by Herman Manson (@marklivesIf titles told the story, this would be a particularly interesting one. Now in its fifth edition, the emarketing handbook published by Rob Stokes and his team at Quirk (the current edition edited by Katharina Scholtz), has been evolving from “eMarketing: The Essential Guide to Online Marketing” (published in 2008) to “eMarketing: The essential guide to marketing in a digital world“.

Cover of Quirk's "eMarketingeMarketing: The essential guide to marketing in a digital world" 5th editionSoon the ‘e‘ in ‘eMarketing‘ will be dropped also, predicts Stokes, to just read ‘Marketing‘.

Punch well above its weight

The handbook helped Quirk to punch well above its weight as schools around the world picked it up as part of their curriculum. It has been downloaded more than 800 000 times and moved 12 000 print copies.

In the introductory pages of the latest edition, the book’s editor notes that the tweaked title “reflects our insight that digital is more than just a channel and that the basic principles of marketing remain the same; we simply have an ever-evolving array of technology to apply them through”.

Quirk, in which WPP recently acquired a majority stake, has been working hard to establish itself as an agency able to do through-the-line work.

A quick aside, the agency nearly went to Publicis instead, with Stokes suggesting that the deal was its to lose, as in fact it did, after WPP agreed to the terms set out by Quirk.

Four core pillars

The handbook is set on four core pillars, namely:

  1. Think: research and strategise
  2. Create: build assets and content
  3. Engage: drive traffic to those assets
  4. Optimise: use data and analysis to improve all our marketing efforts

The agency, which structured itself around the four pillars outlined above, recently adopted a matrix structure, with the client sitting horizontally and teams split into brand teams. This was done to end organisational silos and to shift the focus to clients, rather than niche disciplines.

In terms of the impact of data upon marketing, Stokes believe there has been a lot of talk to date but its impact have been far from revolutionary. In fact, Quirk has been doing more data work offline than online. The correlation between the web, CRM and sales data is yet to be fully understood by marketers.

Partly this is a factor of skills (both on agency and client side) and partly because applying maths and stats to a real commercial environment isn’t as easy as it might sound.

Rob Stokes, May 2014
Rob Stokes

No value if you can’t extract insight

Big data offers no value to marketers, says Stokes, if you cannot extract insight. Where organisations are expending 80% of their energy on capturing data, they should instead be exerting 65% of their energy on analysis (and 15% on data capture).

The new handbook covers content strategy for the first time. Stokes expects marketers will consolidate their output into fewer, higher quality pieces of content, while using media to push these to a broader audience. Stokes says it’s important for marketers to reposition their offering from ‘content’ to a brand-relevant value layer.

Advertising school Red & Yellow was behind the compilation of the current textbook, Stokes reveals, with its editor sitting at the school. They had free rein to access Quirk IP. The agency and the school will soon be moving into a 6 500 m2 property in Salt River (Quirk’s sale to WPP excluded Red & Yellow).

Stokes believes commercial businesses need to play a far larger role in academics — especially when it comes to remunerating top talent to teach the next generation. Lecturers at Red & Yellow receive the same remuneration they would have outside of academia, says Stokes. Poor lecturers result in poor students, so it makes sense for the industry to put resources into its schools. The shared premises will allow students to view agency life up close, although steps to protect client information, and the independence of the ad school, will be set in place.

Frequent updates

The handbook is being updated roughly every 18 months. By edition seven or eight, the handbook will be fully applicable to marketing as a whole, with a name to reflect and mirror the change wrought as digital falls out of the silo.

To download a free copy of eMarketing: The Essential Guide to Marketing in a Digital World, click here.

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