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When Analog Beats Digital Marketing

Authors: Steve McKee Steve McKee
Posted Under: Social Media
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Power Branding Smoothie

You would have thought that with the advent of the compact disc and the clarity and consistency digital music provides, turntables and needles would by now have disappeared, making all those record albums stored in your garage worthless. But, you may want to think twice before you pitch them in the trash or trade a stack for a large pizza (an act of which I am guilty and now regret).

For instance, if you happen to have a 1963 copy of The Freewheelin’ Bob Dylan, featuring four tracks that were deleted from subsequent releases, it would fetch you some $35,000. And the Beatles’ 1966 Yesterday and Today album in a butcher sleeve would net you nearly $40,000.

Don’t get too excited—most of your old LPs are likely worth just pennies. But some could net you $5, $10, or even $50 if you took the time to sort and sell them. As record collector Bill Cox puts it, “Vinyl is a different breed of passion.”

In our increasingly digital world, analog can offer a refreshing change. I recently toured Austin-based Quantum Digital, a company that integrates digital technologies with direct mail, print, online, and mobile to optimize consumer response. The operation is impressive and filled with the quiet purr of the latest high-tech digital printing, routing, and shipping machines.

What I found most impressive during the tour, however, was the reception desk. Eric Cosway, EVP/CMO (and our tour guide), introduced us to a charming woman who sat there and proudly announced that when you call Quantum Digital, you will always speak with a real person.

Where and When

I applaud the decision by a company with digital DNA to recognize when an analog solution is still best. Too many companies these days are enamored with the efficiency and cost savings of those awful telephone trees. Those of us on the other end know that what it really represents is a way to transfer costs and inefficiencies to us.

There’s nothing wrong with automation and digitization. But the more brands automate and digitize, the less personal their efforts tend to be. Who hasn’t received correspondence from a brand with a preprinted greeting and digitized signature that makes the pretense of being personal? The intention may be good, but the execution leaves a lot to be desired and can, in fact, leave an impression counter to what the brand intends.

Just because it can be done digitally doesn’t mean it should be. (click to tweet)

On my desk right now is a catalog (sent to tens of thousands of companies, no doubt) that boasts “Cards & Calendars Designed with Your Business in Mind.” Never mind that they’ve never even heard of my business. It tells me that if I make a purchase of $250 or more, I’ll receive a free gift. They hope to make expressing my sentiments easy, convenient, and financially rewarding.

Perhaps the catalog frames the problem better than anything.

Not only does it offer me faux-personal ways to express non-heartfelt feelings to unappreciative customers, it does so in a faux-personal way to me. It’s a lie from the cover on.

Reaching inboxes and mailboxes is easy. Reaching hearts and minds is more difficult. When it’s time for your brand to say thank you, happy birthday, or express any other personal sentiment to your customers, vendors, prospects, and employees, don’t be hypnotized by the promise of efficiency. Find a way to make the expression sincere, heartfelt, and personal.

This post is an excerpt from Power Branding by Steve McKee. Copyright (c) 2014 by the author and reprinted by permission of Palgrave Macmillan, a division of Macmillan Publishers Ltd.

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