From Push To Pull And Back Again: Integrated Marketing In The Digital Age

Ten years ago, I walked through REQ’s first-ever strategy deck with our team. The presentation outlined the dynamic between push and pull marketing tactics. The role of search engines not only in marketing but in our everyday lives had already begun to intensify, creating unprecedented windows of opportunity for new strategies.

As an early leader in search engine optimization (SEO) and online reputation management (ORM), we saw, understood and seized the new direction that was taking shape: the rise of pull marketing in a world previously engaged by push marketing alone.

The Journey From Push To Pull 

Push marketing was the status quo from the inception of advertising. This primary model involved promoting your message across every medium you could afford — TV, billboards, print ads, radio — at the highest quantity of impressions possible. Marketers relied mainly on hope and scale that their ads reached their target audience.

Over the last decade, there has been a macro paradigmatic shift in how consumers find their information and make purchasing decisions online. While push marketing allows only for a blanketed approach with limited assurance of reaching the right audience, pull marketing consists of numerous approaches that permit acute focus and extremely granular targeting. Consumers today head directly and mindlessly to search engines via mobile phones, desktops and voice concierge to seek out products they desire. With this knowledge, pull marketing tactics are able to use data to segment and target the optimal audiences online and in real time.

The Importance Of Being Integrated

Understanding and implementing pull marketing strategies has been in our DNA since 2008, and from this experience, we have identified best practices to help our clients optimize integrated approaches for their marketing campaigns. We have found that the best campaigns include the latest technology involved in pull marketing, such as advanced lead generation or specialized geo-targeting, but also utilize the benefits of push marketing tactics.

In today’s increasingly digital world with seemingly unlimited platforms, it might appear wise to sideline or even abandon push marketing. As a digital-first company, we indeed find that every generation favors digital platforms more than its predecessor. A digital-forward strategy is nothing short of compulsory in today’s landscape. However, eliminating push marketing has proven to be a mistake.

By excluding push tactics, the human condition is ignored. What people see in the physical world will drive their digital behavior. We’ve seen TV and radio ads immediately cause upticks in unique searches, billboards increase calls to a business and print ads drive in-store sales. A singularly digital approach is not enough — push is necessary to optimize pull.

What’s Next For Digital Marketing?

The offline world is not extinct. We can and must master digital platforms and strategies as they continue to arrive and become more and more effective, but we cannot disregard the impact of what we see in the physical world. Moreover, we must be cognizant of what is next to come. The next frontier is undoubtedly artificial intelligence (AI). Google Director of Engineering and renown futurist Ray Kurzweil predicts that by 2029, computers will outsmart humans.

We are becoming increasingly reliant on machines, and as they take on more of what we do, our behavior changes. As we plan for the future of work, it’s necessary to account for this imminent change and all the others to come.


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