Digital Marketing in a VUCA World: Volatile, Uncertain, Complex & Ambiguous2021-02-03T14:13:09+01:00

Digital Marketing in a VUCA World [report]

This research report is based on interviews of 7 experts and a deep survey including 87 questions to which 20 digital marketing award winners responded. Research carried out by Anders Hjorth and Lukas Adamec.


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Digital Marketing in a VUCA World


Digital Marketing has been struck by COVID-19 and is also facing the massive arrival of AI and the end of cookies. The industry is one of the most dynamic business areas in our economy. Double digit growth is a norm, triple digit growth happens. Its equation is dual – there are the humans, and there are the machines. Their roles change every year. This report looks at what is in store for digital marketers in today’s volatile, uncertain, complex and ambiguous world?

I. Data in a VUCA world

II. From agile to variable business units

III. Paid Search disruption from 2018 to 2020

IV. Pointers for Digital Marketing moving forward.

As children we looked for comfort and stability in our environment; as teenagers we looked for challenge and change. As entrepreneurs and business leaders we aim to be one step ahead of our competitors in a steadily changing environment by being better at predicting tomorrow.

Digital marketing has experienced a much higher pace of change than other business sectors ever since its inception. We believe it is a pioneering industry uncovering the shape and functioning of businesses in other industries of tomorrow.

Change is data. Fast change is more data. Data enables prediction and modelling of the future.

But then stability has started to come apart in our hands. Data suddenly stopped simply accelerating and came to a stop and a reboot – COVID-19. But there are other less visible disruptive forces in the world of data: consumer behaviour, ad blocking and the end of cookies. The evolution of digital marketing is no longer linear and accelerating, it is disrupted and chaotic.

Data science is a tool. He who has data science will only see data that is digital and tracked.
(He who has a hammer will see everything as a nail.)

Over the past few years, Google Adwords has become Google Ads, and Bing Ads has become Microsoft Advertising. We have also had changes to small legendary companies, like SEOmoz becoming Moz and Majestic SEO becoming Majestic. In our research, we looked at award winners in paid search, and they have all invested in an additional five or six digital marketing activities.

Search marketing has been the leading vertical in most digital marketing. It was where the click became the primary measurement unit, where the auction model was first introduced and where quality and matching became part of the digital marketing equation.

We set out in our research to explore state-of-the-art paid search in this crazy and volatile world we are living in; however, we realized that the data we had obtained did not only apply to paid search agencies, but rather was valid for most digital marketing disciplines. We decided to look at and interpret our data from the spectrum of digital marketing as a whole.

Digital marketing is data marketing.

Anders Hjorth

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