It had to happen. Customer-first has been usurped by the prevailing marketing and advertising mantra: algorithm-first.

The rapid and ongoing migration to on-line, social and digital media is being driven by increasing amounts, and percentages of marketing and advertising budgets being expended on inducing recognition, endorsement, likes and benefits accorded by platform algorithms.

The algorithms have become the effective gate-keepers for access to prospective clients.

Investments in search engine optimisation and advertising on specific platforms involve the need to please, and be in accord with the parameters, word-usage and use-frequency dictated by the inanimate, all-powerful algorithms.

In essence, platform rankings are the consequence of a “auction-process”, in which the owner and operator of that platform is financially rewarded and advantaged.

It’s a lot like property listings. They are one measure. Another is property sales. Only the latter pays the bills.

Further financial contributions and utilisation of specific platforms can effect higher, but not exclusive rankings.

 Exclusivity, monopolisation and solus exposure are today, in the on-line and digital era, redundant and obsolete concepts, goals, aims and realities.

 In short, participants of on-line channels have lost control over their marketing, advertising, communications, promotions, merchandising and sales. In large measure, these are determined at the discretion of the host platform.


 At best, companies, brand names, products and services get to share presence on platforms. Rankings are variable and seemingly forever changing.

 Select direct advertisers enjoy preferred, but shared locations. Those able to leverage a presence through effective, integrated, on-going and often resource-intensive and possibly expensive search engine optimisation processes can have the benefit of being on the landing page, in company with competitors and substitutes.

 Brand recognition, differentiation and preference are difficult to achieve in such circumstances.

 Price can be, and often is, the sole point of difference.

 MARKETING LORE: When all other things are equal, price is the only differentiator. 

The hurdles for new-entry offerings, or for an established brand seeking to enter new marketplaces are formidable.

 Establishing aided recognition, unaided recall, interest, preference and loyalty is best, and most readily achieved, when the company that owns the rights of the brand name, product, service and application has, and can exercise, control. That is, has been, and in the foreseeable future, will be achievable in the mass media channels of television, radio, print and outdoor.


 Having an active and effective presence on-line, and in the digital channels is important, if not imperative.

 However, ideally and optimally, it should be phased, with mass media being initially utilised to project the core and essential values of the brand name and corporate culture.

 There are no binary choices. One channel should, enhance the others.

 The fixation on, and domination of, on-line platforms are compromising mass media and impinging on the value and effectiveness of brand names.

 Assessment of allocation between available media is subjective, determined by individualised circumstances and influenced by the intuition, experience and expertise of the professional marketing communications and business leaders.

 Justifications for sustaining or increasing investments in on-line and digital channels based on the premise that the impact and resources are quantifiable have been found to be wanting. Impressive quantums of “hits” are often matched with disturbing, and disappointing high numbers of “misses” and “missing”.

 Among the leakages is the degree of presence, impact, recognition and recall of brand names. A significant percentage, often a majority, of consumers exhibit and declare loyalty to websites and platforms.


 Many digital media practitioners and advocates applaud the direct response nature of on-line channels.

 A major qualifying consideration in those contentions is the lack of free, open and self-controlling direct access to targeted primary, secondary and tertiary target audiences by the participating marketing entities.

 It seems the leveraging point and fulcrum, are controlled by the platform owners, who charge handsomely for access, with little or no accountability when measured on the bottom line.


 A key metric in performance measures is the sales conversion ratio. That is, converting suspects, prospects, contacts and “hits” into sales, revenues and profit.

 Consistency and continuity, two attributes that are difficult to sustain on numerous platforms, will deepen and lengthen relationships between suppliers and customers, when follow-up and follow-through procedures are implemented. 

 Repeat, loyal and referral businesses are optimised when they actually exercise control over their communication channels in manners that respect direct access and response.

 On-line and digital media are effective for opening the doors of opportunity. One should never forget that an increasing number of on-line channels are now recognising how important a brick ‘n’ mortar presence is in closing the sale.

 Direct, personal interactions between consumers and clients, and front-line providers are still fundamental in delivering the philosophy:  



 Upon reflection, and on balance, the power relationship between entities and on-line platforms is not balanced.

 A huge measure of control is being exercised by the channels. In varying degrees, companies, brand names, products and services have ceded control, discounting their innate value.

 Alternative strategies are available, and needed.

 Barry Urquhart

Managing Director

Marketing Focus

M:        041 983 5555