Marketers grapple with digital everyday. Why? Because the laws of marketing have changed. These five laws can help you navigate the torid waters of today's digital marketing.

Is digital marketing really different than any other type of marketing? What’s funny is that’s not quite the right way to look at it. Digital marketing isn’t a type of marketing, it’s a way to market.

It’s a contrast to traditional marketing in that it focuses on direct engagement with the intended audience. Digital is all about “talking with” whereas traditional marketing is all about “talking to.”

That’s why I put together these five immutable laws of digital marketing.

#1. The Law of Inequality

The more you put in, the higher the rate of diminishing returns.

Whether in dollars or in effort, digital marketing is not a one-to-one return. Because the digital world is so noisy, it can take a Herculean effort to get noticed.

So to get above the noise, organizations pour more money and more time into their digital campaigns.

The results, though, are not proportional. Doubling the spend on a digital campaign doesn’t equate to double the returns. Marketing, whether digital or otherwise, has to be strategically focused on the markets that will yield the highest return.

It has to be a focused rifle shot, not a shotgun spray.

#2. The Law of Virality

In many cases, virality is not a random effect but the result of careful engineering.

How do you get something to be viral? Simple. Create campaigns that resonate deeply with some fundamental aspect of human nature.

Think Maslow. People want to be a part of something; they want to belong. And they want to be valuable to other people. It’s all part of the nine characteristics of forming relationships that I talked about in the book Recommend This!

When marketers understand that their campaigns build relationships with people (rather than just trying to talk at them, rather than just trying to convince them to buy) there’s a far greater chance of the campaign being shared and becoming viral.

People want to be able to say, "I shared that with my friends." Of course, it doesn’t hurt to be funny... especially with a cat video.

#3. The Law of Commonplace

If you don’t continue to innovate in the way you present yourself and engage with online audiences, you will get overlooked.

The problem with many organizations today is that they run their marketing campaigns the same way they always have - using the same messaging, delivered to the same audiences - but expecting different results.

That’s the definition of insanity. Good marketing needs to be a combination of elements, tactics, and strategies. As they say, variety is the spice of life, so spice it up for your audience.

Produce some video. Write a story. Develop a montage of images. Craft a whitepaper. Cut up your whitepaper into blog posts. Include funny quotes in your Facebook updates.

Just stop doing the same old thing the same old way. Digital makes it supremely easy to switch things up frequently.

#4. The Law of Interruption

Talking at consumers instead of with them will result in fewer relationships.

Organizations want relationships with their customers. Jay Baer, the author of Youtility, puts it best: “You can sell something to someone and have a customer today or you can help them and have a customer for life.”

The problem is that you can’t help customers when you solely practice outbound marketing, when you are just delivering messages into the market and hoping for engagement.

Successful marketers of tomorrow aren’t about interrupting their customers and prospects with messaging, about sending out advertisements and promotional content in the hopes that people will happen upon it; they are about having conversations and offering messaging as part of the engagement.

Messaging doesn’t get you engagement. Engagement gets you the opportunity to deliver messaging.

#5. The Law of Gravity

The more conversations you generate around a topic, the more likely the conversation will grow without your involvement.

Digital has changed the way that marketers operate. Social media and other technologies enable marketers to have one-to-one relationships with people, to talk with them.

But marketers can’t engage through these technologies representing the organization. It’s like trying to hawk wares at the local church’s Sunday service. It’s breaking the rules.

Marketers must engage with customers as people to generate conversations that are genuine and credible.

The key? Gravity won’t happen overnight. It takes time to develop a conversation that will take on a life of its own which, unfortunately, often flies in the face of ROI-driven marketing.

But these aren't the only laws. There are plenty more. And my next blog post will introduce five more that every modern marketer must know.

image credit:

Jason Thibeault

Published 17 July, 2014 by Jason Thibeault

Jason Thibeault is Senior Director of Marketing Strategy at Limelight and a contributor at Econsultancy. You can follow him on Twitter or connect via LinkedIn.

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Comments (3)

Louis Gudema

Louis Gudema, Senior Account Exec and Digital Marketer at Louis Gudema Consulting

Interesting post. I assume your title is a riff on the Trout and Ries book, "The 22 Immutable Laws of Marketing". I remember giving this to a software engineer at the marketing agency that I then ran and after reading it he said (being an engineer and data-savvy), "These aren't laws. These are suggestions or recommendations." And he was probably right.

Your recommendations are worthwhile, but also not immutable. For example, in terms of #1, there are many companies that don't maximize their potential, profitable paid search. (I believe that Econsultancy has posted data in the past about a very small number of companies being responsible for something like 80% of PPC clicks.) I always wondered why clients didn't say, "I know what my margins are so if you can get me sales with a cost of sale below X, I'll ramp up the spend to support that." But no one ever did. They all had a fixed budget that was far below their potential.

Or, in terms of #4, many brands have data that show that TV advertising is still very effective for them, and that's the ultimate interruptive, talking-at-you marketing.

But these are certainly worth keeping in mind.

about 4 years ago


Josh Light

Great points. It's always tough to boil something this expansive into 5 points. Kudos to you sir.

I have to agree with Louis's opinion on point 1. I used to sell advertising, and would often face fixed budgets. Also companies tend to cut marketing in tough times even when the proven method brings a return (Revenue - CAC). Ridiculous.

Also, from the perspective of startup, doubling down on ad spending can produce huge returns. For example, an establish company may buy up all the search advertising on Google so a newly funded startup in the same industry can't get the word out. This strategy can push up the valuation of the established entity by wiping out competitors. I've seen it...a lot.

about 4 years ago


Linda Joseph

Hi Jason!

Thanks for sharing this useful laws of digital marketing. Its really important for a startup.

Keep the success tips coming . . .

about 4 years ago

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