Commentary

Decreasing The Ever-Increasing Digital Marketing Gap

This was a very interesting experience in contrasting marketing strategies. I spent nearly a week speaking at a travel conference at a Disney World Resort and came away deeply impressed at the strong narrative delivered throughout my experience. The depth of the Disney narrative and the clarity of the message was reinforced throughout every aspect of my activities. 

“Make memories with those you love” is a powerful draw to families, young couples, older families, or just about anybody. The message resonates powerfully through every cast member, experience, and even simple, casual events (such as visiting the hotel pool). Their narrative drives the cast members to deliver an amazing and memorable visitor experience.

In working with groups of travel agents, transportation providers, and destinations, I was struck with the contrast between being directly in the cross-hairs of the mega-corporation around us and observing the vast gap of digital marketing understanding and execution among the attendees. The acceleration of marketing technology and the emphasis on adoption of new social networks has created breathless business owners and managers. They are eager to grow, but they are overwhelmed by technology and distanced from the basics of building and executing a consistent marketing plan.

Frequently, they ask two questions: 

  1. How much time and effort should I put into social media?
  2. How will I know when it is working? 

The problem with this viewpoint is that it is based solely on a tactical approach to the marketplace. The assumption is that participation in social media will equal business results. As one agent explained, “Every expert tells us to be on social media, but no one tells us how to do it.” 

This brings us to the widening knowledge gap. The business of content marketing tells us that everything has changed and that businesses need to add new channels, publish more content and add new tactics nearly every week. Marketers feel constant pressure to expand into new channels, many times before those channels are established. 

Where is their narrative? Too often, it gets left behind. Their narrative should drive their business and guide the tactics. Rather then forcing a presence, a narrative provides parameters of storytelling that enable a marketer to align the strengths of the business to the strengths of a particular medium. Without this narrative, the message becomes fractured across multiple platforms and results in pretty pictures with motivational quotes being posted to Facebook. To a potential customer, the business does not have an identity, a clear purpose, or provide a clear benefit.

For many people and companies, it’s time to get back to basics. If you are overwhelmed by the constant pressure to be everywhere and be all things to all channels, here’s the cure: step back, take a breath, and assess your strategy.

1. Is your message clear? Or, has it become so muddled by the emphasis on engagement that you have forgotten the reason you are engaging?

2. Is your message defined? Can you express your key business value to the customer quickly, clearly, and in an interesting way? No one has time for elevator pitches anymore, 30 seconds is too long. Can you just give it to me in 140 characters?

3. Is your message consistent? In an effort to be all things to all people, we sometimes forget that our primary business value needs to remain stable and consistent. When you change the message too much, your value disappears. Information flows too quickly to be inconsistent in your message. 

Because of short attention spans, you can’t afford to send mixed messages. To get social media right, (or to get any media right) these first three areas need to be solid. A clear, defined, and consistent message is a necessary part of your strategy. 

Don’t just enjoy the Disney experience as a vacationer, learn from what they do well. They are disciplined and consistently produce a clear, defined message that resonates across multiple consumer segments.

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