Distinct or Extinct in a Digital Age of Marketing

Marketing will never die – it is how we promote, brand, and sell products and services to each other. Whether it’s a mom and pop store putting coupons in mailboxes or a multi-billion dollar software company sponsoring a new football stadium, there will be plenty of jobs for men and women who have the creative knack and drive to dream up these campaigns.

This fact makes the current state of marketing that much more interesting. Rapidly (and picking up speed every year), advertising firms, major companies, and small businesses alike are moving their marketing budgets into digital campaigns. Nearly half of all advertising budgets in 2012 and 2013 were devoted to digital ads. It’s no accident. The tools, reach, scope, and frequency of those campaigns is just plain better.

But what does it mean for someone pursuing a career in marketing? Whether you’re a few years down the line in your career path or are looking at a degree in business and marketing and have yet to embark, there are a lot of things to consider – from who you might want to work for to what you should learn before you work there.

What’s Unique About Digital Marketing?

The best thing about marketing as an industry is that while technology, tools and even some methods can be completely revolutionized by digital media, the concepts generally remain the same.

So we have new things to consider like:

  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • YouTube
  • Blogging
  • PPC Advertising
  • Digital Media Buys

But the messages that reach buyers and convert to future customers are very similar to the ones used in newspaper ads, magazines, and TV spots for decades (and still today). People are still driven by scarcity. They still look to their neighbors for social cues on what to buy. They like an honest, yet palatable option over a shiny, over-hyped one any day. The major difference is not technique, but saturation.

Online there are so many more people vying for the same attention and the platforms are more accessible, so millions more can attempt to get that attention. You need to stand out and that means being distinct.

How to Be Distinct As You Embark on Your New Career

There are a number of ways to stand out in a crowded job market. The best way, though, especially in an increasingly digital marketing industry, is to show your ability to generate distinct ideas. Ideas like this:

Chipotle Scarecrow

Chipotle’s recent marketing campaign was online only and tied together the above video with a mobile game app, social media campaign and more, almost none of it with any branding of any kind.

The idea was unique and stood out because it hit a chord with so many people in the industry (and those who eat the food). And it was solely digital. A commercial wouldn’t have had this impact. Chipotle did something distinct.

Here’s another digital campaign that transcended the platform on which it was devised:


American Express proposed to support small businesses, and believe it not this is only 3 years old. Despite it’s youth as a campaign, the last Small Business Saturday had more than 100 million participants with President Obama and Mayor Bloomberg in New York City both promoting it.

Their use of a digital platform to reach a wide audience went viral in a very short relative time period and they’ve started something new that will long be associated with their brand.

So what does this mean for someone who is just starting in the industry?

It means developing a cross-section of skills. Where marketers of yesteryear could be proficient in basic psychology, copywriting, and visual mediums, today’s marketers need to have a much more diverse skillset:

  • Blogging
  • Social Media
  • Video Creation
  • App Development
  • Web Analytics
  • SEO

The more of these things you understand, the more compelling you’ll be as a candidate. Of course, these things are constantly evolving – you can’t just get a degree in digital media (at least not a current one), and few certificates exist for this type of skillset.

That means private study. Spend time learning how digital marketing tools work, maintain accounts on 5-6 social sites, create a blog and learn how to use platforms like WordPress. Create a knowledge base so that when a recruiter asks you if you can use X, Y or Z, you say yes more often than you say no.

And of course, start building a portfolio of creative, distinct ideas that are not like what other people are doing. While results matter most when pursuing any career opportunity, the creativity that went into achieving those results matters almost as much, and it involves technical knowledge as much as it does creative chops.

About the Author

Featured on websites in more than a dozens countries, Anthony Chatfield has consulted with business leaders, Fortune 500 companies, and entrepreneurs for much of the last decade.

Anthony founded two companies in content development and marketing and currently provides private consulting services for the online-side of small and medium sized business’s marketing campaigns.

Anthony currently lives in Staten Island, NY and produces marketing and content development training on numerous websites.

For more information, visit his Google+ Page.