Digital Manifest Destiny dictates a fundamental change in your organization. It also presents a competitive advantage for those willing to start now.
digital manifest destiny (n): consumption of everything is digitally served, connected, integrated, recorded and measured publicly or privately: TV, magazines, newspapers, billboards, photos, videos, books, music, purchases, opinions, observations, friends, relationships, daily events, needs and wants, consumption of anything and everything.
You won’t find this definition in Merriam-Webster today, but we are close. Importantly for marketers, it is inevitable.
Current structures, processes, methodologies, and relationships were built on a predigital foundation. Many marketers have made a lot of positive changes; however, fundamentally this is still true. And the reality is that this foundation won’t sustain a Digital Manifest Destiny. A new foundation must be put into place for this inevitability.
I am neither endorsing this future, nor am I making a moral statement about how this affects society. It is simply the path we are on. And now is the time to make sure you are truly prepared.
So what? You may already agree. You are already spending the majority of your budget on search and mobile and social programs and the like—and those programs are integrated. You are creating, publishing, and distributing branded content. You are a part of the conversation and consider earned media to be just as important as paid media. You believe there are so many opportunities to build strong, intimate, meaningful relationships between people and brands it’s hard to fall asleep at night. You are excited to be a marketer in this digital age. You have pushed the envelope experiencing both success and failure. To you all, I am truly inspired and in awe.
Three sobering thoughts, however, to bring you pioneers back to reality. First, you are unfortunately still in the minority. Second, you need to buckle up because this is just the tip of the iceberg. Third, to be truly prepared for whatever Titanic-worthy mass comes your way, now is the time to look both inward and outward.
Build new roads and bridges, lay new train tracks, and hire the engineers, entrepreneurs, and trailblazers now. You’ll help better equip those currently on the digital path for success, as well as pave the way for future success when those finally joining don’t have any alternative path because everything they do or consume is digitally served, connected, integrated, recorded, and measured publicly or privately.
RETHINK AND REBUILD: A FEW NATURAL PLACES TO START
1. Culture and Organizational Structure
a. Pepsi provides a great example of an organization driving cultural change; some highlights are shared in this recent MediaPost article.
b. In their book Empowered, Josh Bernoff and Ted Schadler share a vision for how companies have embraced digital and have thrived by empowering their employees and leveraging opportunities provided by the digital revolution.
c. Other pieces that need to be reconsidered: i. Skill sets as well as talent acquisition, management, training, and retention. ii. Integration and collaboration versus silos of responsibility. iii. Command and control structures allowing for proactive, faster decisions (empower vs. control). iv. IT and marketing as collaborators with mutual goals and incentives.
2. Partner Relationships and Compensation Structures.
Compensation is one of the hardest pieces to change, yet it must be addressed and changed. Agencies like Victors & Spoils and co: are breaking out of the margin-squeeze game by establishing new models for creating and scaling. Marketers need to get actively involved in establishing a new service and compensation paradigm.
3. A New Approach to Process and Operations
a. Definitions and briefs.
b. Steps and milestones.
c. Meetings and decision making.
d. Outcomes and reporting.
e. Integration and collaboration.
4. Content, Content, Content & Data, Data, Data
Strategy, development, architecture, publishing, analysis, visualization, reporting, management…across multiple screens and formats.
Of course, this isn’t anywhere close to a comprehensive list. It aims only to serve as a thought starter for analyzing and building the new marketing infrastructure that will be required for future success.
The changes we have all seen and experienced over the past five years are miraculous. I expect nothing less for the next five years. Success or failure will always require a mix of maximizing current opportunity while planning and positioning for future opportunity. The pervasive and transformational power of digital is both the current and future opportunity.
(originally published in the 2011 Society of Digital Agencies Digital Marketing Outlook; some revisions made for this post)