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Digital Marketing Tips from 12 Marketing Professors

The drive to constantly learn new things is a very important attribute for marketers, considering that digital marketing is one of the toughest industries out there and with its nature as an ever-evolving field. Constant reading, practice and analysis are a must, in order to be better at it.

Online marketing is definitely full of challenges, for both starters and seasoned practitioners. But the thing that’s really great about our industry is that there are so many useful resources available over the web, which can help us improve in our own ways and overcome those challenges.

And since, we’ve already been learning a lot from the top experts and practitioners in the field, I’ve decided to ask and get insights from those who’re really passionate about educating other people.

Those who teach in classrooms, and not through webinars, blogging, conferences and other channels that most of us online marketers have already been used to. Because I believe that we can also learn a lot from them, and their advices are certainly worth listening to.

So I asked 12 marketing professors from different universities a single question:

What are the traditional marketing principles that online marketers should highly consider and apply/incorporate with their digital marketing activities (now and in the near future)?

Glen Gilmore

Glen GilmoreGlen Gilmore teaches digital marketing, crisis communication and social media law at Rutgers University. He was also ranked #7 on Forbes’ list of top 50 Social Media Power Influencers. You can follow him on Twitter @GlenGilmore.

The ever-quotable David Ogilvy cautioned marketers that, “The consumer isn’t a moron; she is your wife.”  Ogilvy’s classic statement from the golden age of traditional marketing brings to mind several principles that apply very much to digital marketing, now and into the future:

  • Consumers demand truthfulness and transparency.
  • Connecting with consumers requires more listening than talking.
  • Content marketing must inform, before it attempts to sell.
  • Creative marketing cannot compensate for poor products or poor services.
  • Your focus should never be a one-time sale, but on establishing long-term relationship – and that requires a longer-term vision and a determination to create real connections through service and trust.

Deirdre Breakenridge

Deirdre Breakenridge2Deirdre Breakenridge is an adjunct professor at New York University. She’s also the CEO of Pure Performance Communications. You can follow her on Twitter @DBreakenridge.

Your marketing initiatives should always be focused on your audience … it the “what’s in it for me” principle. With an incredible sea of noise and the increasing difficulty to reach and engage with people, it’s so important that marketers know their customers, well beyond the demographics. Social media changes the way we reach audiences today, and also takes engagement to an entirely new level.

However, research is a constant effort that helps you understand your audience’s preferences, critical issues and exactly how they want to participate with you.

Today’s research still uses some good old traditional methods; from polls and surveys to in-person interviews and focus panels (although these methods can be accomplished using newer technology). Taking research into the 21st century also requires “listening” or monitoring keywords and to find opportunities to join the conversations.

Research can also mean using new tools and platforms to uncover influencers, find trending topics, hear important conversations, watch competitor social media activity, receive feedback on products or services, enhance your reputation and gather ideas from crowdsourcing. Although the channels and the technology continue to change, the need to do research will remain a top priority for marketers today and in the future.

Mike Johansson

Mike JohanssonMike Johansson is a visiting professor at Rochester Institute of Technology. Aside from being a lecturer on PR, Advertising and Journalism, he’s also a social media consultant. You can follow him on Twitter @MikeJNY

Traditional marketing principles still apply online, but they must be viewed through a social lens.

Online has become a place where the customers and potential customers have the power via social networks to connect with all of your other customers and potential customers. This means, for example, that if anything less than full transparency in what you’re offering was ever acceptable it is not acceptable now. The online audience can, and does, talk to each other frequently. If youir value proposition is not one of the best everyone will know and very quickly.

It also means that “knowing who you’re trying to reach” is both more complex and easier to research. More complex because there are so many “signals” to be interpreted in the digital world. But easier in the sense that by using social listening skills brands can now pick up on signals from the marketplace that in an earlier generation would have taken weeks and a lot of money to hear.

Dr. Bang Nguyen

Bang NguyenDr. Bang Nguyen is a professor in Marketing at Oxford Brookes University and a visiting research professor at CEIBS in Shanghai, China. You can follow him on Twitter @ProfBangNguyen.

