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Digital or die

The role of digital marketing is to create value and it must work in tandem with all other vehicles or touch points, Marc Landsberg, director of strategy and development, Leo Burnett Worldwide, and president of Arc Worldwide, said at a closed-door presentation recently.

“Think about digital as the underpin, as the infrastructure for all types of communication. Digital and direct are two sides of the same coin. It’s not just about awareness, it’s about driving engagement through to transaction by creating value for clients and consumer,” Landsberg said.

He said the three main domains digital marketing should be thought about within are content development, content distribution (using technology such as RSS to gather really personalised content) and content experience.

Landsberg also provided a cheat-sheet for marketers and agencies looking to better engage consumers, which stipulate that digital initiatives have to be relevant, generate attraction, be transparent, be authentic, incite interaction, allow and encourage customers to share control of the brand and celebrate aesthetics.

In a digital world, he said, consumer engagement requires brand new approaches such as magnetic pull which is creating new and relevant content, and which is epitomised by the a 3D virtual world entirely built and owned by its residents — Second Life. At the time of print, Second Life boasts 6,455,460 worldwide residents (however as of 2013 the platform is still running but likely has less than 50,000 active users).

Last.fm, Minti, Mecanbe, Fishbowl and Root are some other of today’s niche sites and social networking options Landsberg mentioned which cater to groups with highly specialised interests but as they effectively make the term ‘mass audience’ obsolete, do they justify marketer investments?

“The fundamentals of web 2.0 are encapsulated in the concept of the long tail. These tens of thousands of vertical niche experiences are what the web is all about. As marketers, we must appreciate and honor the concept of the long tail — fish where the fish are — and understand that driving ‘traffic’ to destination web sites of marginal utility and value will always result in failure,” he said.

“Now, that being said, there are a number of new order aggregators of audiences, driven mostly by social networks. YouTube, and MySpace, and recently Second Life are examples of the re-aggregation of users around content they create (vs. portal content pre-defined). So, smart marketing will both honour the concept of the long tail, as well as exploit the opportunities which are being created by re-aggregated communities around self-generated content.”

With the creation of more of such sites, Landsberg feels there is increasingly less worry of creative professionals and ad agencies not being able to pick up the skills or know-how to effectively leverage on new digital tools.

“The tools needed are vast and continue to evolve — from strategy to market-sensing (what’s out there/what’s happening) to sense-making (creating context) to specialist craft skills such as web design and rich media animation (Flash 9.0). The industry continues to move toward more specialist competencies, and step by step I believe we will get there,” he said.

On a personal tact, Landsberg said he is a “huge personal fan” of sport, maths, and travel, as well as a “rabid user” of de.li.cious — a user community of tagged content that enables people to search, sort and use content of value to them.

“This is a perfect example of next generation portal, as the content I find of greatest value is self-organised by equally passionate individuals around the world.”

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