The business of making your business bigger seemed easier once. Everything has become complexified, granulated and digitalled. What do these things even mean? And should I embrace them?
CRM has reverted to a poor man’s marketing meat-grinder. Hard-won customer data pouring into the top only to be minced into smaller parts, each largely indistinguishable from the other. Facebook and other social channels are better understood these days, but that has come with a cost - Facebook now resembles the party that started out cool before Uncle Dave arrived and showed everyone how to BodyPop.
So where does the clever marketer and business transformer go for the next step in this journey from the real world to an online one? Where’s the place in which you can start plotting your own course rather than spinning out of control in the digital undertow?
Recent moves by the global consulting firms certainly give us a clue to the underlying direction; Accenture’s hoovering-up of Karmarama being the most recent. The ‘thinking’ businesses have always been able to charge handsomely for deep-rooted change strategies, but are rarely lauded for their ability to actually do anything to drive the necessary changes. And the ‘campaigning’ businesses — we agencies — always able to think like consumers and create action to change behaviours, but rarely with real permission to speak in the rarified air of blue-chip boardrooms. It makes perfect and long-term sense for true thinking and campaigning to come together. But both these industries have existed side by side for the best part of a century. Why now?
One reasonable suggestion is the omnipotence of digital, and the three biggest changes it brings.
- The first of these is measurability. Business tools, campaigns, customer-driven relationship building, automating of manual processes — all have been fuelled and turbocharged by the exponential growth in ‘digital’. And this doesn’t just mean ‘stuff on a screen’. It means the stunning software wiring behind the screen: the APIs that drive the ARPUs.
- The second is flexibility. If a campaign were to be tested back when paper and ink were used to deliver a marketing message, we had to print and send the tests just as we’d eventually send the main campaign. This cost almost as much as delivering the whole campaign on occasion. And it could take weeks to gather the proof required to decide which approach was working. Digital communications and infrastructures do this in minutes, hours, days at worst. ‘Failing often and fast’ is an utterly hideous phrase, coined by those who take literally the stories of Uber-mensch modern entrepreneurial failure, as if failing a lot is always good thing. But definitely, if you absolutely mustfail, best to do it fast, and then get on with not failing next time.
- The third is improvability. With apologies for this crap word. We used to build websites like castles — held up by strong walls and containing lots of separate rooms in which we’d do different things. Sturdy and defendable against all comers. Strange to think that we’re already looking back at web development history with fondness and shaking our heads at the radically different thinking. Nowadays we look at websites more like gardens that need pruning a little here, some seasonal re-planting there. Easy to make changes as and when they’re needed. More economic, more responsive, above all: more consumer-driven.
So if being more measurable, flexible and improvable is reason enough for serious consultants and spiky creatives to bridge their cultural divide, how does that help you, dear reader? You who began reading several days ago in the hope that I’d explain the phrase ‘Just Because You Can…’
Well, it’s pretty simple to describe, if not always to execute. This new integration means not simply that the same campaigning idea lives across many channels and touch-points. It means that real integration is between brands and their customers. And that the brands which are succeeding are seeking to understand how their customers might play a role in their future. They are building the platforms now which will help define how their customers will interact with them for years to come. And onto which the tools and processes which help make their customers’ lives better, easier and more fulfilled are being built, tested, and fine-tuned — right before our eyes.
So just because you can, means you should definitely try.