All of it is important. If I had to pick one key principle, it would be to develop systems to monitor and learn customers’ individual wants and needs, so that marketers can satisfy those customers’ needs on an individual basis.

However, marketers cannot just monitor/collect data obtrusively, but must also consider privacy and fairness in their methods.

Dr. Steven White

Prof. Steve White, CCBDr. Steven White is a professor of marketing and international business at University of Massachusetts at Dartmouth. He’s also the CMO at Garcia Digital Marketing. You can follow him on Twitter @dstevenwhite.

In my opinion, digital marketing has to be grounded in traditional marketing theory. Currently, and in the near future, successful digital marketers are those who understand and can adapt traditional marketing applications for the new social/mobile marketing era. Fundamentally, marketing is about communication.

Digital marketing presents two major advantages over traditional marketing: 1) the ability to engage in conversations and relationships with consumers and potential consumers in real time, and 2) metrics on which to base the evaluation of success or failure of digital marketing efforts.

This is an exciting time to be a marketer. The social/mobile marketing era offers unlimited opportunities to build meaningful relationships with a world-wide audience of potential customers.

Denny McCorkle

Denny McCorkleDenny McCorkle is a marketing professor at University of Northern Colorado. You can follow him on Twitter @TweetRightBrain.

When partnered with digital marketing, traditional methods of marketing (theories, research methods and data analysis, planning and strategies) provide a base for support, growth, and development.

Proper and rigorous analysis methods are still needed for big data and online metrics. New product development processes are still needed for developing digital or e-commerce products. Good research design is still needed for netnography, sentiment analysis, online focus groups, split testing, and online surveys.

Social media tactics need strategies for integration with other marketing media.  Blogs still need good communication, creativity, and persuasion skills. And, all strategies, whether traditional or digital, still need a marketing plan.

Dr. Constantinos Coursaris

Coursaris-Photo-for-Post-smallDr. Constantinos Coursaris is an associate professor in telecommunication, information studies, media and advertising at Michigan State University. He’s also a marketing and technology consultant. You can follow him on Twitter @DrCoursaris.

It would be prudent for Digital Marketers operating anywhere to consider not only traditional marketing principles for their potential applicability in their space, but also survey the plethora of theories, models, and best practices put forth by Communication scholars and in particular those who have focused on Computer-Mediated Communication over the past two decades. Digital channels blur the line of traditional marketing communications and interpersonal communication exchanges.

As such, you have a nuanced form of interactions – and they should be interactions, as hopefully by now, digital marketers have embraced the requirement for dialog rather than a broadcast of brand benefits and calls to action. With that in mind, i.e. the need for leveraging both domains of Marketing and Communication, if I were to highlight just one source from each, they would be:

Marketing: John Dewey’s work gave rise to our contemporary understanding of a consumer’s decision process, often described as five sequential stages —i.e., problem/need recognition; information search; evaluation of alternatives; purchase decision; and post-purchase decision. This understanding highlights the need for tailored messaging at different stages of the decision process—or more generally for achieving diverse objectives. Marketers often forget to strategically develop messages that are appropriate at different times, and engage in unstructured messaging, which carries no reliability with its expected effects or outcomes.

Communication: Viral marketing involves interpersonal influence on the adoption and use of products and services. Joseph Walther’s Social information-Processing theory views online social networks as important sources of information for people’s adoption and usage behaviors and activities. Hence, it focuses on the benefits of computer-mediated communication in online social networks—as opposed to face-to-face communication through offline social networks—for viral marketing in terms of its increased reach; the minimum effort involved; and its simultaneous synchronous and asynchronous nature.

Jim Joseph

Jim JosephJim Joseph is a professor at New York University. He’s also the author of the award-winning book series “The Experience Effect”. You can follow him on Twitter @JimJosephExp.

There is one aspect of traditional marketing that will never go out of style, even in today’s frenetic up-to-the-second digital world:  always lead with a customer insight.

Really understanding your customer and what makes them tick is a marketing fundamental. Every aspect of a brand’s interactions with its customers should seek to build an emotional connection that goes beyond just the product or service itself.

