Offline Marketing Is the New Online Marketing

At the recent E-consultancy Masterclass conference in London, I detected a theme emerging from among the speakers. There’s a trend back to traditional marketing’s principles in the online marketing space. This was summed up by one speaker who declared, “Offline marketing is the new online marketing.”

What the speakers were saying is the concepts of brand and brand marketing are becoming more important in the online marketing mix, and online marketing is becoming more important to brand marketing activities. The challenge is to develop how you actually measure the effectiveness of online brand marketing activities.

This set me thinking. If a trend back toward traditional marketing principles exists, will there also be a trend back toward traditional marketing evaluation methods? We all know the online marketing channel is one of the most accountable channels. We can understand online marketing activities’ direct response to a very detailed level.

Even so, we make massive assumptions about behaviors and outcomes, and there’s still a lot we don’t know. We don’t generally know, for example, the combined effect different on- and offline activities have on sales, leads registrations, and so on. However, some research studies show the dependencies between offline marketing activities and marketing effects online, for example, and that TV advertising can generate search activity increases.

The challenge in evaluating offline marketing spend has historically been the lack of any direct link between the marketing activity and the resulting effect. You don’t generally know if someone saw a TV ad, then walked into a store and bought the product. At least, not in the same way we can tell that someone saw an online ad, then visited the site and bought the product. That’s why the online medium is so accountable.

Or is it?

As the trend continues away from online direct marketing toward online brand marketing, that accountability will diminish and lines will become increasingly blurred. Meanwhile, current practices for recognizing success events, such as attributing the sale to the source of the last visit, will seem increasingly naïve. What about the role the TV ad played in driving the search in the first place? How is that recognized?

Methods for evaluating traditional brand marketing activity tend to revolve around statistical techniques. That means looking for cause and effect with econometric (define) modeling approaches, in which regression analysis and other methods are used to understand the varying impact different types of marketing activity have on sales or leads. This is common practice in the consumer packaged goods (CPG) industry, for example. Such techniques not only look at the immediate impact marketing activity has on sales but can also take into account the longer term or residual effects some ad types might have, particularly TV.

Maybe it’s a question of teaching the new dog some old tricks. I cut my teeth on such modeling techniques to try to understand the relative effects that different advertising and promotions strategies had on product sales. It may be time to dust off some of the books and papers in my library, as when it comes to understanding how to spend online and offline marketing money to best effect, we’ll be going back to the future.

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