With more than 30 years of experience in branding, marketing and advertising, Walter Pike is an international thought leader on social media and digital marketing. Founder of The Digital Marketing Academy, and PiKE New Marketing, Walter is a writer, speaker, consultant and teacher who is able to bring sense to the fast moving world of technology and marketing. He spoke to Heavy Chef about his perspective on both traditional and new marketing, digital strategy and staying young in an industry that is constantly evolving.
Hello Walter, thanks for taking the time to speak with us. First, tell us a bit about how you view the role digital is playing in the marketing and advertising industry?
In your opinion, who is getting it right and what are the most common mistakes being made?
I think that there are people getting it right in bits, clearly there are some massive players in what I like to call traditional digital, and by that I mean search, PPC, affiliate marketing and stuff like that. I think that the RB Jacobs character at FNB is a great example of operating well on social platforms. But the biggest mistake everyone is making is that they are looking at the phase 2 position – interaction which is great and are forgetting the vitally important Phase 3 – the conversation between customers and potential customers. By this I don’t just mean share buttons – I mean creating stuff that’s inherently shareable.
What are the three key things traditional marketers need to know when adopting a digital marketing strategy?
Firstly, that because its a new market and there is so little knowledge of what is happening amongst clients that it is a free for all and you have a very good chance of being ripped off. In fact, part of my business has evolved into giving clients perspective.
Second that because it is done by machines doesn’t been that its not labour intensive, there is a lot of quality input required from people who know what they are doing and we have to have those people trained.
Thirdly and this is especially true in the social arena, it requires real management buy-in because it affects how the business operates and this means giving up control in order to play effectively in a space where response time needs to be almost instant and providing the resources to be effective.
Your ability to have an in-depth understanding of both traditional and digital marketing puts you at a great advantage. How has it influenced the way you craft and make sense of digital strategy?
It helps on number of levels. Firstly the academic credibility of being a Head of Faculty combined with practical experience of having been a client services and strat planning director as well as advertising manager for huge brands allows me to talk to the marketing directors who are the same vintage as I am and they will mostly listen even if they don’t agree.
Secondly because I know how they think I can advise an integrated response – that covers their concerns.
Thirdly I understand that its not an either or situation, that all the communications tools can be used – just in different ways to the past.
Heavy Chef has recently focused on ‘The Future of the Agency’ – in other words, the traditional vs. digital shop debate – what are your thoughts on where the future of advertising and marketing is headed?
I have not followed what you have said but I have a number of views. The first is that the future is neither the digital shop nor the traditional agencies, this is a long argument so I will try to simplify it. The traditional agencies are in a harvesting strategy – they have a formula that everyone is comfortable with and they just have to turn it out. The digital agencies are a bit niched and because of their skills set cannot yet be trusted on the whole with the brand although there have been attempts to create integrated offerings – but in my mind they are neither fish, fowl nor good red herring and they are variations of the same theme. All of them are still based on the marketing paradigm of the last few decades and in many ways stuck in a billing model which is straitjacketing them.
I think that we will need to reinvent the role of agencies.
I think that the future will see something very different. Strategy will come from strategic consultants who are independent from execution and these will be skilled in a broad range of the social sciences, because they need to understand the social dynamics of networks and the new way ideas spread. Well I hope that’s the way because thats where I am positioning myself.
Your career has clearly proved that success lies in being able to adapt to change. What are your practical tips for those wanting to stay relevant in the digital marketing industry?
I was once introduced at a conference as being ‘the Peter Pan of South African marketing’, I felt complemented and its not just the digital marketing industry – its the marketing industry in general. I think that the key is to stay curious and question things, too many people just regurgitate what others are saying. But I think that willingness to change is a mindset of always thinking of the possibilities and resisting the urge to seek approval, because by definition new thinking won’t find that approval. Then read and read and read everything you can.
Thanks so much for the chat Walter. Please do keep in touch with the Heavy Chef team here in Cape Town. Heavy Chef readers, if you enjoyed this interview, please follow Walter on Twitter at @walterpike.