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Digital strategy deconstructed: key considerations, part. 2

This is the second part of a few, deconstructing and highlighting some important aspects of the concept of digital strategy and what to consider when approaching it. You’ll find part 1 here.

Part 1 was much about the power of words and definitions, and the need to actively reflect on this with the group responsible for thinking “digital strategy”. It also highlighted the power of using a networked perspective for understanding the integration, organisation wide implications as well as stakeholder alignment.

In this second part I’d like to touch on how brand culture and purpose matters greatly, and how reframing this, and ones market, creates a vantage point that fuels the thinking. I use two fairly well known examples to do this.

Ford manufactures cars, but a while back they redefined themselves as a mobility brand (actually, the original mission was to make America mobile, so not that drastic change…). What does that do? Obviously that depends. But there’s a number of things that fit very nicely together in business strategy, but I’d like to include it in digital strategy as we define that as broadly as strategic thinking in a digital (networked) world.

The mobility brand Ford saw the number of 16 year olds who get their first car drop considerably. More numbers are showing the same changes in demand. But if you’re not in the business of selling cars, but rather mobility, there’s another side to that.

Ford partnered with Zipcar which offers a subscription based model for access to mobility, in the form of cars. This could have been done without Zipcar. It is now done in different shapes and forms by many car manufacturers (I recently saw that Audi pushes micro-sharing experience, collective access to Audi cars)

Zipcar bought by Avis, but what if Ford bought it? Making money from providing mobility services in Volvos, BMWs etc? Competitors become collaborators. The revenue model drastically different. Not switching, complementing. All facilitated by new, networked, technology. But, more importantly: new self perception on behalf of the brand. The organisation, and how everyone sees value creation.

Slideshare: Part 2 touches on slide 5-7

reframing the market and the business

Product development vs business development. A networked perspective can dramatically fuel the thinking in business development. Looking at the brand, its purpose and meaning in peoples lives, is an important part of digital strategy. It might make it inseparable from business strategy, that’s fine. That’s actually just right. And here’s also where it becomes something bigger than a digital thing. That’s important, because when it’s a business matter, and even a cultural matter, you (still) have a better shot at getting more people excited and onboard.

The vast majority still don’t feel ”digitally savvy” and hence exclude themselves from ”digital” projects. Many are literally scared of it. But cultural transformation, processes, thinking about markets and business – there’s where you might find those people.

I’ve jotted down some thinking on meaning markets before. In the case with Uber, on slide 6, they think of themselves in a number of ways appart from ”taxi company”. One is as a logistics platform. What makes sense when you’re a logistics platform? Partnership with destinations. An open API. Revenue sharing between company and private drivers carrying out the transportation. All of the things that any taxi company could have done, but didn’t. Because their culture, self-perception and view on value creation, doesn’t allow for it. That’s right, it doesn’t allow for it. That’s how strong impact culture has on ideas. It’s back to definitions in a sense.

  • Always include, and even describe, your digital project/initiative as a (organizational) cultural one. You benefit from appealing to people who dislikes and even fear digital.

  • Rethink your market. Do the product vs. meaning exercise. What is your product? What is the meaning of you, and that product/service, in peoples’ lives? Then think about what your market really is. I’ve heard Unilever is very much in ”home care”, aiming to ”free up family time”. So how about a global platform for subscription based home-cleaning, laundry service, laundry pickup etc?

  • See also a method called Jobs To Be Done. This is not equating an initiative around digital strategy with innovation, but it is highlighting the perfect occasion for truly taking a stab at preemptively exploring ”how the business might change”.

OK. So two posts in and still no focus on media channels, social platforms and communication. I don’t think the next one will be either.

Digital strategy deconstructed: key considerations, part. 1

In a previous post about a digital marketing lab in Singapore, I realized I should probably structure and share some of my thinking and learnings having discussed, presented, debated, consulted on, workshopped around and taught digital strategy.

So, the reason for this first of a few posts is for a number of reasons:

1) Deconstructing a couple of slides used in workshops and talks, in order to structure what I believe is often overlooked and missed. It’s good for myself to do it.
2) If we’ve had a workshop together or if you listened to a presentation I gave – Hello! Here are some things we touched on if you feel like a refresh or if there was a language/speed problem. You should have the full presentation already.
3) Basically, why not share it beyond rooms of people.

So here goes number 1.

The first, and most important, thing to reflect on when approaching digital strategy

the blogpost Can you invent something new if your words are old, Deborah Mills-Scofield highlights the power words have over us. She’s a consultant in innovation. But not only in innovation is that important. It goes for politics, pedagogy, and our dear subject digital strategy.


Part 1 touches on slide 2-4

Because – what do we think when we think digital? Words and definitions, knowingly or not, frames and maybe even dictates, how we think. And how we think, well, that very much guides what we do and don’t do. As Kevin Spacey put it, TV is simply episodically punctuated video streams. From that, what can you (and disruptors did) imagine?

Add to that, you’ll be in a room of people, perhaps from different parts of and organisation with different agendas, ambitions and painpoints. This further necessitates a discussion around, and a common view on, what it is we’re digging into.

– So, what would you say digital strategy is (yes, that’s how rudimentary my question is)? Take 3 minutes and try to articulate it concretely. Write it down if it helps.
Silence, looks, twisting in the chair. A few smiles. More looks.
– Would you care to go first?
– Hrm, well. It’s about how we communicate with the different target groups in different channels and social networks.
– OK, good. And what did you write down?
– Well, I don’t know. I wrote that it’s basically everywhere around us. It’s everything today.
– Wow, that’s quite all encompassing and massive. Personally I can nod to that. You?
– Actually, I would say that it’s our future business. Our business strategy.
– OK.

