In the July issue of Marketing you may have read the feature titled ‘Digital Darwinism’. The article outlined the evolution of digital agencies from the early days of web design to the present where we offer a host of digital disciplines: strategy, creative, public relations and more. Although all very true, I couldn’t help thinking about the concept of digital Darwinism and how it is affecting more than just digital agencies.
Charles Darwin famously believed that it is not the strongest of the species that survives, or the most intelligent – it is the species that are the most adaptable to change, and in business at no point since the industrial revolution has this been more true. By now everyone is aware of the power of digital media and platforms, and that companies must embrace them and have a large digital component – if not a lead digital component – in any marketing campaign. But how fast are digital platforms changing? Where are they going? And how will whatever comes next influence business?
The truth is, no one knows for sure. One thing we do know is it’s not only digital platforms that are evolving; the consumers that use them and society in general is developing, being driven by the hunger for more information and connectedness, and the speed at which these anthropological and technological changes are happening is incredible. A true concept of digital Darwinism would dictate that only companies that have the capacity to evolve with these online and offline shifts will survive. This concept has also been outlined in The End of Business as Usual, a recent book by new media thought leader Brian Solis.
So how do you make sure your company is adaptable to change in the digital world?
Let’s start with your brand. From a digital perspective your brand is becoming less and less of what your marketing or communications department says it is and more a collection of conversations of what your customers say it is. As these conversations develop, over time so will your brand – whether you like it or not – so why not harness that power and embrace that change? Don’t get me wrong, brands must still be recognisable and instil a level of trust, but confidence in consumers is now gained through a new social means and, even more worryingly, if not handled correctly distrust can be instilled faster.
Your customers, now enabled through technology, can make more informed decisions by filtering, sorting and finding information at lightning speed; they can opt in or out of advertising and compare, confer and discuss their experiences. They have evolved and we must treat them differently. And by that I mean fundamental communication, such as the tone of voice and key messages used, not just churning out the same marketing communications on these new digital platforms.
A perfect example of this is a Facebook community where, when managed correctly, there is little need to push out sales messages about products or services. Brands can ask their community to give their opinion on the same products or services offering their customers a sense of inclusion with the brand that was previously not there. Brand equity and affinity is built through cohesion, which then leads to advocation and sales.
Many companies get scared by these changes and do nothing, which is a sure way to fall to digital Darwinism, but some see it as a huge opportunity to get their customers (communities) to work for them. Online brand advocates will talk, share and build your brand in the eyes of their communities on your behalf, for little or no cost.
Next companies must prepare for even more change and become adaptable. Five-year plans are all well and good but more than this it’s important to instil a culture and company ethos of adaptability, as the five-year plan will be out of date in a year. It’s inevitable that consumers will continue to progress and current marketing strategies will become redundant, and even the new ones destined to diminish within only a few years. More than anything companies must be nimble, fast to refresh strategies and open to trying new things.
In Charles Darwin’s theory of natural selection the whole point was that some species didn’t make it. As you read this blog there is the chance your company will meet the same fate, the only thing that will stop you is to become more open to digital change. Fast.