How marketers see digital (photo by Metropolitan Transport Authority)

Professor Mark Ritson recently argued that digital is being swallowed up by marketing. He smugly declared that “the whole focus on digital stuff will soon fade away”. He claimed that anyone with the dreaded D word in their title anchors them in a “tactical ghetto” for the rest of their career.

I disagree.

Digital is, in fact, far greater an influence on a business than marketing. To say digital is being absorbed by marketing is perpetuating a misconception of what it is.

I get that what Ritson is referring to is digital marketing. And yes, digital marketing is a subset of marketing. I agree that if you’re a digital marketer then you’re limiting the channels in which you can operate and it’s far better to be a marketer without channel specificity.

The problem is that this dismissal of digital has permeated the industry. It has led to digital being boxed in, its potential cut short and a mindset that talking about digital is like talking about print or TV. Digital is not just a marketing channel!

Ritson is not alone. He was echoing the words of George Westerman of MIT, who said that today’s focus on digital transformation is too much about digital and not enough about transformation. Westerman argues that businesses need a better business strategy enabled by digital rather than a digital strategy.

I agree with the principle of this. Digital can enable significant value for a business and the answer lies in how to leverage it (or other innovations) in the most effective way rather than letting digital drive your strategy.

Whether you call it a digital strategy or a strategy enabled by digital, it’s important not to lose the digital part. To construct a genuinely effective strategy requires deep knowledge of what digital can do combined with expert business acumen. It certainly isn’t the job of a digital marketer, channel-agnostic marketer or management consultant.

Read more about how Rewrite Digital can establish your digital strategy.