Stop talking about digital
The concept of a standalone digital strategy is outdated and irrelevant, says UM’s Jad Daou. Today, digital is an integral part of everything
UM’s Jad Daou says the notion of a standalone strategy should be consigned to the advertising history books.
How many media sages does it take to change an integrated marketing communications light bulb?
None; they’re still waiting for the light at the end of the tunnel. Immersed in the larger-than-life potential of the digital world, brand holders ask, “What is your digital strategy?” This throws media planners and strategists into a whirlwind to crack a standalone strategy.
Our media fluff peers love to post on LinkedIn: “There is no digital strategy in a communications world, but a communications strategy in a digital world.” We preach it, but do the brand custodians plan their media strategies around it?
According to Gartner’s 2015-16 Chief Marketing Officer Spend survey, 98 per cent of marketers say online and offline marketing is merging. Interestingly, 10 per cent claim to have moved beyond digital marketing techniques and are expanding marketing’s role to new digitally led business models.
Some clients and media peers still think of digital and its sub-categories of mobile, search and social as ‘channels’ where campaigns extend from other platforms (the all-mighty TV) and a way to get engagement via likes and follows. We now live in a world where the line between what’s digital and what isn’t is as irrelevant as those likes and follows we’ve been chasing for too long.
Flashback to 2010, when media and advertising industries alike spoke of how the digital age is the future. Business professionals equipped and trained themselves for the new age of marketing and recruited their ‘digital experts’ (the ones we held on to so fragilely, and still do).
In a connected ecosystem, we recognise the potential of online videos, the internet of things, multi-screening, and e-commerce. The owned, earned, shared and paid split, when crafted, results in www.brand.com as owned assets, earned as social springs, paid programmatic and shared partnerships. How much more does digital need to weigh in until it comes under the comms strategy?
The manners and means that encourage the separation of digital strategies are many, however these are the ones I have solemnly witnessed.
Agencies that work in isolation due to client demand are following a recipe for failure. Going back to basics, ask yourself: what should an integrated marketing communications (IMC) strategy be? By definition an IMC strategy ensures all forms of a brand’s communication are linked, with the purpose of creating a connected ecosystem. In other words, a paid-owned-earned (and shared, with some brands) model.
In an IMC briefing three main parties should be present: media, brand and PR agencies. For holistic and connected IMC, it is imperative that the agencies are given separate objectives with a unified business approach – this is where collaboration starts. Before plunging into a full IMC campaign, think of assessing the brand’s shortterm/tactical engagement vision and long-term brand-love aspiration.
As the industry becomes more fragmented, with a plethora of media platforms and vertical skill sets, so does the product output; communications strategy, digital strategy, social strategy, mobile strategy, content strategy, influencer strategy, TV strategy and outdoor strategy. This fragmentation dilutes the communications strategy’s potential.
Brands should have access to a diverse range of talent, expert in traditional, digital, strategy, data, content and more. However, if done correctly, channel planning rather than channel strategising is the key to succeeding in a complete IMC approach.
Never put all your eggs in one basket. Spreading risk across non-correlating skill sets is necessary. Constructive cross-collaboration between talent will result in a product-centric output with a holistic view of a communications strategy. Putting this into action, during an IMC presentation, we ensure that each of our talent experts has a specific section to present, which gives the client an understanding that this IMC campaign has a holistic approach and not a fragmented one.
The availability of diverse media platforms has allowed us to optimise and reach a large number of people at a relatively low cost. However it is what we’re communicating that needs to change. You can create content, use the latest technology and the biggest social network as a tool to broadcast a message that few people actually care about, or you can use it to build a community and inspire people. The first of these approaches is about volume and impressions; the second is about value and inspiration. For the launch of Sprite Cricket Stars’ third season, we transformed the use of radio to be able to inspire and build a community where we created a radio presenter battle between six of the UAE’s top radio stations and allowed consumers to collect ‘runs’ and work collaboratively with one another and with their favourite radio station to ensure victory.
On the other end of the spectrum, you have the fifth ‘P’ of marketing. After product, price, promotion and place comes people, arguably the most important element in today’s marketing mix. We can have all the right ingredients in the world, but without the right attitude we are destined for failure. Attitude is what makes a big difference. Adopting the right attitude can convert a negative stress into a positive one, manage and negate egos, and eventually contribute to a positive collaboration.
In your next big meeting, banish the phrase “digital strategy”. It is time to start thinking more comprehensively and functioning more collaboratively.
The availability of diverse media platforms has allowed us to optimise and reach a large number of people at a relatively low cost.