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Will digital remain a marketing domain? And get killed by it?

The digital function took inception in many organisations less than a decade back with a 1-2-member team opening corporate Facebook pages, putting a smarter website in place, buying digital media and so on. It was integrated with the marketing function due to its seemingly seamless fit of creative work and the treatment of digital as a form of media.


Over time, this department has grown to 10-20 people with specialists in ORM, social, website, search and Ecommerce. This digital department is known for the maximum jargons in the industry to which their worthy colleagues across other departments either nod in agreement or simply look through as if they were born with jargons - CTR, CPM, CPC, DMA, Native, Programmatic, Pop-Under, Interstitial, DSP etc. Ironically, even team members in the traditional marketing set-up are confused with all the balderdash and recently have started aspiring to take up these roles to remain relevant.


However, if you go back in time during the evolution of traditional media, the disparity in media adoption was not that extreme. A lot has got to do with belief in the medium itself. That belief comes from knowledge and with the lack of knowledge within organisations including the marketing function itself, a lot needs to be done on the digilliterate if we want the medium to find its true potential.


To start with, organisations need to revisit their structure. The isolated digital team needs to find its true place in the structure. Its residence in the marketing team has made it a hole in the wall and that itself is its nemesis. Ultimately the digital plan becomes a small subject of the large marketing plan. Organisations do not need digital marketing, they need digitisation. A digital Cell needs to reside within each function. The newly formed CDO or CDMO needs a representative in each function with reporting to him and a dotted line to the respective function head so that the medium can be leveraged in every possible way across the organisation. In isolation even the CDO will find it challenging to orchestrate organisational goals through his sphere of expertise. For digital to spread within, each function needs this functional expertise. The digital resident has the key task of being a training manager as well and ensure that people around him come to speed and become Digiliterate. This needs at least a 20% KPI weightage. However, this is where the digital experts get insecure about sharing knowledge which must be broken now.


The 2nd is to get into Ecommerce. Each offline brand needs to have its online sales avatar. In this space, all digital plays come in handy with the added benefit of sales realisation and thereby appreciating the true effect of the medium. Even B2B businesses have a potential E-Sales play. And to make it truly owned, the responsibility of Ecommerce needs to rest with the sales head and not the digital or marketing head. Thereby kills the dilemma of the sales head that e-commerce is his and his sales team’s competition or the issue of channel conflict.


The 3rd is to make digitisation permeate in the organisation not only from a sales and marketing perspective but also from the lens of empowering employees and improving productivity. FB at work, logging in attendance and other internal portals replication on the mobile, sales force automation can get more employees appreciate the digital benefit.


And the last is to abolish the term ‘digital marketing’. Just like there is no TV marketing, Print marketing and Radio marketing. The customer remains at the centre and an optimum mix comprising all media needs to actualise into a sale. Digitisation for prospects and existing customers does that more holistically than just digital marketing.


So it’s really time to change the digitisation game at the organisational level and not just keep it within marketing. With AI & IOT about to take off, the need is more urgent than ever before and the more each employee in the company uses and appreciates digital, the more will be its sustainable competitive advantage in the future.


Sumit Sehgal


The article reflects Sumit' s deep understanding of many organisations who suffer from short sightedness due to lack of holistic perspective of change agents. As a result, many miss the bus. This well articulated feature must make many decision makers reboot their thinking process.