THE DIGITAL REVOLUTION AND TROUBLE WITH INTERCONNECTEDNESS
In recent years, innumerable digital channels, content platforms, tools in adtech and ways of making sense out of exponentially growing data have been introduced to brand communications. Touch points between a brand stakeholders and audiences have grown more and more complex.
First of all, the power of content creation has been handed over to audiences. This is irreversible. The audience is no longer a silent recipient of whatever inspirational slogan and striking visual cue the brand has to offer, but an active participant in the conversation. There are more communication platforms than we can manage. Both brands and audiences produce more content than we can consume. Focus has become a thing of the past. We have become addicted to our distractions. Reading this piece in one sitting would be a miracle!
Furthermore, traditional methods of identifying audiences by buckets of demographics has long become obsolete.“The internet was supposed to homogenize everyone by connecting us all. Instead what it's allowed is silos of interest,” Seth Godin in this TED Talk remarks. A UN report shows that approximately 43% of the world’s population are connected to the internet, the majority of which reside in developed countries. As the world's access to the internet grows, so will the complexity of these silos.
Plus, Internet entrepreneurship is constantly offering new products that automate processes, accelerate convenience and open up new battlefields for brands to enter. Their solutions, if not disruptive, are strong enough to deceive the forecast in the digital space every day. Steve Case, co-founder of America Online and author of The Third Wave, argues: “We are entering a new phase of technological evolution where the Internet will be fully integrated into every part of our lives - how we learn, how we heal, how we manage our finances, how we get around, how we work, even what we eat. As the Third Wave gains momentum, every industry leader in every economic sector is at risk of being disrupted… it’s not just coming; it’s here.”
The digital space has become intertwined like a big bad knot no one knows exactly how to untangle but has to navigate through.
On the agency side...
All of the above creeps up on the gatekeepers of brand communications; the advertising industry. Jules Ehrhardt, (formerly of the ustwo agency) illustrates how the ad industry “is tipping into an unprecedented existential crisis” in a comprehensive analysis, The State of the Digital Nation. “Software is going to eat a large majority of non-creative agency roles in the coming years... The shift to digital channels has delivered a data-rich world of less imperfect information. So the actual impact of what effectively constitutes shouting into the ether (legacy advertising) can now begin to be measured… As a new generation begins to take the helm, brands and clients are seeking out more open relationships.”
On the brand side...
CMOs, CCOs of global organizations are under extra pressure to crack the digital code. Teams have to adopt new tools, expand brand presence on every new platform, track everything and be accountable for their efforts' performance.
The digital revolution is forcing organizations to harmonize their siloed departments. Lines are blurring between roles and responsibilities. New leadership positions are emerging and titles are merging.
Tech startup scene sets the tone. Growth Hacker is a blend of creative marketing person and a data analyst. Customer Happiness is a blend of customer support and inbound marketing. Sales teams are increasingly pushed to snap out of their boiler room methods and become more like marketing teams, with ability to nurture, add value, and support customers in the trenches.
It's no longer just the marketing and communications teams that uphold branding. Branding is how organizations unite all their teams under the same values and goals.
And that's not as easy as it sounds.
One thing is clear. Problems, as well as opportunities, arise from the digital space. The current climate comes with a certain mindset which makes it possible for creatives, entrepreneurs, storytellers, and policy makers to collaborate across sectors, fearlessly experiment, launch, test and improve on ideas. Entrepreneurial teams prove that an iterative approach, constant optimization of processes, and holistic design can build and scale successful companies. These principles are applicable to brand communications.
Yes, we can make sense out of the chaos of interconnectedness. This is a user experience problem.
It can be tackled with iterations. Style guides as ever-evolving digital products are a first nimble step to untangle the digital knot.
The following is the first long-term study covering three global campaigns with Greenpeace to make a case for this thesis.