5 Tenets to Help Survive, Thrive in a Digital World

By Chiaki Nishino

Chaos. If there’s a single word to encapsulate today’s digital environment, that one clinches it. The dizzying pace of change has been hard to keep up with (never mind get ahead of) from every perspective: Channels and platforms. Devices and tools. Customer behaviors…and expectations.

For marketers, the challenge is to understand how to best manage the chaos, and that is a do-able proposition. In fact, the current environment represents a great opportunity for shared storytelling between your brand and your customers, and a powerful pathway to better customer engagement.

Prophet’s digital capabilities are grounded in the deep customer insights that characterize all our work. Truly understanding the customer in the digital environment – personalities, behaviors, and needs states – makes all the difference in being able to harness digital’s chaos and power. Capitalizing on the promise of digital takes a strategic orientation that has five key tenets as its basis:

1. Your customers, engaged; your story, amplified.

Digital is an inevitable and critical piece of customer engagement. It’s a milieu characterized by shared ownership in the amplification of and storytelling about your brand by you and your customers.

You can’t control what’s being said about your brand here, for better or worse, so focus on what you can control: your brand and what it stands for. The better its promise and positioning are focused, defined and communicated internally and externally, the better you will be able to encourage consistent storytelling about it by your customers.

2. The fragmented customer profile in digital.

Digital tends to create a marketplace of people with multiple personalities, which makes the challenge of targeting (essential to any brand strategy) a lot more complex than it used to be.

Think about it: An individual may have multiple identities on Twitter, communicating in 140-character bursts on interests and concerns, on LinkedIn shares the professional persona and, on Facebook, the after-5 p.m. partier or soccer parent – or both, or more. In order to let the right brand story be told, it is critical to understand the multiple dimensions of the individual that are being expressed, and figure out which target you’re truly hoping to connect with.

Just remember. Your audiences are allowed to have multi-faceted online personalities. Your brand, however, can’t afford a fragmented identity in this space.

3. Despite the pace of change, don’t rush to follow.

Digital represents a marketing environment that is relentless and omnipresent, and has dramatically altered how we consume and share information. The constant and real-time interaction it brings about can be overwhelming. But if you respond right, you can capitalize on the opportunity to make your brand a bigger part of customers’ lives thanks to real time access and an improved understanding of what makes them tick.

Accomplishing that makes it critical to be very clear on your digital strategy. There’s a risk of being reactionary – getting caught up in (and overextending your resources on) what others are doing or the hot new capability or channel of the moment. Understand which insights matter by truly listening to and assessing the data to design a strategic approach that’s aligned to your brand and your target customer. This is important as missteps are less tolerated in this realm. There’s a permanent digital footprint that has a lasting effect on perceptions of your brand, now and in the future.

4. The CMO and CIO roles intertwine.
Digital further forces the issue of breaking down organizational silos. It takes both marketing and technology know-how and capabilities to envision and activate the most effective digital strategies.

Respect for the medium is at the heart of this partnership. The roles of the various devices, platforms, and channels under the digital banner should not be underestimated. Your customers’ relationship with each varies greatly, requiring marketing and technology capabilities to be in lockstep in order to capture the optimal synergies of their skill sets.

This means that marketers and their IT counterparts alike must grow their understanding of the interplay between technologies, how they work, and how they are best put to work in creating customer experiences that drive the brand and business forward.

5. Measure business impact, not Klout

The impact of digital strategy is measured in ways that traditional media is not – via a stream of data that can be analyzed to continuously fine-tune and refine approaches for maximum impact. Ultimately, however, metrics must tie back to business impact, just as is the case with offline media measurement.

Despite this measurement power, the reality is that nothing in digital exists on its own. Mobile links to social media which, in turn, may link back to a company website. The trick is to ensure that linkage models are being used to measure the effectiveness of the digital strategies. And, in fact, given the fuzziness of some of the types of measurement allowed by digital (Klout and “liking,” for example), it makes sense to find ways to link those digital measures to more traditional and actionable metrics like awareness, consideration, and conversion.

The explosion in digital has created one of the most exciting and challenging environments for society and culture. The marketer’s imperative is to learn how to manage the chaos that digital represents to grow more effective customer connections and successful businesses. These key tenets provide a foundation for action.

Chiaki Nishino (cnishino@prophet.com) is a Senior Partner at Prophet, a strategic brand and marketing consultancy that helps its clients win by delivering inspired and actionable ideas.

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