Digital is A Channel, Not the King in Marketing

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  • Friday, February 22, 2013
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  • Jennifer C. Jimenez
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  • Almost all marketers hear the value of going digital. But after all the hype, will it really be value-adding to the brands' target consumers? What if this channel is almost different to the business model from which the brand operates?

    Let's take a look at a good example. Hallmark, a brand leveraging on card sales, has exclusively positive brand associations and very strong brand equity. But these were posed to the threat of obsolescence as people increasingly use social media platforms to interact with their social circles.

    How did Hallmark respond? Low-equity brands might rush going digital as well, selling cards in online commerce, but this international card brand did not. Hallmark formed a special team that will create a new campaign focusing on providing Hallmark offers in more relevant ways. Lisa Macpherson, the Marketing Head of Hallmark captured the significance of what they did in her answer, "The Hallmark marketing team doesn’t think in terms of digital campaigns or traditional campaigns; it focuses all marketing efforts on the people, behavior it wants to change, and an idea. Only then will it discuss context, delivery, and media channel". The result? From the special occasions, Hallmark moved to offering cards for those everyday moments that are worth celebrating. 

    Hallmark's Recordable Storybook campaign, where their cards are accompanied by voice recordings where grandparents, for instance, can record their voice as they tell story to a grandchild living from a distance is also a hit. As more and more people go into social media, the value of the authenticity of voice is heightened. "But we have heard amazing stories, mostly through social media, of the role the product plays in the lives of military families, families who are separated by divorce or work, and even those that have lost a family member and still have their voice captured in the book", Macpherson shared with CMO.

    Macpherson admitted that their brand's competitors are not the e-greeting cards per se, but the digital products. According to her interview in AdAge, "it's magazines; it's celebrity resources that offer creative tips and ideas. It's Martha Stewart magazine, Real Simple magazine and all of the TV shows about making your home an enriching place for your family. So, the bad news is it's more cluttered competitively, but the really great news is it's a much bigger market space." And how does Hallmark measure the ROI from their digital assets? "We know it's not clicks, we know it's not eyeballs. We're not yet a very strong e-commerce company. We don't sell most of our products online, so we're searching for the right measurement," Macpherson added.

    Hallmark proved how a traditional brand can utilize social media in ways that enriches the consumer experience. Jeff Weidauer of Vestcom International, suggested that online and offline touchpoints must be integrated for an optimized consumer experience. 

    When it comes to online marketing, it is true that content is king. But one must be careful to differentiate quality over quantity. A marketer must really know who the target market is and avoid the pitfalls of attracting mass when the original target audience is a niche market. Online community members can perceive authenticity and pure motives from consistent production of relationship-building content.

    Marketers must remember that marketing is all about the target consumers, not going into just any media. Social media is here to stay, but it is just another channel in reaching the boss when it comes to marketing-- the consumers.


    Loria, Keith. The Interview: Hallmark’s Lisa Macpherson. Feruary 20, 2013

    Zmuda, Natalie and Rooney, Jennifer. Hallmark Breaks Out of Special-Occasion Mold. AdAge

    Thau, Barbara. Just Because: Hallmark Tries to Keep Relevant in the Social Networking Era. Daily Finance.


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