Offline marketing isn’t dead …

6 May 2010

We’re all getting a bit tired now with claims that offline advertising is dead, and it’s time to put to bed the rumours of its death as nothing more than great exaggerations. But why are so many happy to herald its demise?

It’s clear to everyone involved in the world of communications that we are experiencing consumer behaviour change at a staggering rate. Intuitively we know that things aren’t as they were.

On a technical level, intelligent mobile devices, faster internet access, cheaper hardware, an ever-improving web and the social media revolution have all been catalysts for change.

Societal upheaval has complemented this, as trust in big business has never been under greater threat, and traditional religious and class influences are weakening on a monthly basis.

Generation gap

This has led to a cynical, marketing-proof, knowledgeable consumer, confident and armed with independent thought. How have we as marketers reacted to this change? Therein lies the rub, as there has been no consistent response to the new opportunities brought about by changing consumer behaviour. Too quickly we have rushed to our comfort zones, too often (though not exclusively) along generational lines. It seems the new generation of marketing executives fresh out of college overvalue online communication, particularly social media, and are too quick to dismiss offline communications out of hand.

At the other end of the professional generational spectrum, groups of battle-hardened senior managers, who have been through too many fads to believe the latest one, have neither the patience nor the inclination to listen too carefully to the hyperbole-laden promises of online marketing. Evidently neither party is correct.

Companies who have grasped the opportunity this change brings have implemented a vision which ensures that the senior management are challenged to think about the power of digital marketing, and eager young executives are given clear guidelines and targets around how their online marketing activity fits wider marketing and commercial goals. In short, senior and junior staff are united, not divided, by a common language.

Used to its fullest potential, the ability to integrate online and offline marketing correctly is the most exciting opportunity we’ve had in years to influence consumers at all levels.

Example of M&S advert

Proof, were it needed, that offline marketing is alive and well, is the new 90-second M&S advert featuring the fabulous five – Dannii Minogue, Ana Beatriz Barros, VV Brown, Lisa Snowdon and Twiggy. It’s stylish, sassy, sexy, confident and dramatic; a good old-fashioned above-the-line campaign to influence consumer perceptions and challenge the notion of M&S as frumpy and dated.

Unsurprisingly it has generated a significant amount of comment online, particularly on social media and discussion forums, not all of which are commending its stylishness and fabulous production values. Ranking high in Google are forums and blogs containing comments such as “But these are not just clothes, these are M&S finest-quality cardies and slippers” and “This is not just a tank top, this is an M&S tank top”.

What a massive opportunity for M&S marketing people to listen, engage, respond to and challenge preconceptions online to complement the offline above the line showcase advert. When M&S, and others like them, embrace the huge opportunity this affords, we can put foolish talk of the death of offline marketing behind us, and look forward to a new, more integrated future.

Photo: Gareth Dunlop is managing director of the leading digital consultancy Ion. Its customers are in 15 countries and include Commonwealth Secretariat, Encyclopaedia Britannica, Macmillan Cancer, Oklahoma Publishing and The Patent Office

Read more by Gareth Dunlop: 

The unaffordable cost of irrelevancy

Urgent need for new online metrics   

Electricity and the gold rush

The real reason the recession is good for marketing

The class of 2009 wants your job!

Firms need to be customer zealots, not technology zealots

Firms need to put aside their fears and embrace the web

Online advertising overtakes TV advertising

Gareth Dunlop runs Fathom, a UX consultancy that helps organisations get the most from their digital products.