMB’s will need going forward is knowledge about how to run their business more effectively and that will require a smarter and a heavier reliance on digital functionalities.

If the success of local businesses in our communities is important to us, we should be in a position to offer relevant and useful input that does not always include a Facebook post or a text ad appearing on Google. And in the rare occasion when we run into a real tough challenge that is seemingly outside our purview, we can always ask the Vice President of Electricity to weigh in on the solution. 

What’s Up Doc…and what’s not.

Digital is up, traditional media is down. Not a “man bites dog” scenario you’re saying, right? 

A very recent IAB survey of ad buyers verifies the same old story…digital media spend stands a good chance at growing while traditional media spending is being cut, precipitously in some cases. And this is information fully aware of what is currently ongoing in the marketing world impacted by the Coronavirus pandemic. 

But that story is not the real story. While it’s almost remarkable that any level of spending might be increasing given the shut downs in many communities, it is more important to know and understand those channels that can be seeing growth, (i.e. the most beneficial for local businesses.) These are channels that are either expanding as a result of their successful goal achievement for marketers, or are seeing dollars coming to them from the cutbacks in traditional media. Let’s see now…if I am a marketer cutting back 33% on my previously planned print schedule, do you think I could repurpose some of that in a more effective, and measurable media like cost-per-click or social? 

Again, that is not the story here. The IAB survey summary by itself doesn’t tell us what is driving the changes. You have to dig down to see that. And that detail is the real issue. Intimately speaking from the perspective of a traditional media world adopting more and more digital and emerging platform marketing services for local business, knowing what is working is the only way I am going to be of service to customers. And by knowing, I really mean KNOWING! 

The digital channels that are driving the growth of that broad category include…

      • Cost per Click
      • Social Media
      • Connected TV
      • Digital Video
      • Digital display

If you are a purveyor of traditional media solutions as well as digital, how well do you know the intricacies of paid search? Are you Google Ad certified? What do you really know about Social? Are you familiar with all ongoing changes impacting Facebook and Instagram? What do you know about Snapchat and LinkedIn ad opportunities? And then there is video…both digital video and that distributed through CCT. The prevalence of video in 2020 and 2021 will start to dwarf other forms of media and distribution very quickly. Are you aware of all best practices when it comes to creating and distributing video today? 

Digital up, traditional down. Nothing new here. And knowing this is not going to help any local business succeed, let alone survive, as we start coming out of pandemic impacted business results. There are reasons why specific channels in the digital space are going to lead the way. It’s time that all marketing service providers, especially those from within traditional marketing and media environments, become expert at how these channels work and how they will benefit local businesses.