Culture: How To Fail At Digital Marketing


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This third post in the series “How To Fail at Digital Marketing” introduces the factor of Culture, and how an organization’s beliefs, values and artifacts contribute to success in digital marketing.

“In most organizational change efforts, it is much easier to draw on the strengths of the culture than to overcome the constraints by changing the culture.” Edgar Schein

Changing Organizational CultureOrganizational culture can be described as shared assumptions of individuals in an organization that impacts meaning and behavior by implying appropriate actions for various situations. Organizational culture has three primary levels: artifacts, values, and beliefs. Artifacts are the physical components of the organization that represent cultural meaning (an employee handbook is one example of an organizational artifact, as is the corporate logo). Shared values are individuals’ preferences regarding aspects of the organization’s culture (such as customer service, innovation, commitment to quality, etc.). Basic beliefs and assumptions include individuals’ impressions about the trustworthiness and supportiveness of an organization, and may not be explicitly communicated.


First and foremost, the organization and it’s agents need to have a single, unshakable belief:

Your online strategy is your business strategy.

Any uncertainty, doubt or confusion needs to be addressed before progress can be made. The developers that “don’t believe in SEO” can tank an initiative just as quickly as the sales department’s erroneous conviction that the website doesn’t directly impact their performance.

No time in modern history has seen such a shift in consumer behavior than the age of the internet. Radio and television had a great impact in exposing people to brands and products, but only the internet gave them the freedom to search, share, consume and review with the world.


Our values are what matter most to us individually and collectively. We express our values everyday through our thoughts and words, but we live them through out actions. While there is no question that values like trust, reliability and respect are crucial to a healthy organization, there are a few values that are key to succeeding in digital marketing, among them Integrity, Innovation and Resilience.

Integrity is about honesty, accuracy and consistency. It’s about acting according to the values, beliefs and principles you claim to hold. The opposition of integrity is hypocrisy, which is as common in businesses as it is in people. Acting contrary to your espoused values can be devastating to team motivation and morale. To claim to value initiative in your employees but being unwilling to give them resources or liberty to pursue their ideas degrades trust and authority, reducing team members to employees, which Dave Ramsey defines as “someone who shows up late, leaves early and steals while they’re there”.

Innovation can be defined as “the development of new customer value through solutions that meet new needs, unarticulated needs, or old customer and market needs in new ways*“. Innovation leads to new and interesting ways to solve problems and provide service. Innovation is not about building a better mousetrap – its about solving the vermin problem for your customer in a more efficient and effective way. Adopting twitter as a means of real-time customer support isn’t a new idea, but using it to address coffee emergencies for small businesses creates a lifetime customers of the business, it’s employees, and their family members that will be receiving a Keurig for the holidays.

Resilience is commonly defined as the capacity of the system, enterprise, or a person to maintain its core purpose and integrity in the face of dramatically changed circumstances*“. Having a resilient digital marketing strategy is crucial, as we work in an industry that evolves every day. To maintain a core purpose in the face of constant environmental disruption seems borderline superpower, but knowing that the world will change in unexpected ways requires us to prepare. Resilience is not robustness, which is a hardening of the assets of a systems. Nor is it redundancy, which is essentially “backing up” of a system. It is also not about recovery, which is a return to an initial state – the world of digital marketing will never “return” to any particular state. It will only continue to evolve and mutate in an exponential and unpredictable way.


Organizational artifacts symbolize or represent salient aspect of the organizational culture often to convey meaning, identity, legitimacy or brand ideals, either internally or externally. Artifacts are the visible elements in a culture that can be recognized even by people not part of the culture. Artifacts can be physical (awards indicating excellence, uniforms to engender solidarity) informational (case studies, employee handbooks) or conceptual (such as language, interaction patterns and cultural “norms”). A value of common organizational artifacts such as a website or a case study is that it provides “social proof” that an organization is what it believes itself to be. Identity collateral and content are the most crucial of artifacts, and are the elements your consumers experience when interacting with you online. If your goal is to engage customers you must develop a coherent brand, cultivate a message and deliver a clear call to action.

The greatest challenge of culture is it’s subjective nature. While culture is crucial to organizational health, it is as much symptom as it is cause. Treating culture as an object that can be manipulated is futile, as culture is (in part) an expression of the collective, not the driving force. The first step is building a team of stakeholders and participants who firmly believe that they are responsible for the present and future of the organization. Secondly, establishing a value system that encourages and rewards key behaviors is a good place to start, but don’t just talk the talk – walk the walk. Lastly, creating organizational artifacts that allow a business to identify and represent itself to its internal and external publics is key to communicating the value proposition the organization has to offer.

Republished with author's permission from original post.

Aaron Douglas
With seven years of website development experience and more than ten years of social psychology training, Aaron's life's work has been to help people and brands become better versions of themselves.


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