Is marketing history repeating itself? 20 years ago, I entered my first real digital marketing job as Head of Digital Marketing at Levi’s® Europe. Right at this time, the evolution of digital media and how brands used them was going from one phase to another.
Brand Experience And Innovation
In 2000, we were in a phase of experimentation and creativity in online brand experience where the focus really was on the brand: Developing the brand through digital means to surprise and delight our users.
It was all about innovation, interactivity, and involvement between brand and consumers. Remember those flash websites? And all the new online media formats? And the first meager attempts with apps? And what about those silly WAP sites? We extended our brands online and we used these new media opportunities in creative ways that nurtured the brand to get closer to our consumers, and to stand out from the competition.
Digital Becomes Business
Alas, this fun phase was ending and in the beginning of the 00’s we entered the ecommerce phase. eCommerce was becoming a channel to reckon with – consumers wanted it, and brands could extend not only their consumer intimacy efforts but also their reach.
Suddenly front-end creativity took a step down to make way for back-end improvement, logistics, and optimization. Operations became as important as (creative) strategy. A healthy development if you ask me – because for all the fine consumer-facing ideas to come to fruition, well-oiled IT and supply chain systems to aid loading speed, streamline the shopping process, and support efficient customer service and delivery was obviously necessary. Just as understanding ROI.
Bye Bye Brand?
But what happened was also a dismissal of the brand. For years creativity, innovation and distinct experience were paused for the benefit of optimization, scale, reach, and traffic. Brands stopped differentiating themselves, and even stopped understanding themselves. Or in short: Quantity overtook quality. The surefire way to kill a brand.
Brand And Sales Fuel Each Other
Digital transformation and eCommerce are once again filling corporate agendas. With this, marketing job descriptions and requirements seem to narrow to ‘Hands-on experience with online sales growth and tools like SEM, SEO, Adwords, and Google Analytics’. As marketeers, however, we need to take a much broader and more extensive view than this.
I fear we are once again forgetting the brand. It’s not sales growth OR brand building. It’s both. And this is entirely possible. Let’s be wise and not repeat (digital) marketing history.