Forrester's digital marketing prediction sparks hot debate

A report from global research firm Forrester calling for “digital marketing” to lose its prefix and become just “marketing” in 2013 has sparked a debate between marketers who agree with the forecast and those that believe digital should continue be treated as a separate discipline.


Forrester’s “Trends for the B2C CMO to watch in 2013” report warns new digital disruptors will threaten all businesses– such as YouTube challenging broadcasters and bank platforms competing with services such as Square – if marketers do not expand the utility and value of the experience their brands deliver.

The report suggests marketing budget should be repurposed out of channel silos and into new cross-platform divisions organised around consumer segments, with experts on the relevant media, channels and devices sitting within the new product or services verticals.

Underpinning the call is its forecast digital budgets will become 20 per cent of total marketing budgets in 2013, accounting for $50bn (£31bn) worldwide.

Corinne Munchbach, Forrester’s CMO and market leadership professionals analyst and author of the report told Marketing Week: “Consumers switch from instore, to online, to mobile - sometimes all at once. Having separate budgets for each is counter intuitive to what customers are actually experiencing. Logical brands will be able to join all this together in a functional way to deliver the experiences customers expect from them.”

Munchbach says P&G in the US is an example of a B2C company breaking down channel silos to streamline media costs and show the value across brands – part of the reason its Dawn washing up liquid brand and Olay skincare brand appear together in marketing, which would not have happened before, she suggests.

Shaun Gregory, Telefonica’s global advertising director, says other major brands need to organise themselves in this way going forward.

“Ultimately you have to push your own personal specialisms to one side and think of your consumer – when did you last hear a consumer talking about ‘digital?’, they just see it as a multitude of screens. The [marketing] industry needs to catch up with consumers’ behaviour – even though there may be push back from talent and [specialist] agencies, ” he adds.

Tess Alps, CEO of television marketing body Thinkbox, agrees the idea of “digital” acting as a lone silo away from marketing disciplines is outdated and that integration is an “absolute must”.

She adds: “The idea that everything internet and mobile is one discipline that sits in a silo is crazy. TV is entirely digital, newspapers have digital editions but the technology is pretty invisible to the actual viewer. It’s like having a silo called ‘electricity’ or ‘paper and ink’.”

Jonathan Bass, managing director of mobile marketing agency Incentivated and deputy chairman of the Direct Marketing Association’s mobile marketing council, disagrees with the proposition that the majority of brands will truly integrate digital across marketing this year, due to a lack of understanding at the top of organisations.

He adds: “From an agency point if view, if digital is not understood from a board level you are banging your head against the wall. At companies like Tesco and M&S digital is discussed at board level but we are a long way from this understanding being [common place] at the top – it’s hugely better in the States. In the UK there’s nowhere for a CMO or CEO to go to learn about digital marketing.”

On the other hand, Charles Allen, head of marketing at Arsenal FC, questions whether it is necessary for every brand to fully integrate digital into every element of the business as Forrester suggests.

He adds: “Digital has perhaps had a disproportionate amount of air time because it’s flavour of the month and cool. It’s unhelpful to look at it from a start point of ‘we need a digital strategy’ and then looking at why. You have to first ask the question whether consumers really want you to show up in every area their digital world and [are you actually one of those brands where] will they invite you in?”


Lara O'Reilly

The idea that “digital marketing” accounts for spend on search, social, mobile, display and many other areas of the spectrum is confusingly catch-all and does not really reflect the way digital has become an integral part of almost every marketing campaign.

Perhaps if we stopped referring to all these specialisms as one conglomerate discipline, marketers would be keener to reorganise their teams in the way Forrester suggests – focusing on the consumer benefits of each individual element rather than placing “digital” as we know it on a pedestal apart from the rest of the marketing sphere.

Readers' comments (11)

  • I think it makes sense to drop the digital. When marketing to customers, there needs to be one voice from the organization regardless of the media that it is delivered on. Marketing needs to be unified.
    I know this won't happen in 2013 in the US. Give it to 2030 and maybe the corporate silos will yield, but that may be pushing it.

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  • It doesn't make any sense yet to drop the "digital" term as the two worlds and yes it's two different worlds are not enough connected and independent from each other.

    Then when we could speak of marketing strategy or asking someone if he knew about marketing (without giving any more information) the next step for this person would be to ask if it's on the digital side or not. Marketers people and most of the time clients don't understand anything about marketing unless a specialist has given then an explanation about the benefits this would create.

    We would be able to remove the digital term when the whole online side would be 50% of the total expenditure thus making marketing with both offline and online parts the normal way to talk. As of today, as it's barely overcome the tiny 15%, it doesn't make any sense and will create troubles if we don't make a clear separation.
    The solution to this is not to make people confuse and blurry about the terms but to create integrated campaign, flipping from offline to online and online to offline.

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  • Digital *spend* may be only 15% (maybe for your company anyway - it's a lot higher at ours) but that doesn't mean that the efforts only make up 15% of the results.

