As you know “fads” come and go throughout our life.

Who can forget such magical and wildly popular toys such as The Rubik’s Cube, inline skates, slime and more recently, fidget spinners, and Loom bands?

In their first week of sales across the UK, these tiny loom bands amassed sales revenue of more than £1m, and the subsequent You Tube instruction videos, such as how to make a simple Starburst bracelet, exposed the brand a staggering 24 million times.

The inventor eventually made around £80m from the phenomenon. I particularly love the fact that people didn’t buy the bands for their colour or shape (where commodity products languish), more for the outcome of what they can make and how they can be better than their friends. Intense competition at the earliest of ages!

So what’s the latest fad?

As a keen observer of industry trends and the resulting marketing strategies, I have enjoyed many conversations with marketing Directors and agency creative Directors who work across various sectors.

Without exception they have the unenviable task of working to find that perfect combination of creative campaign themes, and the channel mix that most effectively gives them the best ROI against each marketing pound spent.

What I’m seeing now is brands reducing spend on digital. Why is that? Not all brands are doing it, some are still only just arriving on the digital band wagon, but I’m not here to talk about laggards.

I see the innovators, where one marketing Director explained it as: “I have another toy to play with now”. And that toy is DATA. Brands are now tracking, capturing and using (this is the important bit) data in far more intelligent ways than ever before.

The increasing, and now more realistic, obsession with Single Customer View (SCV) gives todays marketers more scope in how they may wish to attract and entice “net new” customers to their brand. This is attracting investment at significant levels.

There is also a great deal of “noise” in the digital space, and it’s harder to be noticed. Big brands with enormous budgets are able to own the lion’s share of paid online advertising results.

We’ve seen GDPR negatively impact the effectiveness of email as a customer acquisition tool. Consumers are almost “numb” to the effect of offers through this channel.

Is digital going away then?

No, it is not that digital is going to fade away, like a distant toy that was once the obsession of eager marketers. Like all “channel fads”, it will be put into the marketing box, with all the other great games, puzzles and toys.

Out of this box, marketers are dusting off print and direct mail as a customer acquisition tool, which is proving very effective. This time however, like every great marketing channel that was once an exciting fad, it’s matured into a strategically leveraged tool, enabled by that “big data”.

At a recent 2019 planning meeting at a major brand, I saw with my own eyes how they wanted to bring print back into the mix.

Using it to gain traction with certain hard to reach demographics, lapsed customers, or those customers that abandon baskets online – all examples of where print adds value. It’s a bit like blending Lego with Meccano; you can create great structure and interactivity with both, but they will appeal to different people in different ways.

Like those ubiquitious Loom bands, the shiny lure of digital, with it’s measurable ROI and cheap price tag proved irresistible to up and coming marketers. But it’s worth remembering that the old fad of print, is becoming the new fad once again, and data is its engine.


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