5 Marketing Tactics that Won’t Exist by 2021


Digital marketing can often seem like an arms race, especially in the zero-sum world of SEO and social media marketing, where only a handful of messages get the privilege of being seen by consumers.

When a technique is invented for better exposure, it gets copied, and then either the competition becomes too fierce or over-saturation causes the technique to lose its power. Sometimes, tech companies or regulators even shut down a viable marketing tactic.

This churn in tactics is a never-ending process, and it means that many high-flying marketing tactics championed even a few years ago no longer matter. Sometimes they even could hurt a brand.

With that in mind, let’s take a look at some of the marketing tactics in use today that clearly are reaching their end of life. If you’re still leaning on any of these marketing tactics, beware.

“All of these tactics are already lame, but I still see them far too often,” says Dr. Dave Chaffey, co-founder of digital marketing strategy learning platform Smart InsightsOpens a new window . “They generally have a poor response and are too interruptive, so they risk tarnishing the brands using them — or they’re just ignored.”

1. Link Begging

Backlinks have always been important for SEO and general content marketing exposure. If a piece of content is mentioned across the web, it stands to reason it will get eyeballs and might be important from a search engine perspective.

Every marketer knows this, though, so reaching out to websites asking for backlinks no longer is viable. Spammy, sometimes automated link-begging emails have become the bane of almost every web publication, and most editors view these requests wearily if they open the emails at all. Even Google has picked up on the trend, so the importance of guest posting has decreased as search engine algorithms factor in relevancy and not just backlink volume.

“I get several a day that I have to block sender, so this is a personal peeve,” notes Chaffey.

2. Ad Retargeting Overload

Social and search engine advertising has gotten smart, allowing greater levels of advertising precision. This has been a boon for marketers, who can now retarget ads to customers already exposed to a brand’s message.

This is still early days for ad retargeting, however, and one tactic currently in use is doubling down on retargeting so a brand’s message saturates those who are likely to buy. But the problem is that this retargeting overload eventually annoys viewers, creating a backlash. This is especially true among ads that retarget buyers who have already made a purchase.

Retargeting won’t be going away any time soon unless privacy rules prohibit the practice, but hard selling with ad retargeting probably will.

“Uncapped retargeting acquisition ads which even run when the person targeted has bought a product won’t exist by 2021,” predicts Chaffey.

3. Leaning on Facebook Ads

Facebook Ads and advertising on social platforms works. It works so well, some marketers have made the tactic their primary way to get out the word and reach buyers. Sure it costs money and the price of ads is going up, but the results still warrant the spending.

The value of social media ads might be at its peak, though, because consumers are starting to ignore such ads due to oversaturation. While social advertising definitely isn’t going away, soon it will no longer be enough by itself.

“Being social-only won’t work because social ads are incredibly easy to ignore, even without using ad blockers (which increasing numbers are using),” stresses Dr. Joe Panepinto, senior vice president and group strategy director for brand experience agency Jack MortonOpens a new window .

4. Blogging for the Sake of Blogging

This one is clearly dead, although many marketers haven’t gotten the message yet.

Content marketing still is critically importantOpens a new window , but just making content is no longer a viable marketing tactic. Churning out content doesn’t help with SEO, traffic or engagement, and it just bleeds marketing resources. Producing high-quality content is a marketing cornerstone, but lousy content is about as good as no content at all.

“Aimless blogs that are less interesting than a press release are unlikely to make an impression on readers or Google,” says Chaffey. “Research by BuzzsumoOpens a new window shows that only 50 percent of Medium posts get shared.”

If you blog, you need a plan and high-quality content.

5. Shameless Attention-Grabbing

Obnoxious marketing tactics have always been a little distasteful, but they often work. When fighting for buyer attention, the loudest, most aggressive brand has often been the one that gets noticed.

No more.

“Being the loudest brand in the room won’t work because it’s no longer just about reach, it’s about relevance,” says Panepinto.

Millennials and Gen Z are overloaded with marketing messages, and attention-grabbing has become a turn-off. Google also is trying hard to reduce the effectiveness of loud brands that just seek attention.

While being loud still works, its effectiveness is being decreased by the day as relevance increasingly trumps aggressiveness both for consumers and the tech platforms. If you want eyeballs, focus instead of saying something meaningful that is laser-focused on a specific buyer persona.

Noticing a trend? All of these dying marketing tactics are about marketers, not consumers. The marketing arms race has gotten so intense, consumers and society at large have called time and said enough. Tactics that don’t benefit consumers are being phased out, and in its place are tactics that help consumers instead of just vying for their attention.

The most consumer-focused marketing tactics are the ones that are winning — and that’s probably a good thing.