The Pull of the Digital and Social Media Storm

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The CMO Council Marketing Outlook 2010 Report, published April 19th, points to the digital transformation of marketing.  This annual report serves as a reliable bellwether of trends as indicated by approximately 600 senior marketers surveyed from a cross-section of industries.  Most striking to me is this commentary:

“Globalization of markets and new channels of digital engagement are causing senior corporate marketers to seek new internal skills and capabilities, and re-direct spend towards more inventive and localized go-to-market programs,” notes Donovan Neale-May, executive director of the CMO Council.  “The transformation of marketing organizations, practices and functions is well underway. This is being driven by the need to engage at an individual level, create more content relevance, and leverage a new world of crowd-sourcing Internet communities, omnipresent connectivity, and pervasive mobile device ownership.”

Granted, there is much being said here.  One thing is clear though.  The transformation of marketing organizations is picking up pace this year.  Thirty-five percent of those surveyed indicated they had plans for transformational initiatives.  Of this 35%, 46% indicated they had a digital marketing makeover project underway.  The investment in digital marketing makeover is consisting of platforms, programs, and people.  Accompanying this makeover is not necessarily additional spend but a re-direct of spend towards digital marketing.  As we have seen this year, companies are being awakened to the fact that the digital and social media storm has some jet stream wind behind it and is all the rage at the moment.  Perplexing to many is how to gauge this so called storm and how to adapt to the aftermath.  This year we’ve seen the advent of social media analytics beginning to surface.  Activity levels are being measured and monitored by analytics software however deriving meaning from the output will be a significant challenge.

The report also indicates that traditional agencies are being threatened as more in-house competency is created as well as a re-direct in spending towards specialists in digital media creation takes hold.  What we will see this year is a rapid makeover of traditional agencies to digital agencies.  I do not think the threat noted in the report is a threat unless the traditional agencies stand pat.  This I doubt will happen with those who have the resources to make a transformation rapidly.

What is interesting to me in this transformation is that we have the pull of a digital and social media storm; an inertia that is mudding the water somewhat.  As the storm of social media rages on, more and more people are responding to it.  We have more and more participants “engaging” in digital activities and communities that are “pulled” in by the storm.  As a result, the new analytics see increasing upticks in activity in social media and digital communities.  What is really going on is hard to say at the moment.  For example, how do you distinguish meaningful from non-meaningful tweets or Facebook page views?

In parallel to the digital marketing makeover is the digital buyer persona makeover.  The buyer persona is undergoing a transformation to a digital buyer persona due in part by the pull of the digital and social media storm and in part by the necessity to adapt to the increasing capabilities digital media offers.  This is creating new means of digital engagements and new patterns of digital buying.  For B2B, it is proving to be both confusing and challenging as B2C methods crossover in significant ways.  These two tracks of transformations under way – the digital marketing and the digital buyer persona makeovers – will most likely result in an unforeseen third plane of engagement that no one can predict – yet.  As is usually the case with a storm that affects markets, there are those who cannot escape the damage of the storm and those who survive them.   

History does have that uncanny way of repeating itself.  Throughout the recent modern times, we’ve seen markets and companies get caught up in a storm.  Most recently, the run up of the Internet and eCommerce had a similar pattern and as the dot.com bubble burst proved there are losers and winners.  The winners providing us the platform to reach a purer form of transformation that proves to be enduring.  It is going to be an interesting story over the next few years as we see the storm past – and see who is left standing. 

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