Digitalization: No need for alarm


Those of us at Freudenberg IT – myself included – who get to deal with Industry 4.0 or cloud issues in marketing and communication in the year 2017, most probably mastered their craft in the so-called “analog age”. In my case, my professional career started exactly 22 years ago in an advertising agency in Cologne, Germany. At a time when the world was a very different one from the world we know today.

Of course that isn’t entirely correct; but it is true with regard to a phenomenon that we refer to as the “digital transformation”. In bygone days we spent many hours in front of our computer screens – just as we do now. We took immense pride in our typical agency computers with their symbolic “bite” in the Apple – exactly as we do today. Having only one computer with internet connection – at least in my agency – we were permanently offline. The famous TV ads with the even more famous German tennis players merrily announcing “I’m online” witnessed their premiere a whole four years later. And Google hadn’t even been invented.

Digitalization and Industry 4.0: sensors to turn machines, tools and products into a data source.

Equally inconceivable – in those days, it was actually also possible to work at a computer without a search engine. For the most part, our task was to convince the customer of our creative prowess and then to develop the classic advertising campaign. Principally with newspaper ads, large banners or in the form of direct mail en masse.

As for measuring success, to be honest there was much truth in the legendary Henry Ford quote, “I know half the money I spend on advertising is wasted, but I can never find out which half.” In the long run, such a situation is of course less than satisfying for both advertising companies and ad agencies.

And now for the good news

Since then, much water has flowed under the bridge and the world of advertising has undergone radical reform. New buzzwords such as data-driven, omnichannel or content marketing govern the technical lingo. Without wanting to give an explanation of each individual concept, they give a very good overall impression of the direction we have been heading in – thanks to new technology. In the meantime, we are better able to analyze what “works” and what isn’t successful in the market. Potential target groups can now be reached via numerous new (and old) channels.

Formats such as whitepapers, webcasts or e-books are under constant scrutiny, and are either developed further or – after a period of time – consigned to the waste paper bin. The customer journey - in other words the managed development of a potential customer to one who is satisfied and returns time and time again - is easy to analyze and makes the achievement of a more targeted and favorable response possible. “Advertising that bugs people” is simply no longer necessary nowadays.

Alongside these developments, marketing has of course become more complex. But it has also moved noticeably closer to the core business of a company. Casting a number of eyes over the facts, figures and data of individual campaigns has made many things a lot simpler. Henry Ford would certainly have been delighted.

Today, the customer journey is easiear to analyze. (C) @flenjoore

Altogether “4.0”

Altogether, my opinion is that Google, Facebook, and e-mail & co. receive considerable criticism in the public domain – which, to a limited extent, is justified. However, these new channels have also brought us closer to our target groups – at the same time as being less intrusive. With the right content and the necessary openness to continually experiment, there is much to be gained. As marketers and ad-men and women, we were confronted with digital transformation relatively early on – as many innovations from the first internet wave achieved their potential through new ways of advertising. As a result, we had to free ourselves from old-school mechanisms – mostly twenty years ago – and recognize that digitalization is not some abstract rocket science, but that it offers genuine opportunities.

What is important, however, is not to be alarmed by the many “buzzwords” and to continue questioning the benefits for each field of business. This is how it works – and, at the end of the day, it’s also great fun.