Is social media really the magic bullet that many modern marketers would have you believe? Or is it simply a cost-effective, relatively easy-to-use new marketing tool that can amplify your existing Integrated Marketing Communications? The Melbourne Business School’s Mark Ritson is clearly in the second camp, in his Mumbrella360 video from June 2016 he slams digital marketers for being under-skilled and relying on digital marketing, and in particular social media marketing, in place of a considered strategy.
I don’t believe that Ritson is suggesting we disregard digital marketing to return to our roots in print, radio and television advertising. I believe he is upset by the lack of strategic skill shown by some marketers in their heavy reliance on social media and the resulting devaluation of marketing as a managerial function. He sums it up in saying, “You cannot be a marketer if all you know about is digital.” There needs to be an understanding of how different channels interact – particularly when we consider the prevalence of multi-screening. The power lies in consumers’ receiving messages from more than one channel, thereby reinforcing the message.
Danaher and Dagger’s article on Comparing the Relative Effectiveness of Advertising Channels goes a step further than Ritson’s presentation, they appear to be attesting the merits of traditional media over new media when considering marketing spend. I don’t think we can look at these two viewpoints without considering the context of when they were presented, Danaher and Dagger’s article was based on a retail sale in 2010 and Ritson presented at Mumbrella360 in 2016 – six years is not much in the evolution of the human race, but in the evolution of Integrated Marketing Communications it is an eon.
Danaher and Dagger state that, “Notably, the most effective advertising channels are all traditional media: catalogs, television, and direct mail…” while “The least-used medium is social media, with only 2% of LP members claiming to have visited either the Facebook or Twitter sites for the retailer in the campaign period.” If the results of this study are to be taken as gospel, a diversion from traditional media advertising to new media would be folly as it does not deliver results, however considering the publication date of this article we can assume that social media consumption has increased across markets – particularly in the older segment of their target market who can now be targeted via Facebook advertisements whereas in the era when this article was written they would need to be ‘friends’ with the business on Facebook to see a post.
It is also important to note that, at the time of writing, Danaher and Dagger’s retailer had “limited online sales offerings through its website” this is likely to have been common for department stores at the time, whereas now most department stores offer extensive online shopping. However, it may also be in indicative of the habits of their target market, who perhaps preferred the in-store shopping experience.
While it is not my place to contradict these greats of marketing theory, I do think that with the increasing fragmentation of television media and the increased use of on-demand viewing the power of television advertising is diminishing. However, I am not surprised at the effectiveness of radio advertising, particularly when you consider that commercial radio stations continue to play in so many cars, workplaces and construction sites across the country.
Social media is now an essential part of the Integrated Marketing Mix but, as always, it is important to recognise that it is not intended to replace traditional media as a sales tool. It should be a brand awareness and engagement tool. The most consistent source of failure on social media is when the communication becomes too sales-orientated.