Thorsten Nolte
Feb 5, 2014

Mobile and social marketing are dead. Long live digital marketing.

P&G global brand building officer Marc Pritchard declared last year that digital marketing was dead, but I think he missed the point. Actually digital marketing is very much alive. It's mobile marketing and social marketing that are actually dead.

Thorsten Nolte
Thorsten Nolte

Declaring that digital marketing is dead is like saying that outdoor advertising is dead. Or PR is dead. They’re all very different disciplines that entwine and complement each other. But digital marketing as a discipline is still growing and being learnt by so many marketers that to declare it dead is jumping the smoking gun.

Marketers get digital marketing all confused and say daft things like:

  • I need a facebook page. 
  • I need an app. 
  • I need banner campaign.


Marketers are great at climbing on board bandwagons. Less good at getting off when they’re about to go over a cliff. Apps are great case in point. If I had a dollar for every client/potential client that said 'I need an app' and when asked 'why' said “I don’t know…because my competitors have all got one'...

So if all your competitors decided to sponsor underwater volleyball using dwarves as the ball would you do the same?

Simple questions should kill any thought for an unnecessary app. Like who is going to download it and what are they going to download it for? What budget are you allocating towards it? How will you ensure it has relevant content to entice people to come back on a daily/weekly basis? And how will you integrate it into your IT systems? How much money will you allocate to its marketing?

Also, when it comes to budgets, you can have an app for $5,000 or $500,000 and in Asia you really do get what you pay for. But will your company justify $500,000 when you have no idea how many people will download and use your app on a regular basis? Or if you spend $5,000 and the app breaks down, will you dismiss the concept completely?

Let me give you a clue. If you’re a furniture company, car company, plane selling company, FMCG company or B2B company, the chances are that in general you don’t need an app because no one is going to use it on a regular basis and it won’t do any more than a mobile-enabled website combined with email will do.

However, if you’re a financial-services brand, telecom company, media brand, sports brand, general travel brand (not a once-in-a-lifetime travel brand) or a dynamic content brand as well as a social-media brand, then yes, you need an app. Anyone could make a commercial case for the latter examples.

The same goes for a Facebook page. Just because everyone else has one does not mean it makes sense for you to have one. For example if you’re a B2B brand, you do not need a Facebook page unless you want millions of off-target consumers who will never be interested in actually buying your brand or who even could make a difference by following you. If you do want that then you need to change industries and probably jobs.

I’m always amazed when I say to potential clients, 'No you do not need a Facebook page or app', and they look at me and say, 'We’ll pay you'. I always tell them they're missing the point. If you don’t have daily interesting content, you don’t have any reason why someone would download your app or follow you, so what are you expecting from these? What is your ROI?

I know marketers are not known for their adherence to ROI. They can place a 30-second TV ad or run a poster campaign worth millions of dollars and who knows what effect it has. But digital marketing measures everything. You will be accountable for your spend—at least I hope that your CFO makes you accountable for it.

If you spend $1 million on a year’s worth of app development and Facebook page development and end up with a few thousand followers, none of whom are engaging on either platform, what will you say? More importantly what will your boss and shareholders say? How about 'What a waste of money and here’s the door'?

Ok, so it might be over the top to say that mobile and social are dead, when in fact the whole digital industry is growing and will continue to do so. The point is: Don't start your planning by thinking about platforms. Start by thinking about your customers and your competitive environment. From there you will get great insights that will lead to great ideas that will naturally lead you to the right platforms. Not the other way around.

Don’t be a lemming and follow individual digital marketing trends. Think about how your customers will engage, who they are, how you will target them, how you want them to talk to you. And ultimately, ask yourself what difference will it mean to your business if you have them and what difference will it make if you don’t. Think, don’t leap. That way you will remain alive and kicking like digital marketing is, rather than being put out of your misery like social and mobile are. 

Thorsten Nolte is CEO and founder of Upfront.


Related Articles

Just Published

6 hours ago

Twitter resurrects tweets from stars that brought ...

Twitter says: 'If you can dream it, tweet it.'

6 hours ago

Samsung shows where to look for a real gaming ...

WATCH: The film by BBH takes you down a rabbit hole, literally.

7 hours ago

Essence names Tim Irwin as new global COO

Irwin previously lead EMEA for the agency and will be succeeded by Ryan Storrar.

15 hours ago

‘We can’t just copy-paste elements from the West’: ...

Chair of the newly launched DEI committee Charu Srivastava discusses localising the DEI agenda, the importance of holistic change beyond policy, and why inclusive agencies can be a magnet for talent.