Can a brand ever create a digital strategy?

It’s a big question really and something much of the “client side” marketing community look upon with horror.

You can hear the board meetings “We need a digital strategy, what’s the role of digital?”, eyes on marketing .. a tentative nod and then the fun begins. The reality is that for any marketing team to create a “digital strategy” is nonsense. Its like saying we need to review how we are using plastic or “Bob? Where is the role of paper report within the marketing function I asked for?”. Doesn’t have quite the ring to it does it.

We all see digital as a transmission method (internet, web, email, radio, TV … watches), yet we keep on trying to give it a strategic objective. Most companies will have a very clear idea of what they need to achieve, how they create and execute a plan and fingers crossed measure it. Whether its above-the-line, promotions, PR, on pack or focus groups for customer input, the roles are clear and robust. We should then be asking “How can digital help the bit I am doing / or not”. In essence digital needs to be slave to the function and should never sit as a strategic objective.

Many companies have used digital to develop or launch new products or services,  driven some great awareness, gor customer feedback or sold more product but all of these were locked onto an existing area (NPD, advertising, insight and sales) and any digital thinking should ultimately be coming out of those teams, not some dude on the top the floor with “Digital Strategy”  stuck on their door.

If you try and tell most people that if all goes well there will be no digital strategy, just digital helping to deliver the existing strategy, they look at you like you are crazy. Time to decentralize it and get everyone thinking.

4 Responses to Can a brand ever create a digital strategy?

  1. Rachel Lane September 8, 2010 at 3:28 pm #

    True…. providing such departments (and senior management) have the initiative to consider Digital at all and providing there is no conflict between digital spend and budgets for other media/channels.

    Perhaps you are exposed to a more digitally sophisticated audience, but in my experience many people are exposed to digital outputs rather than digital thinking. We're more inclined to supermarket-shop for a technology, rather than define one around a set of human requirements. Too often people think of specific territories rather than the transport between such spaces and as such digital opportunity still lags behind digital potential.

    • Jeremy September 8, 2010 at 4:21 pm #

      Rachel – thanks for the comment. I think thats just the thing. If there is conflict for budget then the set up is probably wrong. Likewise technology before value or “whats the point” is really common and people don't feel comfortable saying “is it me or is this a little daft??!” Thanks again – Jeremy

    • Phil Dearson November 26, 2010 at 8:38 pm #

      Hey Rach. You get everywhere don't you! Long time no see etc. Well, apart from on youtube with your geekgirl hat on. Nice hat, by the way.

      I think the problem may be with the word “digital”. It's meaningless and yet it's used as a catch-all term by brands and inexperienced agencies alike. Digital is typically perceived as a channel, when it's really a richly interlinked network of channels with new ones emerging daily.

      The “what's our digital strategy” question is probably the wrong one for brands. “What are we trying to achieve” is a better starting point.

      • Rachel Lane January 7, 2011 at 3:02 pm #

        Lordy, I seem to be missing replies right, left and centre at the moment. I may get everywhere… but nowt much point in that if it's a vacant station. 😉

        Agree with redefining the question as “what are we trying to achieve”… I guess with Digital as a mindset rather than a territory, it takes a reasonable amount of forethought, tenacity and gumption by a client and agency to design a meaningful ROI.

        Anyway -I'm sure I'll bump into you in cyberspace again over the next few months (and beyond), but just in case you didn't know already, I'm off to Toronto at the beginning of April. I know it makes little difference now we're connected on 70 billion digital platforms, but still feels like a partial good-bye!

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