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