Do You Have a Digital Mind-set?

The digital mind-set is replacing the traditional mind-set at such a speed that it leaves many of us scrambling to keep up. This is a paradigm shift that cannot be stopped and has huge implications for many organisations, functions and professionals. If you doubt this watch any 5 to 8 year old child on an iPad or similar tablet device, their expectations will drive future demand as they are the customers of tomorrow and they are an unstoppable force being brought up with a digital mind-set as their default setting.

At a recent IOD briefing meeting I was fascinated to listen to Danielle Dunn, who is the owner of DDCA a leading creative agency based in Newcastle, present her thoughts on how the digital mind-set will transform the way brands communicate to their target customers. To demonstrate her point she told an interesting story about the challenges her new AGA cooker was presenting in her efforts to bake a cake. Having owned an AGA for most of my life I empathised that it is indeed a challenge to bake a cake in an AGA; perfectly possible, but it requires some tacit knowledge to get right. To get this knowledge Danielle turned to social media sites such as Twitter and Facebook and posted a ‘Help’ request and watched the advice and top-tips flood in. Being a serial entrepreneur, what interested her was that she got no response at all from anyone at AGA. She explained that software now exists that scans the social media and highlights if your brand is mentioned in the seemingly endless stream of chatter. AGA did not appear to be listening, so became a target for her business; her view was they need help to understand that the chance to have a value adding conversation with their customers is passing them by. They will become her next target customer, armed with a personal story and some data. A neat idea to generate new business I thought!

This story demonstrated one of the key attributes of the digital mind-set – ‘Listening’.

Work Life Balance - an elusive ideal or a complete myth 2The traditional mind-set focuses on transmitting messages to the market and works hard to check and control the message it sends. The digital mind-set is all about ‘starting a conversation’, listening to what consumers and customers are saying and then actively participating in this conversation. As with most paradigm shifts this is a somewhat alien concept to many brand managers stuck in the traditional mind-set. In her talk Danielle went on to explain she had been talking to a brand manager in an internationally renowned baby products manufacturer who asked why all this chatter really mattered. She shared that their brand name had been mentioned 50,000 times across various social media platforms in the last week and maybe someone in the organisation should be listening and interested in what was being said…..Needless to say, the sheer volume of what is being said caught their attention.

The insight I gleaned from this story was that with such a volume of chatter your brand reputation and positioning is really now in the hands of consumers and customers, not in the marketing department and this is a significant shift in power.

The advent of location based software and mobile devices enables search engines such as Google to know where you are enquiring from and consequently presents you with information that the algorithm believes is more relevant to you. This week I was searching a national estate agent website and was presented with offices sorted into an order that recognised I probably wanted to make contact with the nearest office first. As it happened I did not but I thought it was a neat idea!

The pace of change is staggering to behold. The advent of ‘omni-channel marketing’, which is the latest technology enabled wave to sweep across the retail marketing landscape, is a case in point. Omni-channel marketing is all about awareness, consistency, and customer tracking. This is following close on the heels of multi-channel marketing which means that your brand is on all of the key channels and your customers can access you from many different devices and platforms. For many marketers, that alone has been a significant challenge. Ensuring that your brand can reach potential and existing customers on every channel takes some work. Doing so in a way that’s customized and optimized for each medium takes significant planning, a smart digital strategy, and strong execution.

omnichannel marketingomnichannel marketingOmni-channel marketing is beyond this however and first became an important concept for retailers to consider over the last year. With omni-channel, each platform needs to have awareness of the other. The website needs to know what experience you’ve had on Facebook or Pinterest, how you’ve interacted with the brand’s applications, and what kind of in-store digital experiences you might have had. The experience needs to be seamless. With awareness of what a consumer is doing, marketers can start to tell a continuous story that plays out whenever and wherever the consumer interacts with the brand. The premise here is that customers and targets are going to move from platform to platform on a regular basis, often to perform the same task, and that they have expectations that their behavior in one place will influence the experience in another.

The last key piece is reporting and data, and it’s the most significant infrastructure issue around this whole idea. Awareness and seamlessness are only made possible by building a sophisticated consumer profile and being rigorous about adding to it at every turn. That means a lot of coordination between IT and marketing – not always the best of friends in many siloed organizations.

children on ipadsBack to our customers of the future. My oldest daughter teaches 5 and 6 year olds. She wanders her classroom with her wireless enabled iPad swiping her screen transferring information directly to the interactive white board at the front of the class. I am pretty sure that if she was somehow transported back in time to my old school class in a Newcastle comprehensive in the early 1970’s and demonstrated this technology we would have burned her as a witch!

The digital mind-set is all about listening and conversing not transmitting and it is happening at a lightening pace. Traditional mind-set people still think about catching customers and controlling the message, the digital mind-set sweeps this aside, it is open, random and supportive. It is clear that the brand manager is no longer in control of the brand message the customers and users are, but what of the rest of us who don’t work in the world of marketing? The digital mind-set certainly challenges traditional opinion surveys to test staff satisfaction, formal huddles for sharing information and the performance management process for defining a limited number of access and update points during the year. If you adopt the digital mind-set as a leader you will be scanning and listening to your staff, your customers and your partners in ways that means you can respond proactively ahead of issues and opportunities! Speed and ‘connection’ become the new currency to replace delineation, control and order!

If you are brave and confident in your leadership then you should be encouraging this chatter, it is what matters most ask your staff/partners / customers to start these conversations and listen and contribute but don’t think you can control, this traditional mind-set is quickly becoming an illusion.

Malcolm Follos