Column: Why marketers forget the physical world


The smell of coffee. A firm handshake. A well-placed joke. The list is endless: not everything is online. Yet that feeling creeps up on you when you read articles about marketing. How come and is that right?

Don't miss the boat. That is the main message of many providers. They point to a new development – for example Instagram marketing – and pose: Panic! You don't want to be overtaken by your competitor, do you? Buy my services because otherwise!

From technology to supply

Those companies are partly right. New products and services often have their origin in new techniques. Remember dialing into a modem for a 56 kbit/s connection? With ADSL, not only fast internet came, but eventually also streaming services such as Spotify and now Netflix. Walk into a V&D and ask yourself if they have ever consulted a marketing blog. Oh wait…

Online, offline and the world

That running after each other resulted in the clapping of the internet bubble in 2000. And that didn't smell like roses. Despite the unstoppable march of everything that can go online, the percentage of online consumer spending in the fourth quarter of 2015 was approximately 21 percent. And especially expensive things such as airline tickets, holiday accommodations and concert tickets. The online share of products is increasing, but is only 13 percent. We still buy the lion's share in person.

As we have done for millennia. The contrast online and offline world is insane when you think about it: the “online world” in itself is odorless, touchless and lacks real human interaction. It is the “offsense world”.

Business cards, flyers and car lettering

The physical world will always exist alongside the online world. It is and – and. Yes, as a plumber you need a website, but also car lettering to advertise in traffic. As a hairdresser you need a newsletter, but your customers also appreciate the flyers of fun events and practical business gifts. As a company that is looking for new people, you have a Facebook page necessary, but also a nice Friday afternoon snack.

Relevance bubble

It was once thought that the internet brought the whole world closer together. Anyone who has skyped with his aunt in New Zealand (hi Aunt Ank!), will soon feel it. But how many new friends have you met online and in real life? We tend to keep in touch with the same people offline and online. Republicans and Democrats have each other much less in the timeline than you might expect. We would rather be confirmed in our ideas than thought out.

That's called the relevance bubble: you only see what is relevant to you. Google and Facebook are eager to participate: in this way they create a smaller version of the world. A personal internet. A room full of mirrors.

Out of your comfort zone

Dazed in your own thoughts, you suddenly smell freshly baked bread. That one expensive jacket feels very nice on your fingers. That unexpected joke during the interview will make you laugh out loud. What those physical means mainly do is pull you out of your comfort zone.

Whoever gets hold of my business card notices that it is not a normal business card (so thick that you can see that there are not two). I like to surprise customers who have recommended me with a personal card. With my first Christmas card I sent real seeds to plant.


The physical world is just not that super interesting. It's not new. Despite the fact that the experience really does something to us. As a marketer, we prefer to focus on the latest online developments. Advertisers, for example, ignore the newspaper en masse. The results are very difficult to measure, especially compared to a Facebook Ads campaign.

But while print is indeed slowly shifting towards online as a medium, you quickly forget that many people like to have a paper newspaper in their fingers. It is however. Just look when you're in the newspaper and your mother or sister saved the newspaper clipping. That feels very different from a screenshot.

Don't forget the physical world when you're doing marketing. That's where we live.


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