The Great Digital Stone Age

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Table of Contents

What Is The Great Digital Stone Age?

Coming from an FMCG background, I used to work as a brand marketer. I have worked with media agencies like OMD, Mindshare and Carat on a day to day basis. Brands under my control were spending tens of thousands on digital media, with the hopes of improving brand awareness. At that time, I wasn’t equipped with the digital marketing knowledge that I have today.

Fast forward to 2019, I realise the digital marketing approach by brand marketers looks something like this:

• Allocating a handsome digital advertising budget
• Pouring kerosene on top of the budget
• Light the budget up on fire
• Pray for improved vanity and “awareness” metrics from a 3rd party research firm

I’m not kidding, as I’ve experienced this process first hand. Scary right?

I want to clarify that this isn’t the brand marketer’s fault, nor can I blame agencies for this. What I noticed is that there is a huge disconnect between the mindset among the stakeholders of an organization with marketing department

So let’s break it down –


The marketing department’s role is to take care of the longevity and profitability of the brand. Thus responsible in insuring brand communications by following guidelines.

Trade Marketing

This department’s role is to develop relationships with trade channels with special promotions, improving on-trade visibility with POSM. They have to also follow the recommended price points for products, and balance the different trade channels.

Media Agencies

Media agencies’ sole purpose is to help companies develop the best media plans to achieve whatever goals the company may have. One interesting point is that media agencies communicate with marketing departments, thus leaving trade focused departments out of the picture. For companies where bulk of their revenue is generated from on-ground trade, this leaves a huge communication gap.

Based on my observations, this lack of connection is the main reason why digital marketing among SMEs and MNCs struggle to take off.

It’s time to look at things holistically and take out the guesswork.

Traditional advertising are judged on marketing fundamentals, which is dominated by demographics, psychographics as well as media metrics like impressions and frequency. The goal of these marketing campaigns is to increase awareness, and to get them to the top of their customers minds.

When I asked a fellow FMCG marketer (she prefers to be unnamed) about her brand’s digital media strategy, this is what she said:

“Our KPIs for media companies are typically cost per click, cost per engagement, and high frequency impressions to our target audience”.

When probed further, she told me that she has absolutely no idea if these metrics ultimately translates to her brand’s sales and bottom line.


This shocked me.

I left the FMCG industry for about 5 years now, and I thought that digital marketing among big companies would have evolved out of the “Digital Marketing Stone Age”. I guess that didn’t happen.

“But why?”

Deep down, I understand why this is happening. “Textbook advertising” dictates that we have to define our target audience, persona and craft marketing messages for them. But you see, this form of advertising was developed based on the assumption that only mass media marketing channels are available.

Those days, it only made sense to produce a fine piece of creative, and advertise it on media channels that your audience is paying attention to. This used to be the magic bullet that works in a pre-mobile and pre-Facebook world. Another reason why most companies are stuck in the “Digital Marketing Stone Age” is the lack of ability to justify digital advertising spend.

It is very difficult to accurately attribute digital advertising to the company’s bottom line. This is the reason higher level management in a company will not set aside the right budget needed to work with.

“So what do I do?”

With that in mind, I want you to take a step back and look at the current digital landscape and marketing channels available. Let’s start with the digital landscape around the world, where 81% of people living in developed countries have access to the internet. 

These people (excluding China) are usually on Facebook/Instagram/Twitter. Whereas media channels like TV, radio and print are quickly getting replaced by smartphones. There is a massive consumer attention shift from distributed media platforms to on-demand mobile content platforms.

As marketers, we have to take advantage of this and stimulate a paradigm shift in our mindset. Marketers need to stop looking at social media metrics as pieces of data. Instead, treating those who engage with as humans.

Now, let’s look at the marketing channels available. Contrary to distributed mass media channels like TV, radio and print ads, we now have the power to create dynamic campaigns with platforms like Facebook and Google. With a little training, you will be able to segment potential customers based on their past interaction. This gives marketers a new found power, to not being completely reliant on traditional marketing principles. Marketers can re-target potential customers that have performed a specific action that you desire, and show them different stages of content.

You can improve your advertising ROI by undergoing this shift in mindset on digital media. With this in mind, I want to show you a simple example.

A highly personalized and trackable consumer experience that you can orchestrate looks like this:

1. Connect

Show your brand creativity to improve awareness and top of mind among the general public. You will be surprised how many people outside of your “target audience” would be interested in what your brand has to say.

2. Commit

Re-target people who have engaged with the video (viewed more than 10 seconds of the video) with a more defined call to action. It could be asking them to answer a survey, sign up for your brand’s email newsletter or Facebook messenger broadcasts.

3. Convert

Re-target people who have signed up for your brand’s email newsletter with. For this stage, people are 1000x (not a real data-backed number) warmer than someone who has seen your random Facebook ad placement or a TV ad talking about how awesome your brand is. You can also track campaign performance by integrating conversion tracking with a pixel or tag.

The process above tightly integrates the roles of media agencies, brand teams as well as trade marketing teams. It’s easier said than done to implement such a process In most companies, but it is far from impossible.

“What’s next?”

My prediction is that by 2025, data driven and systematic processes like this will overtake and render traditional textbook marketing, in all of it’s fundamentalist splendor, obsolete. With this, I urge marketers across all industries to take action and start changing your organization from within. If you ever need help implementing such a process for your brand and have a good A&P budget under your portfolio, feel free to drop me a message.

The Great Digital Stone Age

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