Every marketing element should start with an acknowledgement of the customer and what they need and want. When you lead with something about them, instead of about yourself, then they are more likely to connect, remember, and share.

Rob Petersen

rob petersenRob Petersen is a professor at Rutgers University. He’s also the President of BarnRaisers LLC. You can follow him on Twitter @RobPetersen.

People like to do business with people they know. This timeline principle about business and relationships is a reason why we do marketing. It’s even more relevant for digital marketing.

Blogs, e-mail marketing, videos, comments and sharing give consumers the chance to know and like you. They work because they humanize the people behind any business and the brand they represent. Even as new channels and tactics become available, the truth behind this simple wisdom will only be more apparent.

Dr. Michael Breazeale

Michael_BreazealeDr. Michael Breazeale is an assistant professor at the University of Nebraska at Omaha. Aside from being a marketing educator, he is also a marketing consultant. You can follow him on Twitter @MktgMike.

I think that a lot of marketers are so intimidated by digital marketing that they often try to start from scratch with their digital strategy. That’s why I like your question. The biggest mistake we can make is to forget the marketing principles that got us where we are.

Digital marketing does involve a paradigm shift, but at it’s core, it is merely another tool in the marketer’s toolbox. It’s a tool that when used effectively can produce positive outcomes and when used without caution can produce stellar failures.

Three principles that come to mind immediately are the necessity of understanding the target market, the importance of respectful relationships, and the value of customer co-creation and feedback.

We know that the most important asset any marketer has is a thorough understanding of the target market. With digital marketing in the mix, that now includes understanding what our customer wants from us in terms of types and timing of communication.

The real-time capabilities of digital marketing make it very tempting to communicate constantly with customers, but that is not typically what they want from us. Even with digital capabilities we must provide relevant, engaging content that provides some kind of value to the customer and use that content sparingly.

We have known for years that solid relationships between our brand and our customers produce long-term profitability for the firm. Digital marketing provides us a way to be present in our customers’ daily lives in a way that we did not have previously, allowing for stronger, more meaningful relationships.  We must remember, however, that our presence must still be invited.

Push messages are no less annoying to the customer just because they are delivered digitally.  The customer has the right to decide how often we communicate. When we respect that and communicate with the customer on the customer’s terms, we have an increased likelihood of being a welcome relationship partner.

Recent marketing thought has focused on the important role that customers often play in co-creating the value we deliver. From a greater emphasis on self service to the growing customization trend, customers play a greater role than ever in creating value. Digital marketing gives those customers the ability to co-create the marketing message as well.

Customers regularly blog, post in forums, build fan (and enemy) websites, and create viral videos that are as convincing as many of the marketer-created communications that we craft so carefully. Just as customer word of mouth has always been an important component of any marketing program, these digital forms of word of mouth can spell success or failure for our marketing campaigns.

The sheer volume of customer-created content makes it tempting to ignore some of it, or even worse, remove the unflattering content, but this is not acceptable. It is more important than ever to monitor and respond to both positive and negative feedback, for it is this feedback that allows us to deliver what our customers perceive as value and to form strong relational bonds with them.

I am reminded of something that I once heard — Nothing can kill a bad product faster than good marketing. This is more true than ever when digital is part of the mix. This tool allows marketers to communicate more effectively and efficiently than other media, but if we ignore traditional marketing principles, all we are really doing is quickly delivering the wrong message and hastening failure.

Jon Boroshok

jon boroshokJon Boroshok is a professor at Southern New Hampshire University and Emerson College. He’s also Journalist, freelance writer and PR/Marcom specialist. You can follow him on Twitter @JBWrites.

Many “old school” rules still apply to digital marketing and social media. You still need to know as much as possible about your target audience. Demographics and psychographics still matter, especially on social media.

The more you understand who you’re communicating with, the closer to relevant, one-on-one engagement and relationship building you can have. That level of personalization can make the difference between an unhappy former customer and a brand evangelist.

Listening skills still go a long way too – talk with people rather than at them.

