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At Econsultancy’s 2010 ‘Future of Digital Marketing’ conference the main emerging theme was ‘Data is the new oil’. At the 2011 conference, held two days ago in London, for me the main theme is what I’m calling “Brand Everywhere”.
“Brand Everywhere” I largely stole from Alex Gisbert who talked about Expedia’s concept of ‘Expedia Everywhere’. I think any brand should consider itself in a similar way. “Econsultancy Everywhere” happens to be suitably alliterative so I’m even more in favour of it.
The concept is one of ubiquity, a word that also came up a lot during the conference. It isn’t about online OR offline. It is not about digital vs. traditional. They will all become the same thing. The difference will become pointless, and, retrospectively, faintly embarrassing, to talk about.
I say this in the full knowledge that we, Econsultancy, are running events like JUMP which is about ‘online meets offline’. And we talk about ‘digital marketing’ – indeed it is in our strapline ‘digital marketers united’. However, I believe this is just a necessary transitional stage towards a future where ‘digital’ will become unnecessary.
There is an irony that just as we, Econsultancy, a digital publisher for the digital marketing sector, are considering dropping ‘digital’ in our strapline and positioning, many others, mostly the ‘traditional’ players are *adding* or emphasising ‘digital’. What was the Institute of Direct Marketing (IDM) is now the “Institute of Direct and Digital Marketing”. Today The Guardian CEO has been talking about the death of print and doubling of digital revenue targets.
Meanwhile Econsultancy, and many other ‘digital’ players we know, are actually increasing our spend in ‘offline’ media (e.g. direct mail) at a much faster rate than our spend on digital marketing. We’ve even launched a print magazine. Crazy right?
When I interview graduates for roles at Econsultancy they’ve rarely heard of ‘social media’. They don’t need to give a name to what just *is*; what is just part of their lives. I believe the same will be true of ‘digital’.
What will be important is that, as a brand, you can be everywhere that your customers are and expect you to be. And, no surprise, mobile is clearly the most obvious example of that at the moment.
What are the implications of Brand Everywhere?
This isn’t a new concept, of course. It is very similar to the ‘Martini Media’ approach (“Anytime, anyplace, anywhere”) that the BBC have talked about in the past, or indeed the holy grail of CRM with its “holistic-360°-multiple-customer-touch-points-seamless-experience...” mantras.
However I think there are some specific things worth pointing out which came out of the conference:
The Brand Everywhere revolution will not be tweeted
This is a bastardisation of what @Dave Wieneke said at the conference about the mobile revolution. He pointed out, quite correctly, that the mobile revolution has probably already happened or is happening. It is not news. You wake up one day and realise it is just ‘normal’ now. The same will be true for Brand Everywhere. So perhaps we shouldn’t expend as much energy wondering whether this is finally the ‘Year of Brand Everywhere’ (like we did with mobile) and just get on with it?
A big change in the role of ‘digital’ within organisations
In many ways I find this the most practically challenging and interesting dimension of the transition to Brand Everywhere. Digital Marketing will become just Marketing. But digital is clearly more than just marketing or e-commerce. It is customer service, it is market research, it is HR, it is procurement. Clearly digital is affecting the whole of business (and, of course society and politics more broadly).
So what was once the ‘digital’ or ‘online’ or ‘e’ or 'new media' department within organisations will become the entire business. But there are huge challenges around the change in making this transition across people, process and technology.
Fortunately that’s exactly the challenge that Econsultancy’s SkillSet proposition addresses. Sorry, couldn’t resist that plug… ;)
We are currently doing some research into the organisational structures that companies are using to manage digital and interactive channels, how those structures and teams vary according to business maturity and capability in digital, and how the structure evolve over time. But to give you a clue as to what the end goal should be, Stuart Handley from Dell, speaking at our conference, pointed out that their CEO, Michael Dell, has mandated that every single one of Dell’s 100,000 employees should be trained in social media. Social media shouldn’t, in the end, belong in one department – it is everyone’s job.
Open APIs for content
I mean ‘content’ in its broadest sense, including games, apps, data, services, virtual goods etc.
Stephen Dunn, Head of Tech Strategy at The Guardian, gave a great talk about the future of data and ‘open content’. Of course, The Guardian Open Platform, is one of the best examples of this in action.
The point is, that if we are to achieve Brand Everywhere-ness, then we must open up our content, data and services to make this possible. If we are to atomise our brand across the entire web, to become a federated brand, then we will need the tech infrastructure, and accompanying processes and analytics, to make this possible.
We’ve had Tesco talk about their API at previous events of ours – an interesting example of a large retailer opening up its data and product content. However, the example I really loved from our event this week came again from Alex Gisbert which is from Best Buy, the world's largest consumer electronics retailer who have a reputation for being forward thinking in digital. Go and have a look at BBYOpen – if nothing else just watch the video they have there which explains very well the concept of openness and APIs. Inspiring stuff and very important for Brand Everywhere.
The internet of things
You might well have come across the buzz phrase ‘the internet of things’ by now. The idea that physical objects can have digital identities and be part of the internet just like people or content.
Andy Hobsbawm, founder of Evrythng, among other, er, things, gave a great presentation on this topic. If you take the Brand Everywhere concept and apply that to physical objects which could be anything from shoe, to food, to white goods, even guitars (as per the example Andy gave in his talk) that are themselves internet-enabled... then things get very interesting and exciting indeed.
And finally… my favourite quotes from the day
Following are just some soundbites from the Future of Digital Marketing conference this year that I loved:
- “We need to turn 'Like' into Love” – credit to Claire Higgins at vtravelled.com
- “Sideways Traffic” as web traffic that doesn’t come in through the homepage (over 33% of Expedia site visitors don’t see the homepage) credit to Alex Gisbert at Expedia
- “Service is the new advertising” – also from Alex Gisbert at Expedia
- “Data ages like wine, applications age like fish” – credit to Stephen Dunn from the Guardian who in turn took it from James Governor
- “Veg 2.0” to describing vegetating in front of the TV except with a “companion device” (like a tablet) to do interesting social/interactive stuff – credit to Anthony Rose from tBone
- “The Facebook of Things” to describe the way physical objects could have an internet existence of their own – credit to Andy Hobsbawm of Evrythng
- “Product Relationship Management” as a whole new take on CRM once objects exist online – again credit to Andy Hobsbawm of Evrythng