Implication: you will be moving into an increasingly cluttered marketplace, where broad reach options will continue to lose effectiveness and highly targeted delivery will come at a higher price as demand outstrips the supply of good inventory and good people to execute. Consumers, too, will become increasingly savvy with respect to their digital media usage patterns, and harder to "impress" with incrementally new ideas or executions.
I know I'll get lots of letters about this post "educating" me on the infinite scalability of the digital media, and reminding me that true creativity is likewise boundless. I'm sure many of you have research that shows how the returns to digital marketing programs just keep growing as the audience of users grows across more and more platforms. Fair enough. But the laws of marketing physics suggest that more marketers and marketing dollars will rush in to the arena than proven executional avenues can accommodate in the short term. And most of them will NOT bring breakthrough new creativity with them. That will create lots of failure and un-delivered expectations, which in turn may slow adoption of otherwise valuable marketing options.
Here's a simple suggestion as you contemplate the great digital shift toward the promise of better ROI: set your expectations based on poorer results than you may have experienced in the past, and/or ratchet-down vendor claims of look-alike results presented in "case studies."
Before committing to the "me too" plan of going digital, ask yourself if your planned online campaigns would be a good investment if they were 10% less effective than originally anticipated. Would your new social networking programs still provide good payback if they had a 20% less impact on potential customers? These may very well be the new reality when everyone rushes in.
In stark contrast, a friend who's CMO of a packaged goods company tells me that while he is continuing to shift the balance of his total spend towards digital media, he's doing so in a measured way built on careful experimentation. He's working on a cycle of plan>execute>learn>expand>plan again. So he's spending 20% more on digital media in 2009 than in 2008, but not moving huge chunks of his total budget all in one big push for magic returns. Nope. His philosophy is "hit 'em where they ain't." He's buying more radio and magazines -- media he's developed clear success cases with in the past, and places where he can more accurately predict the impact on his business.
He may find himself all alone there. But I suspect that's part of the appeal.