The transition from traditional advertising to digital is a more difficult one than some companies expected. While many see the opportunity to tap into the limitless audience and increased measurability of digital advertising, the major challenge is that most organisations are simply not set up in such a way as to make the most of it.

Statistically, traditional marketing departments within larger organisations have been slow to adapt to the digital revolution. When comparing overall revenue growth from a percentage standpoint, small organisations who had little or no marketing presence have benefited most from platforms like Google Ads and Facebook. As a result, there is a long list of start-ups and small businesses that have achieved global success through the effective use of a diverse range of platforms, designed to attract and convert large amounts of customers. Ironically, in this, small businesses have the advantage – they don’t have sales teams or multiple divisions and can build a business development strategy based around engaging with people online through compelling offers. If Airbnb and Uber have taught us anything, it’s that in the digital age, the platform or product is the most critical element, how it’s communicated is second most and the business trails far behind.

Larger corporates are often built the other way around. Marketing departments are encumbered with products that may not be the best on the market, but they are expected to sell them effectively anyway. Marketing has for too long been treated like a magic pill that has the ability to transform even the most inane product into a world-beater. Digital advertising, puts the product back on the forefront and makes the business world more of a meritocracy, enabling and empowering consumers to make qualified decisions based on viable online comparisons.

Of course, this type of interaction is foreign to most traditional marketing businesses, who by their very definition often shirk direct customer engagement – something which is vital in many digital advertising strategies. Likewise, marketing ethos has, as a result of putting the product second, often being based around selling features and benefits rather than improving the product itself, something that smaller entities have been able to do reactively.

With many businesses still reliant on mass media as the cornerstone of their attraction strategy, and digital eating up more of mass media’s lead every day, it’s inevitable that the move to digital mainstream will happen sooner rather than later. However, those slow to adapt are likely to end up as warnings to others – when the writing is on the wall, it’s time to act quickly.

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