The Other Side of the Fence: What A Brand Marketer Learned While Working For A Digital Publisher

After graduating from business school, I jumped right into the marketing world with a job as associate brand manager. One of the perks of the job was that I had the opportunity to spend a year learning how things work “on the other side of the fence” – that is, on the digital publishing side. I’m about three-quarters of the way through my year — focused specifically on the mom marketplace — and so far it’s been a wonderfully eye-opening experience. In business school, or even in traditional brand marketing jobs, we don’t usually get this kind of hands-on experience with the complicated world of digital publishing. To help bridge that gap, I thought I’d share some of the key lessons I’ve learned from my experience in the “real” digital world: 

1. We need to be digital experts, too. Whether you’re an associate brand manager or VP of marketing, you are, in your own way, responsible for your brand’s performance. Part of that responsibility includes understanding the digital side of your brand’s identity. Brand marketers need a firm grasp of all of our brand’s key performance indicators, and we should know when each should be used. Then we must ask our digital brand and agency experts the right questions to ensure that our digital strategies and tactics are working toward our overall brand objectives. 



2. We need to use digital to amplify and unite all of our marketing activities. Digital is not just another promotional platform, so it shouldn’t be considered in a silo. For example, TV commercials can be adapted for online video pre-roll, and original video content that lives on a brand site or YouTube page can be cut and teased through social media to drive engagement. Furthermore, consumer promotions can be amplified with targeted emails and social contests to drive awareness and in-store traffic.

3. Context is king in digital – and in our consumers’ lives. Several times this year, I’ve heard marketers admit that they’ve been viewing their consumers too narrowly. We focus so much on how our consumers behave in one particular category or in one need state that we often miss the broader context of our brand’s position. Stepping back to understand your consumer’s needs in a more holistic way will help you determine the best time and place for your brand to reach her, and the best message to deliver when she’s most receptive. 

4. There is a lot that goes on behind the scenes. We hire media agencies to be partners – they are extensions of our brand team and often have as much passion for our brand and consumers as we do. Behind the scenes, our agencies are experts in filtering hundreds of proposals from digital publishers and ad tech partners to help us shape our digital media plan. That said, once the agency receives a publisher’s proposal, they alone choose if and how to present these ideas to their client – the brand team. Sometimes, the publisher’s story and expertise gets lost in translation. So don’t be afraid to ask your agency to see the publisher’s full proposal or, if you can make the time, to talk to the sales team directly if you have questions.

5. Mom really does know best. Marketing during a changing life stage is not easy. I learned just how dramatic a transformation it really is – from the way she interacts with media, to what she expects from brands, and how reliant she becomes on mobile devices. You need to plan your marketing strategy understanding just how different her mindset is before and after becoming a mom. 

For me, the most important thing I’ve learned is that spending a year in digital is not enough. There’s so much to learn – from retargeting, to programmatic, to wearables and beacons. Daunting as it may seem, we need this expertise to take full advantage of the options that are available to our brands. While my year in digital publishing is almost up, my digital awakening has only just begun.

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