Chasing Clicks Until We’re Numb Doesn’t Do Us Any Good

I just attended the world’s biggest digital marketing trade fair, dmexco, here in Cologne, Germany.

While I was strolling through the exhibition stands I was promised accurate measurement, intelligent use of big data, native advertising, and a whole lot of reach. Performance marketing seemed to dominate the landscape. And it got me thinking.

If there is one thing that makes digital marketing attractive, it’s the ability to measure everything. Indeed, it is quite a revolution for marketing and advertising. However, I can’t stop thinking that it’s also dangerous.

There’s a Human Behind the Click

The motto of the two-day trade fair was “bridging worlds.” It seems that we are willing to bridge a whole lot of things, but we should not forget that we are eventually trying to reach people—people who have dreams and aspirations and information needs in order to solve problems. Thomas Koch said it best:

We should also build bridges between technologies and people.

I cannot help thinking of the modern stock market. Software and algorithms automatically buying and selling stocks within under a second perverted a whole system and dehumanized it to the point where the system started controlling humans, not the other way around.

The almighty click has started to do exactly that. We are measuring everything (and we should) but we tend to forget these people behind the clicks, which we clearly shouldn’t!

Performance Marketing vs. Content Marketing

I have witnessed firsthand, time and time again, how people stick their heads into their excel sheets, count impressions and clicks, and attribute them to channels. The channels delivering the best performance are kept and those not doing as well are discarded—not acknowledging that some need a little time to get going. We see more and more numbers, but less people. Let’s not make the critical mistake of preferring clicks to humans.

Performance marketing is a short term approach to measuring channel specific goals. It should not, then, be a driver of your content marketing! Content marketing can only be sustainable if it’s built on a solid foundation—a vision and a strategy which, by definition, is a long term approach.

Strategic Content Marketing: A Distant Goal

A friend of mine told me how he could not get a client of his to invest in building owned media channels because the best (short term) performances were on paid media channels. Within a few years, this client had invested millions in paid media and did not see the benefit of building his own channels and audiences to distribute the content created for his magazines. Why? Because he got more monthly leads through paid channels.

For many of you it may sounds so obvious that it’s insulting, but I do think we still have a long way to go. Many companies out there still don’t understand that content marketing is about building a sustainable marketing strategy, rather than just sticking their heads in excel sheets and counting clicks, impressions (yay, “branding”!) and leads. A lot of managers, though, are out there are spending their time doing just that.

It is clear to me that we still have to educate a lot around this idea of sustainable reach, user opt-in and earning attention instead of buying it. And educate, we shall.

This article originally appeared on LinkedIn.