Digital neanderthals, marketing and the shiny new things

Digital neanderthals, marketing and the shiny new things

I was talking last week to a friend who’s a qualified children’s football coach.
He was explaining to me the difference between coaching five year olds and coaching eleven year olds.
At age five the biggest challenge is to stop all the team members chasing after the ball at once. The idea of positions, tactics and linking together as a team aren’t worth thinking about at that age.
Yet coaching a team of eleven year olds is a different matter. There’s a different maturity to work with as a coach which means there’s greater potential to coach different skills and disciplines.
I was reminded of this conversation when I spotted a blog post on David Taylor‘s Brandgym site over the weekend.
In “insights from a(nother) digital neanderthal” he talks about how the marketing industry has rushed headlong into social media, much in the same way as the five year olds chase the ball in a football game.
He uses some entirely sensible statistics to back up his views and I can’t dispute the statistics David uses.
And he’s right that our profession does have a tendency to over-emphasise the value of shiny new things at the expense of a more disciplined and rigorous assessment of the old and the new.
But I’m not sure the analysis of the reach of different marketing channels tells the whole story.
What it doesn’t do is consider the changing patterns of media consumption and interaction.
As Ofcom’s Communications Market Report puts it:

Huge growth in take-up of smartphones and tablets is creating a nation of media multi-taskers, transforming the traditional living room of our parents and grandparents into a digital media hub.

The challenge for marketers is to really understand the complex multimedia landscape and how to compete effectively for audience engagement
That’s about more than understanding marketing channels, whether they’re new or old.
It’s about understanding audiences and how they engage with content, however it’s delivered to them.
That is why the content-led approach, while it has fallen victim to the marketers’ love for the next big thing, remains a sound strategic basis for marketing in the complex digital lives of most audiences.
Understanding how audiences receive, interpret, understand and share content is the right way for marketing to remain relevant and effective.
The challenge is to cut through the marketing hype around content marketing and determine what’s effective and why…as well as to behave more like the eleven year olds rather than the five year olds as well.


I work with founders and senior leaders in rapid growth businesses. My focus is building resilience, coherence and high performance in teams and organisations to enable sustainable business growth.

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