Digital Strategy - The RACE framework

What is digital marketing?

 Introducing the 5Ds of managing digital marketing

To understand how best to manage digital marketing in a business, it’s useful to scope out what digital marketing involves; which activities are required. I’ve found that without this shared understanding within a business, digital marketing won’t get the investment needed. This may seem like an academic exercise, but it’s needed since there is often still an education job to do on colleagues in a business who ‘hold the purse strings’ of digital marketing.

To take some examples of misconceptions of digital marketing, here are some classics that I’ve heard and I guess you may have also:

  • Digital marketing is our website
  • Digital marketing is our Facebook page

As you can see, these narrow the scope of digital marketing drastically and it means that digital won’t get the cash to compete. For the latest edition of Digital Marketing, Strategy, Implementation and Practice, I’ve developed the 5Ds of digital marketing as a simple mnemonic to explain what needs to be managed:

  • Digital devices – our audiences interact with businesses using a combination of smartphones, tablets, desktop computers, TVs, gaming devices, smart assistants and other connected devices forming the Internet of Things (IoT).
  • Digital platforms – most interactions on these devices are through a browser or apps from the major ‘platforms’ or online services, that’s Facebook (and Instagram), Google (and YouTube), Twitter, LinkedIn, Apple, Amazon and Microsoft.
  • Digital media – different communications channels for reaching and engaging audiences including advertising, email and messaging, search engines and social networks.
  • Digital data – the insight businesses collect about their audience profiles and their interactions with businesses which now needs to be protected by law in most countries
  • Digital technology – the marketing technology or martech that businesses use to create interactive experiences from websites and mobile apps to in-store kiosks and email campaigns

Of these, it’s encouraging interactions on digital platforms using digital media which are most important to increase Reach. These often also involve integration with other digital channels.

For more background, see my Smart Insights post What is digital marketing? This gives a visual summary.

Our RACE planning system explains what digital marketing is in terms of activities to encourage marketing outcomes like leads and sales through the classic marketing funnel.

For Smart Insights members, our digital marketing management audits and plans give gives a more detailed breakdown of 25 key digital activities that need to be managed across RACE.


Welcome to my personal site where I blog about the latest developments in digital business to help students, professionals or lecturers using my books in their studies or careers.

Visit my main Smart Insights Digital Marketing Strategy site to download planning templates, strategy guides and daily updates on the latest developments.

I also write about assistive technology to help others teaching the visually impaired as part of my volunteering work for charity AbilityNet.

About Smart Insights

Dr Dave Chaffey is co-founder and Content Director of digital marketing advice site Smart Insights. We’re a publisher and learning platform that helps our 150,000 active members in over 100 countries plan, manage and optimize their digital marketing activities by applying the actionable advice in our planning templates, guides and interactive e-learning tools.

Free members can download our free templates and benchmark their digital capabilities.