Is Digital Marketing really dead, are we looking at a post Digital Marketing world or has Digital Marketing simply become marketing, like ‘e-business’ became simply ‘business’?

In the early 1990s a well-known hardware company started to call businesses “e-businesses” if they used electronic technology a great deal. At a press gathering, one journalist asked whether he was an e-business because he’d confirmed his attendance that day by e-mail. He was told that yes, he probably was.

This would be the exact moment at which the phrase “e-business” became redundant. Not that e-businesses themselves were a bad idea but because everyone bar your window cleaner, who might well have a website, had become an e-business as computing became ubiquitous.

When the question of whether digital marketing is dead comes up, as it inevitably does (it’s a bit of a buzzword and the press loves nothing more than to build these up and then stamp on them), this is what people are likely to be talking about. Digital marketing isn’t dead, it’s just called “marketing”.

Let’s take a few examples. Ten years ago, social media was just becoming big business (it wasn’t new in spite of many of the claims made on its behalf, but it was becoming popular). There was a spate of books, websites and other information sources on how to use social media as a marketing tool.

These evolved and now social media is simply part of the marketing mix. This is a natural evolution. Now 55% of Americans in the key ‘baby boomer’ demographic (those aged 45-54), for example, have a social networking profile, and over 72% of salespeople who incorporated social media into their sales processes outperformed their colleagues. This is only expected to grow in 2016 as social media sites such as Instagram, which, along with Facebook, accounts for one of every five minutes Americans spend on their phone, continue to open up opportunities to marketers.  

A second example might be mailshots. Yes, people still send out mailshots but readers of a certain age could cast their minds back 20 years or so. The letterbox at home and at work would heave with promotions, from which the senders might get a three per cent hit if they were lucky. Magazines still contain a load of advertising fliers but nowhere near as many as they used to because the scattergun effect simply doesn’t work efficiently.

Digital marketing allows for better profiling, better information on customers and therefore the extrapolation of better information on prospects and the ability to continually refine campaigns. Additionally digital marketing offers a chance for smaller businesses to compete with their larger counterparts on a more level playing field, provided that they have a well thought out digital strategy; whereas in a more traditional marketing environment they would have struggled to match the firepower of larger, rival businesses.

This is linked to the lower associated cost of a digital marketing strategy and the opportunity for greater exposure, when compared to traditional marketing efforts, outside of the business’ immediate locality. With digital marketing the conversation becomes two-way.

Prospects can engage with a brand through social channels, download content, visit a website, provide feedback in an overall more interactive experience. In short, the return is better and the nuisance caused to prospects is minimised because the right people see the flier or receive the call.

The question is how long there remains anything particularly unusual about this. With a computer in the home of just about every consumer, “digital” has gone completely mainstream. People watch their digital television services without thinking “digital” – the rest has been quietly switched off and people just consider they’re watching TV. The “digital” component of digital marketing is likely to go the same way.

This can be seen in the budgetary allocation given to digital marketing activities; in 2015 marketing budgets increased from 10% to 11% and budgets are expected to increase again throughout 2016, and the areas for focus for these marketing budgets in 2016 are predicted to be social marketing, analytics, customer experience and digital commerce.

This isn’t to say there’s no distinction to be made between marketing and digital marketing. Marketing is partly about the right mix, so a marketer might consider a campaign to have digital components, printed components and some that are telephone-based. It’s there that the usefulness will end, though. Marketing has evolved to encompass the digital environment.

With this in mind it is worth considering whether, since marketing has evolved to encompass the digital environment, digital marketing needs a separate budget. Separating out digital marketing from other marketing activities not only essentially creates a budgetary silo but could create a division between essentially joined activities.

In the words of Ivan Menezes, CEO of Diageo, “It is not about doing ‘digital marketing’, it is about marketing effectively in a digital world”.  

Digital marketing is dead, long live digital marketing. Or more accurately “marketing” – which, during the second decade of the 21st century, is nothing without a digital component.


  • Marketers must stop thinking of ‘Digital’ as a separate channel.
  • Digital Marketing has evolved to simply become part of the marketing mix.
  • Marketing is now nothing without a digital component.

Now all marketing is digital marketing what does the future hold – discover what global experts think 2016 will hold, download The Future of Modern Marketing: 2016 now.

Sylvia Jensen

Sylvia Jensen


Senior Director, EMEA Marketing, Oracle Marketing Cloud.