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Insights / Blog / Business

Why online marketing is dead. And why this is a good thing!

March 30, 2016
Alain VeuveAlain VeuveManaging Director, AOE Switzerland

At the Dmexco 2014 I witnessed the following scene while working at our last exhibition booth: A vendor of online marketing suites was offering its SaaS product – and being quite colorful and flashy in the process. Two younger gentlemen in jeans and sports coats were strolling through the aisle and loudly discussing something about digital marketing. They stopped at aforementioned booth and picked up a fact sheet informing them about the product. “Ok, with this we could automatically increase our conversion to more than 1.5 percent – how do we price it?” – “Performance with cap, I think” – “Ok, and it’s got Big Data, too” – “Sure, after all, Big Data is a standard now” – “Ok, then let’s take it.” I didn’t know whether to laugh or cry.

A lot of know-how about nothing

Unfortunately, this conversation is representative for so many of those carrying out online marketing today. Digital transformation has brought an army of mediocre marketing people into the game. Because, after all, even the cagiest CEO has surely realized during the past few years that one should conduct marketing in this Internet thingy too. And the long-serving, older pros specialized in offline marketing have vacated their chairs, some reluctantly some very gladly. The fewest were able to adjust appropriately.

But, those who succeeded them were usually quite clueless about most things, except that they were already familiar with the digital world. However, this is merely one precondition for good online marketing.


This month, Scott Brinker ( published his Marketing Technology Landscape 2016:

My grandmother would probably say that there is an ointment for every little ache. The diagram above (in which there are also a lot of good products, of course) is symbolic of the entire misery, ladies and gentlemen.

For, I have often had the experience that representatives of such tools target large companies and are let loose on rather insecure marketing people, whom they aggressively try to talk into buying their product. They usually made quick work of the proceedings; it’s enough to drop a few current buzz words, present a hair-raising monetization and accurately instruct the prospect that the signature line is at the bottom right of the contract.

Accordingly, the pricing of such tools is usually quite clever. Most of the time it’s too expensive for what it is, but cheap enough to avoid the “Capex trap”.

Thus, what companies create over time is a virtually uncontrollable patchwork of solutions that are entirely independent of one another. A technological archipelago.

There are constants: vision & strategy

A lot has certainly changed in marketing and of course these changes are challenging as well. What remains is that vision and strategy are key for good marketing. And this is exactly where many of today’s marketing people fall short.

Rather than dealing with how marketing should feel for the customer and how to best proceed, most companies simply continue with marketing-as-usual. And quick-wins are fobbed off using various tools. What results is trivial mishmash. In other words, exactly the opposite of what we want to accomplish with marketing.

Having a vision is simply one of the core things you can do in marketing, though. It simplifies daily decision-making and creates distinguishing features for your company. Having a vision systematically prevents me-too marketing, unless perhaps you have a vision of not wanting to stand out in the market. After all, nothing’s impossible.

Against off- vs. online thinking

A few years ago, what was a desperate clinging to offline marketing measures has now become their complete rejection. Make it easy for yourself and just forget these on- and offline categories. Instead, concentrate on those things your customers like or simply on what they are doing.

Changed customer behavior

For example, I don’t know of anyone anymore who likes to be called at home. And I know no one who knows someone who likes to be called. So, just leave it.

I know no one who likes to click on banners and I know no one who knows someone who likes to click on banners. So, just leave it.

I don’t know anyone anymore who likes getting newsletters and no one who knows someone who likes to receive newsletters. So, just leave it.

I could play this game endlessly. And some of you would counter that statistic XY states that it still is quite clever to send newsletters, for example. And you probably wouldn’t be too far from the truth.

But, you’re failing to appreciate the key question: Do you want to take the elevator that’s going up or the one that’s going down? Do you want to be active where momentum exists or where things are fading out? One thing is very clear: The items mentioned above, together with many others, are slowly but surely fading away.


Grabbing someone’s attention has always been at the heart of advertising. In the past, people could be imposed upon and distracted – thus, one could attract their attention through advertising. Those times are over. People are neither willing to be disturbed when their attention is elsewhere nor are they very happy to deal with your content.

Today, people’s attention is centered on their smart phone screens. That’s where you and your marketing need to be. It’s astonishing, how few marketing people actually realize this.

There’s an easy way to not disturb the customers. Tell them stories through the social media. I’m often asked, do I have to be on LinkedIn or do I have to do something with Facebook or is this Twitter mandatory, Snap-what? The answer is really simple: You need to be anywhere where those people that are relevant to you are. Today, that means social media.

Telling stories

Telling a good story has always been the name of the game in entertainment and in nurturing an image. The stories have to be fun for us to like them. It really is quite simple.

But careful. Don’t confuse this with humor. Of course, humor is good, but it isn’t absolutely necessary. A story can be good fun without having to resort to humor. For example, the story can be particularly well told, or based on extensive research or visually stunning. The only thing it absolutely can’t be is mediocre.

Ok, and why is this a good thing now?

It is especially good for you if you are a marketing professional. Why? Because good marketing has never been cheaper – or more effective. And the overall level has rarely been as low during the past decades. So it’s an easy game.

What this means for you is that you can position your brand with relatively little effort. It means that you can win out in the marketing competition. And social media as a channel has really just begun because it raises communications in the society to a whole new level – qualitatively and quantitatively.

I think now is the right moment to create the appropriate vision and strategy and to redefine your company’s marketing.