    Digital activity is usually substantially cheaper than traditional offline activity, such as Direct mail, and can have a much higher response rate as that is where consumers are moving to.

    I doubt the term 'Digital' will be dropped for a while but as all companies should be striving towards fully integrated campaigning, there is no reason why it shouldn't be dropped in the future.

    And yes... I work in Digital (Client side!)

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  • 'Marketing' is the umbrella term for every activity (including digital) which marketers employ to connect with consumers and achieve marketing objectives.

    'Digital Marketing' is defined as 'achieving marketing objectives through applying digital technologies'.

    It mystifies me why anyone would think 'Digital Marketing' and 'Marketing' is the same thing - it is not and never will be.

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  • We have not dropped terms like "print" or "broadcast" from our terminology, so since digital is relatively new I do not see that term being dropped any time soon. Also there is a difference in how an organization is structured, like an agency, vs. how you market to consumers. I might work on the digital team while a peer works on the print team but we market to the same consumer an that should not be siloed.

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  • It is not much different in the States as boards and upper management doesn’t always get and don’t care to understand the concepts. I have worked with heads of multi-million and billion dollar companies that think PowerPoint is high-end graphics software and cannot attend a simple webinar without help. With no interest in understanding basic technologies, how can a company even know what staff it needs to hire to stay relevant. More often they are at the mercy of sales people. This is a technologically fluid world.
    Digital is like the “Turbo” of the 80’s and added to nearly everything regardless of merit. Digital is the base format structure for almost every deliverable today. Creative tools are becoming interconnected so that once elements are in digital formats, the end format, whether web, print or Blu-ray/DVD, with skill, time and effort are becoming just an output selection. I cannot see the word Digital lasting as new technologies needing description take over such as 4K and 8K Ultra HD. The big discussion is going to be bandwidth and compression. And we thought digital was a tough idea to explain.

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  • The goal of digital marketing is ultimately marketing and so digital is a method than the objective.

    In a way digital is just another channel and so becomes an integrated part of marketing.

    However the differentiation comes in due to the technology platform over which digital rides which is complex and sophisticated, two way in interaction, participatory and engaging. This distinction places digital in a category that needs expertise and methodology different from other channels.

    This is soon becoming the past. Today many marketing and brand managers have caught up with the digital movement and have detailed understanding and insights in the digital marketing. This understanding and expertise brings digital back into the realm of an overall marketing plan and places it on par with other channels.

    Digital will therefore be another channel for marketers and brand managers will retain its nomenclature like print marketing, direct marketing, outdoor marketing, event marketing and television marketing in their plans and execution.

    Given the role that digital places post the awareness stage and its enduring presence in the customer engagement life-cycle, digital will move into the core of marketing strategy and all other channels will direct into the digital core. This integration is already happening in some industries but needs evolution of thought in some others.

    At UnifiedM, we see digital forming the central core of marketing strategy and campaigns being created with a digital mindset and then being extended and adapted to other real-world channels which point to this digital core.

    This will mark a significant shift in thinking, planning and creative for marketing and brand managers as well as for agencies.

    This also makes digital more central in marketing than it has been so far and in a way implies that digital marketing is main-stream marketing in operation and outcomes.

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  • Forrester’s B2C Trends 2013 report sparks debate but isn't moving away from channel silos just common sense?

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  • Is there a term called digitaling? So it is still marketing and it is only a matter of time all marketers will develop digital skills and views. Marketing is an umbrella term as commenter Alliso Brolls explaied. On the other hand to be honest what people call digital marketing lately is only diital advertising which has not yet covered all aspects of marketing. Most marketers know that marketing is an innovative and complex process. Thats why we have a term called called Integrated Marketing Communications either it is pop, guerilla, atl, btl or digital it is not independent or self-centric it should be a part of a bigger plan.

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  • The Perfect Communication Strategy 2013
    My name is Hayley Irwin and I am currently a 4th year on a Fashion and Textile Management course at Nottingham Trent.

    I am putting together a New Communications strategy for 2013 and its relevance in the marketing climate for my dissertation.

    During my placement year at Wrangler Europe EMEA, I identified a distinct lack of credibility being given to traditional communication strategy due to the inability for the PR channel to prove a clear return on investment or return on relationship.

    I will therefore look to create a new communications strategy that reflects the current marketing environment and provides measurable outcomes.

    To help me prove or disprove my aims and objectives, I would like to set up a live debate on skype would any of you be interested as i have cited this debate in my dissertation?

    Here are a few questions to set this discussion off:

    1) What is your opinion on Traditional B2C communication?

    2) What is your opinion on Digital B2C communication

    3) How do you think digital has changed traditional B2C communication?

    4) What are the Benefits (Short and Long term) for retailers who integrate digital as part of their traditional PR Strategy?

    My email is if you would like to get in touch.....

    Hayley Irwin

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