Digital isn’t something you do, it’s something you are

by Ron on October 28, 2013

Young woman looking at digital images floating in the air.At the Digital Pulse Summit in Boston earlier this month, Mike Lundgren, who holds the lofty title, director of innovation strategy at VML, suggested that digital isn’t just something you do as an organization, it needs to be something you are.

Lundgren told the story about speaking at Kimberly Clark about digital marketing where Clive Sirkin CMO of Kimberly Clark, who was introducing him, told the audience, “We don’t believe in digital marketing.” Lundgren said his stomach dropped, but then Sirkin clarified his statement, “We believe in marketing in a digital world.”

I interpret that to mean that you need to be all in on digital as a company. You can’t think of digital as part of a department or a group of employees. It needs to be part of everything you do as an organization. It requires your business to have a complete digital transformation and your entire strategy has to be digitally focussed.

Lundgren said that’s because the pace of innovation and and rate of disruption we have seen from digital transformation isn’t slowing down. If anything, it’s accelerating and that means you need to take steps to transform your midsize business to adapt to this changing world or you put the success of your entire company at risk.

That’s not just hyperbole either. It’s a fact of life in today’s high-speed, rapidly evolving digital world. And Lundgren believes that the pace will just continue to accelerate whether you try to adapt or whether you stand still and watch it happen.

Lundgren says a big part of that transformation from a marketing and social media perspective is moving from traditional interrupt marketing techniques like commercials, direct mail and telemarketing to engaging with your customers wherever they are.

He says the ‘Ninja’ level of this transformation is when you stop interrupting altogether and have an entirely digitally-based engagement strategy. He believes the best way to achieve this is making your company a believable character for people.

Part of the problem he says is that expectations are changing based on the experiences we have with our consumer devices. If we can get a magical experience with our smartphones, we want to experience that magic in everything we do, and the trick for marketing departments moving forward is building tools that excite and involve your customers and make them feel like they are part of something more beyond simply making a purchase.

He suggests imagining a common customer problem, then imagining a way to solve that problem in a clever and engaging fashion. “Close the gap between the two,” Lundgren suggested.

It’s certainly not easy, but it is possible. Andrew Davis, author of the book Brandscaping who also spoke at Digital Pulse told the story of Rent the Runway (RTR), a company that rents designer outfits to woman for a short period. Women often need a nice outfit for a single occasion, but they rarely wear that expensive outfit again. Think a prom, a wedding, a fancy New Year’s Eve party. RTR solves that problem in a creative way by delivering the outfit in a package with a hand-written note and a fitting kit to make it fit just right. They involve the customer by asking them to take a picture and post it on their site. And it’s a tremendous success because it took a customer problem and it solved it for them, got them involved and made them part of the product promotional effort.

If you’re dabbling in social media and have a digital team that’s part of your marketing department, you at least have taken a step in the right direction, but it takes far more than that. It takes transforming your entire company and understanding that it’s all about delivering creative digital solutions. Are you all in? You had better be.

Photo Credit: (c) Can Stock Photo

This post was written as part of the IBM for Midsize Business program, which provides midsize businesses with the tools, expertise and solutions they need to become engines of a smarter planet. I’ve been compensated to contribute to this program, but the opinions expressed in this post are my own and don’t necessarily represent IBM’s positions, strategies or opinions.

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