That’s it. I’m done! In the presentation of my services on my LinkedIn profile, I’ve stopped claiming that I accompany brands during their “digital” transformation. This is a mistake and I’m about to explain why.
There is a deep misunderstanding between consumers and brands.
The term “digital transformation” is not neutral in this situation. It can be dangerous because it naturally leads to poor strategic choices. I had the opportunity to talk about this very topic this week.In reality, what we’re dealing with is more like a new societal paradigm. Technology is just one element of the overall digital transformation, per se.
The term “Digital” means to focus on technology
When it comes to digital, we quickly think technology, innovation and prowess.
We use digital as we would use fireworks; we’re looking to create a big ‘boom’ and a lot of pretty colors, but very often we create mostly smoke. And we see it everywhere, every day, and in all sectors. Today, few campaigns succeed in anchoring a brand in the mind of the consumer.
The majority of marketers check boxes (virtual reality, Artificial Intelligence, mobile, connected product, Snapchat, and yesterday’s Instagram, Twitter, Facebook… forums), without really understanding why they are doing so. Are they trying to reassure the Executive Committee, trying to communicate “where the target is”, or trying to win awards? .
To believe that digital is a magic wand that will make you (check the wrong answer): cool, modern, more profitable… is a profound misunderstanding.
Yes, digital is inevitable, but not so much because the technologies must be adopted. Mainly because the world has changed.
The risk of course is to generate “digital washing”. Making innovation for innovation’s sake, without really worrying in fine about the primary goal, i.e. to serve consumers in a changed world.
In reality, the technological transformation is a tool at the service of a greater transformation of society. Catchphrases abound: “Snapchat is the future of the press”, “virtual reality is the future of content”, “We’ll hack the marketing”…
Loïc Prigent makes us laugh with the pearls of wisdom he delivers to the world of fashion. But I think we could chuckle at phrases from some other people in marketing (I’m probably the author of a number of them)…
Consumers have changed. They have habits, expectations, and a better understanding of the world. More specifically, the marketing has changed.
A societal transformation through the use of the digital
It’s true that when you see this kind of image, it is logical to conclude that you must immediately jump into mobile. I’m not saying you shouldn’t, but what is at stake is much more complex than the mere use of technology.
What lies beneath this “revolution”? A paradigm shift.
To see the issue as a technological one is to fight the wrong battle.
It is a fact that consumers use digital technologies (mobile, social networks…), but this masks some essential trends.
Let’s take these 4, which are important:
1. A more balanced consumer/brand relationship
Through 50 years of mass media marketing, consumers have integrated the workings of marketing. They understand it much better and are critical of it.
Digital allows them to completely change the rapport they have with brands, because they can search online, compare, find cheaper prices, discuss with other consumers, get organized, ask questions …
They are informed in real-time and can wield a certain amount of power, especially with brands who fear a “bad buzz”.
They want a form of transparency now. Armed with a telephone and an internet connection, nothing can stop them.
It is this new rapport that brands, including Google, must adapt to(even if the controversy is debatable).
2. Consumers are stronger together
Digital has enabled consumers to find solutions together; it has made relationships more fluid, given access to advice…
One can easily find out how to do anything oneself. The DIY trend is a particularly good example of this.
But beyond that, what is known as the collaborative economy (I have linked my Slideshare on the subject) has allowed consumers to do without some brands entirely.
Blockchain fits in this same logic. But in this case, it questions institutions.
3. A levelling of tastes and opinions
A few years back, Thomas Friedman of the New York Times already referred to this in his book The World is Flat.
Lately, a really relevant point has been brought up.There is no difference between interior design in Germany, Korea, the United States or other countries. Airbnb, Pinterest and Instagram broadcast images that are “global”, and dictate to the world how to decorate an interior.
This can obviously be extended to feedback on different subjects, especially with the “filter bubble” criticized by Eli Parizer several years ago, which found resonance in Facebook’s Edgerank and wherever the algorithms do their job.
That’s also what this article from the french newspaper Le Monde points out (even if the controversy is debatable).
4. Expectations that are highly evolved.
Gen Z in particular is not interested in possession as much as enjoyment at a given time, and in the experience that a product may bring them.
This dimension permanently impacts on brands, who must now factor it into their offerings.
Gen Z also expects brands to be more socially-committed and responsible, with a more transparent functioning, as suggested by brands such as Everlane, Made, Jimmy Fairly or even jeans with DSTLD.
Gen Z feels it belongs to the citizens of the world. It believes that digital has helped remove these barriers, making them becoming more or less obsolete. This in turn has produced international service expectations.
What is interesting is that this transformation of expectations has substantially accelerated, as has the consumer’s integration of technological innovations.
Therefore, it is more difficult for brands to stay in the race.
Our professions have come alive again, and a permanent update system should be put in place for the teams.
A need for transformation, yes, but…
The goal is not to run after the latest shooting star technology, but rather to agree at all internal levels of the business on a common vision between the company and the brand, and to integrate digital as oil is integrated in an engine, to streamline both internally and externally.
But first of all, to acculturate them..
Without breaking the silos (which is illusory), allow (rather, coerce) services to work together, such as IT and marketing. And finally, innovate using a lean methodology. In other words, adjusting incrementally to work differently.
These are the challenges businesses face, and they are more profound than a simple update of the tools used.
In short, the challenge is not to integrate digital, but to integrate the digital consumer.