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Scary Stories to Tell on Zoom 4: The 4 Headless Horsemen of Digital Marketing

Angie Tran

Content Marketing Manager @ AdRoll

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‘Tis the season for scary stories! For digital marketers, there are tales far spookier than ghouls, demons, or monsters. After all, marketing failures can cause uneasy chills worse than any campfire tale can. Here's a gruesome nightmare marketing scenario that will keep you awake in the dark. 

Share this with your teams, peers, and managers for a light-hearted scare and dead-serious advice to avoid becoming the main character in your own marketing horror story. 

At 11:38pm...

It’s late at night, and our intrepid hero (a marketing manager) is finally powering down her laptop. She’s spent weeks putting together a deck with budget calculations and ROI predictions in an attempt to woo her leadership team into investing in a holiday campaign. As she closes her laptop, she suddenly feels an eerie sensation. Goosebumps begin to tingle throughout her body. Spooked, she turns around, her mouth forming a silent scream. It’s the four headless horsemen, wait—executives—reaching out with ghostly hands! 

For months, our marketing manager has suspected that an unknown deity had cursed their leaders. Despite the team’s protests, they scheduled meeting after meeting to discuss the latest digital trends and buzz phrases: chatbots, influencers, shoppable social posts, TikTok, gamification, the list goes on. 

“Content is king!” they would roar demonically. They jumped on all these opportunities with nary a strategy in sight, causing the rest of the company to undermine all the good work from the marketing team. 

Although still in shock by the sudden apparitions, our marketing manager knows exactly what to do. She frantically searches for a well-meme — aha, there it is! As they creep closer and closer, she shares it for protection. Suddenly, the ghostly group is seemingly exorcized and transformed back into human form, heads and all. 

Our marketing manager collapses with relief and shares a document with them. It’s the comprehensive marketing strategy she had developed earlier in the year, which had been quickly abandoned after the team became possessed. 

Moral of the Story

We’ve all been guilty of falling for shiny object syndrome, especially in the context of digital marketing. In today’s busy landscape, marketing strategies must be well-planned and well-executed to see meaningful results that align with company goals. While it’s true that fortune does favor the bold, chasing trends will only lead to short-term wins that can easily get lost in the weeds. 

Don’t Lose Your Head… Use These Tips

Check in on your marketing goals and KPIs

Rather than focusing on the day-to-day with hopes of capitalizing on trending topics in an attempt to go viral, come back to your original goal. Frequently revisiting goals and key performance indicators (KPIs) will help you deliver your marketing plan, guiding your evaluations of tactics, improve creative direction, and optimize your campaigns. Ultimately, you want every decision to align with your marketing strategy — which you’ll also want to make informed adjustments to, as-needed.

Return to basics

There’s a reason why marketing experts such as Seth Godin still discuss the fundamentals of marketing in the digital age: they work. Consider brushing up on your traditional marketing knowledge, such as the 5Ps (product, price, promotion, place, and people), rather than spending all your time and effort mastering algorithms and optimization. 

After all, the biggest difference between the present day and the <i>Mad Men</i> era of marketing is the availability of new outlets for implementing creative ideas — consumer psychology, human motivation, and the power of art and copy are all here to stay. 

Consider your audience

To improve your marketing strategy, it’s crucial to keep in mind the needs and desires of the people you’re targeting. Whether you do so through a customer survey or a focus group, take a deeper dive into their emotions, motivations, and passions. Instead of connecting your brand to a fleeting fad, you'll be equipped with insight into what messaging appeals to your customers the most. 

Demolish internal silos

Rather than separating digital marketers from content marketers or siloing performance marketers from social media marketers, have your team work towards the same goals under the same strategy. Data and insights should extend to everyone to help ideas flow strategically. Because the customer journey is an increasingly fluid one with multiple touchpoints, all contributors to your organization’s marketing efforts must be aligned. 

Don’t Be Scared, Be Prepared

Start finalizing your marketing and advertising campaign tactics for the busy holiday shopping season now. Use our guides and resources below to find out how to strategize and create an optimized holiday marketing campaign. 

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