Dr. Eric Brey

eric breyDr. Eric Brey is an assistant professor at University of Memphis. Professor Brey has been an advisor to several companies, from tech startups to fortune 500 companies. He has also been a keynote speaker for different international organizations and industry associations. You can follow him on Twitter @ProfessorBrey.

There aren’t many principles rooted in traditional marketing that can be easily replicated within the socially-driven digital world we now live. The basis for marketing has been the 4 P’s but now we live in a world where 4 C’s are generally recognized as the core of engagement. If this is true, then much of what we have looked at needs to be addressed and adjusted for the new reality.

I would argue that much of what we teach in marketing should be adjusted for this new age of the Consumer. BUT, and this is imperative to recognize, the principles of integrated marketing communications can be used in the online space and quickly adapted (amongst some other components, but this one is easily identifiable as important).

At its core, the experience a consumer has with a brand should be seamless and have a similar tone throughout . This is true regardless of their overall brand affinity or level of importance or the channels they access or use to interact with the brand.

I could go on about this but this is my humble opinion on what is certainly a loaded question!

If you liked this post, you can subscribe to my feed and follow me on Twitter @jasonacidre.

Jason Acidre

Jason Acidre is the Co-Founder and CEO of Xight Interactive - a digital marketing agency based in the Philippines. He's also the sole author of this SEO blog. You can follow him on Twitter @jasonacidre.

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20 replies
  1. Anthony Pensabene
    Anthony Pensabene says:

    Hey J,

    I like the production quality of this piece – it exposes readers to more personalities and thus tangents of thought on marketing.

    From an outreach/academic perspective, i highly respect your ability to field a number of professors from esteemed places of study.

    Well done, dude.

  2. Denny McCorkle
    Denny McCorkle says:


    Thanks for including me in your post. It is easy to conclude that traditional marketing is dead. Not so. Adapting but not dying. Traditional marketing and its theories provide the foundation for developing digital, e-marketing, e-commerce, and social media marketing strategies. Thanks for the above valuable insights from my academic colleagues in marketing. @DennyMcCorkle

  3. Devesh
    Devesh says:

    This is a great resource, Jason. It’s good to learn more about traditional marketing from the highly respected professors.

    Great work, bud.

  4. Binh Le
    Binh Le says:

    Combining social media with a good website and SEO plan will result in guaranteed maximum online visibility for your brand or business website.
    Better yet, when you hire the right team of internet marketing experts, you can save a lot of money over a piecemeal approach.Thanks for great post

  5. Nick Graff
    Nick Graff says:

    Wow! You clearly put a lot of time and effort into this post! Thank you so much! It reminds of Napolean Hill’s “Think and Grow Rich”. He interviewed and studied highly successful business leaders and gleaned all of their top secrets and condensed it down into 1 book.

    Thank you!

  6. Yepi
    Yepi says:

    Deirdre Breakenridge have provided me a lot of knowledges. Researching play a very important role on your marketing strategy.

  7. Chetan
    Chetan says:

    Very well written information. It will be helpful to everyone who utilize it, including myself :). Keep up the good work looking forward to more posts.

  8. Colin@SVM Web Design
    Colin@SVM Web Design says:

    Thanks for putting this together. Seems like a recurring theme is getting back to truly listening and creating real customer relationships. And for a lot of businesses digital is a tool to support what and enhance the customer experience they provide in real life. So front-line service will ultimately make or break satisfaction.

  9. Alleli Aspili
    Alleli Aspili says:

    Who else can we learn from aside from these experts? I may barely know them, but they actually inspired me a lot after reading their tips. Digital marketing is the ‘thing’ today. It’s good to have more knowledge about this these days, especially if you’re like me – a digital marketing practitioner. Thanks for sharing their tips, Jason! 🙂

  10. Adrian
    Adrian says:

    I have Glen Gilmore of my Twitter list, never knew he was such a big deal!

    Thanks for this great list. I’ve only heard of Glen and was wondering how come many of these people are professors? Do you believe these professors have more to offer then marketers who are out there in the real world working for companies in the digital sphere?


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