How the Digital Marketing Craze is Hurting Small Brands


Digital marketing is almost a buzzword these days as more and more brands fling themselves at the altars of gurus preaching about their massive success with this strategy or that….. And I get it. Really, I do! We all want to be building our companies, but there’s a lot about digital marketing in general that can be misleading—and these misconceptions are putting small brands in a place where they’re spending lots of money without seeing any real results.

Sound familiar? It’s because all the hype around digital marketing is taking its toll on small brands.

There are so many success stories

When it comes to digital marketing, there are a million success stories out there from business of all sizes. This gives business owners who are new to digital marketing the impression that digital marketing is something they need if they want to grow their business.

While this isn’t inaccurate per say, it certainly is misleading and gives small business owners unrealistic expectations about what digital marketing can do for them. (Just because you see a business similar to yours doing well online, that doesn’t mean you can replicate their results. You simply don’t know what resources they’re using that you are not or cannot use.)

Marketing your brand online isn’t easy and it isn’t cheap. While you think you’ll get traction by blogging or posting to social media, these things take time and energy. (Two things most small business owners don’t have in great supply.) Ultimately this means small business owners have to pay someone else to handle their digital marketing efforts, and I hate to tell you, but you get what you pay for.

So while there are a ton of brands out there killing it, you can’t play the comparison game, and it’s a very easy thing to do when you see other brands in your space doing so well.

There are so many options

Facebook. Instagram. Blogging. Pinterest. LinkedIn. Social lives. Lead Magnets. Email automations. Video marketing. The list goes on and on into infinity. There are so many options out there and it’s tough to figure out which ones are going to be the right fit for your brand.

So while there’s a lot that you could and maybe should be doing in the sphere of digital marketing, you’ve got to be super strategic with which initiatives you choose to work on. Because a lot of small brands don’t understand this, they spread themselves too thin and actively work against their own success by halfheartedly engaging in too many digital strategies.

If you’re going to run with a strategy, you’ve got to be willing to truly dig in and give it your all.

There’s not enough support

With the plethora of information on digital marketing topics on the web, it would be disingenuine to state that you can’t learn what to do to make your business thrive online. You can. The problem is that you have a business to run, and this truly takes a decent amount of time and effort.

While knowledge is power, what you actually need is support. Someone to manage those pesky (but necessary) Facebook business pages. Someone to create a stellar email automation for you. Someone to write the blogs. Most small businesses simply don’t have the support they need to make digital marketing work for them.

But don’t go hiring people all willy nilly. Digital marketing is an important part of your whole marketing strategy and should be treated as such. Did I mention that you get what you pay for?

It’s not the only way

Newsflash: digital marketing is not the only way to build your brand! I know, I know…. What a controversial statement! But as much as we treat “traditional marketing” like a dirty word, there’s a lot of merit in looking at the way things used to be done and taking the best parts for our own.

Because we’re so in awe of these fabulous success stories and giant numbers we see shared online, it’s easy to throw our weight behind digital marketing alone. However, small brands often have a lack of time and resources, which means a lot of their growth can actually be dependent on grassroots strategies.

In truth, every brand needs a comprehensive marketing strategy; any that don’t are seriously limiting their potential for growth. Think about the big guys…. Coca-Cola, Dove, Nationwide Insurance, Pepsi, Budweiser, Old Navy…. The list is endless. While you’re social media feeds are full of their advertisements, you also see promotions in stores, carefully crafted messaging, pointed imagery, sponsorship of events, and other low level touch points that affect their businesses on an individual or store to store level. Nothing is taken for granted.

So while we know digital marketing can be incredibly effective, it’s simply not the only way; every brand—big or small—needs both digital and traditional marketing to up level their business.


The digital marketing “craze” isn’t a fad; it’s not going away because digital marketing done right is incredibly effective. The fact that it is so effective leads small brands to engage with it before they’re properly informed or have the resources to make it work for them, which in turn, hurts the brand in the long run. (This just leads to loss of funds and severe frustration!)

Every brand should be engaging in digital marketing in a thoughtful, budget-friendly way. No, you don’t have to be perfect. You don’t have to have all your ducks in a row to get started. But if you’re running a small brand, you can’t afford to give in to the hype without having a strong strategy in place.

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Meet the Author: Shauna Armitage

Shauna is a Marketing Director or Fractional CMO helping early-stage startups scale with effective strategies, creative solutions, and unparalleled integrity by making the most of small budgets for maximum impact.

As a vocal advocate for women in business, Shauna is on a mission to redefine what it looks like to be a working woman and to support other women doing the same. She spends her free time traveling with her husband and four kids while drinking Coca-Colas. Connect with her on Instagram at @shauna.armitage.

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