Six reasons why traditional marketing strategies are not delivering online
They’re all over the place and they’re droning on rather loudly. They just don’t know they’re dead yet. Sadly, neither do the businesses that listen to them and buy their services.
They are the old guard of the marketing sector; those advertising and PR executives who have emerged from their creative and journalistic antecedents and who believe truly in the adage, “there’s no such thing as bad advertising”.
They measure success by eyeballs, column inches and brand recall, and they are convinced that if they drive up website visits and Facebook likes that they have delivered to their client a secret recipe for sales success.
They couldn’t be more wrong.
Traditional marketing strategies are simply not delivering what the old ghosts of marketing believe they are delivering. This is why:
1. Traditional media audiences are not as large as social audiences
The average flat ad on Facebook filtered only to Australians over the age of 18 is 9.7 million. (Source: Facebook – available when any user tries to buy an ad on Facebook). The highest audience numbers in Australian television history are less than 4 million.
2. Traditional media reach is diminishing
Circulation of traditional news media and magazines are reducing. Audience numbers for free to air television are reducing, and even among high rating programs, there’s a rising tendency for audiences to ‘tune out’ of ads (switch channels, leave the couch, swap to an alternative content source such as a mobile phone or tablet, or even simply wind back the concentration and memory recall functions of the brain during ad breaks).
3. Implied third party endorsement through PR in news items isn’t supported in research
In spite of years of classic PR belief that a news story on a brand will add credibility and encourage trust in brands, there is little empirical evidence to support this theory (PDF). In fact, there is growing evidence that a brand mention in a news story will trigger doubt about the impartiality of the story.
4. ‘Broadcast’ approaches are untrusted
Messages that arrive to audiences without supporting referrals from friends and trusted sources in a network are treated as less trustworthy than endorsements from trusted sources in a network.
5. Website page visits are pointless without conversions
A high number of visits to a brand webpage may be exciting (not least because it puts a strain on the server), but it is irrelevant unless those page visits convert to actions. A high conversion ratio is more useful than a high page visit rating.
6. Facebook likes are meaningless without engagement
It is simple for individuals to ‘Like’ a brand on Facebook (in order to enter a competition or to jump on the bandwagon of a popular meme) and then to promptly hide all status updates and content from the brand.
So even if a brand is growing Facebook fans sharply, unless those fans engage regularly with the brand, fans’ trust and impression of the brand is likely to be unexceptional. Again, high engagement ratio (1.0-5.0% for organisations with under 150,000 fans; 0.2-1.0% for organisations with >150,000 fans) is more useful than a high number of Likes.
And even when you get engagement with brands on Facebook or other social networking channels, unless these engagements are also linked to sales conversions, or business optimisation savings in tasks such as product development, distribution, and/or customer service, then the actual return on investment may be limited.
In Australia, we are less likely than any nation on earth to believe advertising and brand messages, and we are more likely to trust one another in brand endorsements. If traditional PR and advertising isn’t quite dead, it’s certainly not worth what most Australian organisations have been paying to generate business revenue. Unless businesses are prepared to acknowledge the shift from passive consumption to active engagement, and the need for brand referrals in social channels, then more businesses will fail.
It’s time to exorcise the ghosts of Australian marketing. Advocates of reach-oriented marketing strategies ought to be eliminated from the sector, and ROI measurement based on reach instead of conversions and cost savings should be quietly buried. Because until we commit to this wholesale purification of the marketing sector, the risk is that Australian businesses will market themselves into relics.
Joanne Jacobs is the Sydney-based Chief Operating Officer of international Word of Mouth agency, 1000heads.