There’s been a lot of hype and noise over the past couple of years regarding the need for “Digital Transformation” — to such an extent that some observers have already labeled it “dead” and begun to look for the next hype topic. As a differentiator, just “being Digital” probably is dead — if everyone’s doing it how can it differentiate you? — but as table stakes for a successful future, “digital” is still alive and thriving. It’s not really a destination as much as a continuous journey (where we’re closer to the start than any possible end) and it requires a different set of habits of thought and action.
Nowhere is this more true than in product and service marketing and brand development. A digital transformation can unlock a plethora of new data points that can be translated into new value potential for products and services. What we would have called “information overload” a few decades ago is now a welcome wave of insights that smart businesses can leverage to both listen to the voice of the consumer and influence engagement strategies across the market. Today’s digital world presents boundless opportunities for engagement but requires us to understand much more about our customers’ preferences — preferences that are themselves dynamic and contextual. It’s easy to say that customers want engagement “how they want it; where they want it; when they want it,” but how do we detect the right values for “how,” “when” and “where” when they can be changing moment to moment?
Fortunately, the digital world is richly instrumented with opportunities to listen for the signals and patterns that give us clues to the right answers, and if we can collect and curate the information quickly and accurately, our insights will get better and better over time. We can combine “listen” and “learn” (habits key to any transformation) to be in the right place at the right time with the right message. The next challenge is to understand how to weave these new opportunities into existing marketing and brand processes so that the core elements of value are maintained and enhanced. Here’s some things to think about:
- Consistency: While the form and format of digital messaging opens up many new media opportunities, maintaining a clear, consistent and recognizable message across channels and media forms remains critical. You want the consumer to be engaged however you connect, not confused.
- Relevance: In a digital marketing and brand world, context is king, because context drives relevance and relevance is what cuts through the noise and meets your customer exactly where they are — this becomes an invaluable dimension of targeting.
- Balance: Just because you can predict what your customer wants to hear, when, where and how doesn’t mean that your customer wants their behavior to be that obvious. Learning the dynamic balance between “convenient” and “creepy” won’t be easy but will be essential to maintaining effective engagement.
The other major challenge here is finding a set of new partners to work within the rapidly evolving digital landscape. When “transformational” shifts occur, incumbents can rapidly adopt the language of the shift, but seldom adapt quickly or well to the new habits of thought and action. In the same way that the early days of television offered “radio with picture,” work can get stitched together, but truly shifting focus to embrace the new capabilities created by a digital world takes time. Accelerating the shift is a source of potential advantage, so finding the right partners for digital strategy, creative, design and delivery is crucial.
One additional thing to think about — digital transformation rhetoric tends to focus on operational efficiency issues, productivity, and data-driven decisions. Brand and product marketing can get neglected but should be at the center of your transformation agenda. To help get them positioned for success, focus on developing new habits of thought and ways of working, both internally and with partners. It’s never too late to get started, but it’s certainly time to get moving. In future articles, we’ll expand on some of these ideas a develop some specific guidance on how to move forward.
John Parkinson is a founder and managing director at ParkWood Advisors, LLC and an affiliate partner at Waterstone Management Group. He has been a strategist and advisor for over three decades. He can be reached at: .
Nicolette de Guia is the Founder and Managing Partner at N7 Momentum LLC, bringing over a dozen years of experience to the ever-evolving challenges of product marketing and brand building. She can be reached at: