In general I look on our company’s website with pride. Every now and then, however, I wake up and feel that something is out of place or outdated, not unlike the feeling I sometimes have gazing around my living room, in fact. In the case of our home page, the plaid couch is nothing short of the central phrase describing what we do: “Internet marketing.” We fall back on “online marketing.” Many years ago, in one of the first iterations of our website, I recall the heated debate about how to describe what we do, and how finally, appeal was made to keyword research.
That was five years ago, and a great deal has changed in the online-internet-web-digital-interactive marketing arena. The marketing terminology for what we do has shifted. Using Google Trends, we can see that “internet marketing” has clearly been the dominant phrase, although it’s trending downward. “Online marketing,” the underdog five years ago, has caught up. And as if coming from out of the blue, “digital marketing” is shooting upward.
Most of us toss these phrases about as if they had no distinction. Even though I lived through the years of squawking modems, remember things called Archie and Veronica that were not comic book characters, and even once paid for a version of Netscape, I learned more about these term distinctions recently when I read Tim Berners-Lee’s autobiography, Weaving the Web. Berners-Lee is the individual considered by most to be then inventor of the World Wide Web (WWW), a side project he started while working at the Swiss physics research organization, CERN.
In reading Berner-Lee’s book, we’re told that while the author was instrumental in the development of the web, there were countless contributors. But before they created the means for people to post web pages that linked to other web pages, there already was an Internet. The Internet was comprised of what’s referred to as “protocols” that worked over a vast network of interconnected computers. When you type a full web address, you might begin with “HTTP,” which stands for “Hyper Text Transfer Protocol.” E-mail and FTP (File Transfer Protocol) are some of the most common Internet tools. If you have internet-based telephone, you have VoIP (Voice over Internet Protocol). While we generally think of the web and the internet as synonymous, technically speaking the web is actually another protocol that works over the Internet.
So clearly (returning to the conundrum of labeling our business), while much of our work is accomplished on and via web sites, our job as marketers is not limited to the world of web marketing. Moreover, if we consider the rise of marketing to mobile phones, we should also rule out Internet marketing because mobile phones operate via satellite. Besides, the term “Internet” seems to be going the way of the word “wireless,” as a once-common name for early radios. And “interactive,” at least as a common descriptor for marketing, seems to be currently inactive.
Thus, I am prepared to plant a flag and declare what we do is digital marketing. After all, it is the elegant explosion of two simple digits (pairings of 0’s + 1’s) that produced the big bang—the digital marketing revolution.