How does digital communication affect business outside marketing?
In this two-part article I will try to explain the changes I’m seeing in the convergence of emerging digital communication, branding and business.
We try to place every advancement or innovation within the context of what we already know.
“We look at the present through a rear-view mirror. We march backwards into the future.”
This rear-view mindset instantly frames discussions and ideas inside boxes belonging to old technology and old solutions. One of the indicators of this is how we give new stuff new numbers (2.0 or 3.0) instead of new names.
A point already wonderfully articulated by Breakfast:
- “Some people call what we do “the Internet of things” or “web 3.0.” In our opinion those sound a bit silly. We simply think of ourselves as inventors who are trying to take all the amazingness of what can be done online and bring it into some sort of device or experience in the real world.” –
(And yes, I am as guilty as anyone else…)
Consequently this is making it hard to understand and see the opportunities offered by digital and how these can have different effects on business. And of course, seeing how digital communications has moved on from being exclusively a marketing tool to a critical part of the business toolbox.
I’ve divided the future of digital, the way I see it, into three concepts. In the process I have purposely left out the natural extension of traditional digital communications as it is already accepted, debated and in excellent shape.
And I’ve focused this article on “emerging” concepts. I’m guessing most of these are already familiar, but I’m hoping that setting them in relation to each other will give additional inspiration in regards to how they can be utilized.
1. Experiential brand design
Ironically “the brand” has run into the same problem it was designed to solve; helping consumers differentiate between companies and offers. Where brands are designed to diversify the offer in the market without changing the actual product, the strategies for shaping and designing brands today are so similar and so universal that we are creating brand categories, not brand identities.
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As a perfectly timed response to this digital is maturing into branded experiences in the form of services, applications and tools: A designed experience being a much more powerful branding tool than psychological storytelling.
Unfortunately there is a cleft here, because even if digital is ripe, we are not taking advantage of this maturity.
I’ll support this with a marketing classic: “Nobody sells tires, they sell security”.
Isn’t this true? You don’t buy a set of winter tires (with spikes) because you need new tires. You buy them because sliding around on icy and snowy roads on summer slicks is extremely dangerous.
Now all branches of marketing know this, and every brand comes up with a unique value proposition that is communicated thoughtfully and consistently in every interaction with the customer. With one exception: Online.
Often the most important interaction between the customer and the brand destroys or ignores all the effort and investment put in by the other initiatives.
People travel between two cities. They can either travel by plane or by train. The train takes double the amount of time and is as expensive as the plane – why would you choose to ride the train? The National Railway of Norway were faced with this dilemma and wisely decided on a brand platform suggesting that when it comes to the train it is the journey itself that is the destination – the train ride in itself is a valuable product – as opposed to the plane which is just herding cattle.
The company invested heavily in this story on a range of surfaces and channels. But what happened when people came online to their website – possibly the most important interface in the interactions between the brand and the customer? Online the story was hidden. What people met where a ticket purchasing application/calculator mistakenly similar to the one offered by any cattle herding airline.
The National Railway were communicating and selling “security” on every channel and surface, except for online – where it was selling “tires”…
This is the challenge and the immaturity of digital. And as we outgrow it we will also see the potential of online as a brand building platform and experiential branding (branded activities and services) as the solution to the “similarization” of psychological brands.
Differentiating the brand from its competitors by designing branded experiences delivering on the brand promise is the first emerging concept.
End of part 1… Part 2 to be published.