A typical conversation about the word digital and digital strategy. Often taken for granted as self explanatory and clear. Not so clear anymore.

Some people implicitly are talking about communication and channels, while others seem to understand it as something that’s basically everything. While some are very clear about the fact that it’s the future business strategy. Digital definitely affect communication and the communication landscape, but maybe that’s communication strategy that just happen to be hightly “digital” today? And surely we can agree that “digital” is effecting more or less every aspect of society today, and hence is everywhere. As a consequence it has to be taken into account when thinking about ones (future) business model, revenue models and business strategy. It’s all obviously correct, but until the whole room realises this, and recognizes the complexity (but also opportunity) in this observation, getting constructive and solution focused is useless.

The reality in which we strategise is networked. Networked is a very useful word as opposed to digital because it more clearly stresses the fundamental shift, change and impact (probably not the originator, but the guy I associate with stressing the benefit of using networked is Mark Comerford, @markmedia) in a way that we can feel and see as we mention it. If I’m in a store shopping and I’m all connected – is there brick and mortar vs e-commerce? Yes. Is there offline vs. online? No. From a networked perspective, that dichotomy is flawed and reframing this makes all the difference.

This is why the great variety in response to digital strategy is so natural. We see it from different angles. It’s like the proverbial elephant and the blind men. PR people see one thing, service design folks another and e-commerce managers yet another, and so on. The solution to this is to discuss ones business and reality from a networked perspective. This way, you’ll see the integrated and holistic nature of digital strategy.

These two activities are my suggestion for a start.

  • Mind the words you use (in general) in this case digital strategy specifically. Dig deeper into what we take for granted (I’ll touch on that again from another perspective). Understand the lens through which you see the concept, and understand what you don’t see.
  • Approach the project as strategic thinking in a networked world. That means departments, stakeholders, business units and even the business model itself, will reveal those clear connections and the need/power in approaching everything as an integrated totality. This can come across as massive and frustrating, but it’s also where the true power of a digital strategy lies.

More on that in the next post. Thoughts and comments are more than welcome.

No, you are NOT that important, social media guru

I just got out of a meeting… I’m amazed, but at the same time not surprised, how little many companies and individuals working with technical and social media based marketing solutions and vehicles actually know about the context they operate in. All these visits to agencies, presenting their wonderful solutions that are perfect fits for the highly “engaged consumers” who just want to share, talk, like and follow. Their gadgets, apps and dashboards are not only THE thing to have, generally speaking, it’s actually perfect for helping [enter brand you happen to work with here] reach better loyalty, create and share wonderful stories and drive incremental sales in the millions. 1; As if you know. And 2; who do you take me for?

My advice is to take a month or two to get to know the reality of the other side of the table (you really ought to be interested in it given you’re aiming for it). Get to know what they know, and what it is they are actually providing their clients. One simple way to do this would be to, early on, meet with a few of them and be quite frank. Say you’re working on a thing that is meant to help them. You don’t yet know exactly how much or even how. Interview them. Find out as much as you can about their work, their problems, their clients’ actual problems, their skills. Read some books they say are important in their field. Ask them to explain TO YOU where your idea or solution fits in their work.

Acting like you’re the solution to everything is a disease. It’s bad manners and downright idiotic. That’s why all social media gurus and entrepreneurs working away at solutions for brands and marketing should read Martin Weigel’s presentation. And don’t just read that. Read some of the sources. If not, can you honestly say that you are interested in providing real value instead of a lot of hot air? Can you handle this truth? Does it deter you or inspire you to work up something that’s really in tune with this? Or at least; can you stop talking about yourself as the solution to everything in marketing today, please?

we won gold, by opening a bordello

OK, some self promotion. Sorry. We just won gold in the Swedish Effectiveness Awards (100wattarn), in the public awareness category, for opening a bordello. 1 in 13 Swedish men buy sex. Scary right? We live in liberal times and that goes for attitudes to prostitution as well. It’s a touch discussion to take and it’s not at all clear cut. I don’t want the state to tell me what I can and cannot do, but the problem is that when you look into it, see the statistics, talk to the people within the police and other institutions such as anti-trafficking units etc, you start to see some really disturbing “back sides”.

What happens is that organized crime gets involved. The demand for women is high so trafficking is the only way to secure distribution. Trafficking is the 2nd largest income for organized crime, right after drugs. You want prostitution? You will have to accept trafficking. That’s how it works.

With very limited funds we needed to get people to react, reflect and hopefully change their attitudes. There’s one arena where you can do that if you hit home, or completely disappear if you miss. In Almedalen – a place where all the politicians, PR people and organizations with a civic agenda meet for one week. An opportunity, and a great risk. Here’s the story:

Bordellen i Almedalen from Gyro Scandinavia on Vimeo.

Swedish only, sorry.

Did we manage to make something out of the opportunity? Yep, we were awarded “media factor of the week” making the greatest impact, got a 7 minute section on national news, live news coverage called “the duel of the bordello” and so on. People reacted and attitudes shifted. Only problem is; you need to keep going at it because the liberals still don’t get the trafficking connection it seems, and attitudes are fragile.

rob campbell on ideas

The discussion about ideas vs. ad ideas has been going on for a while. Not amongst everyone in the industry, far from it unfortunately, but many. Although Rob’s presentation didn’t contain completely new stuff, It’s about the most exciting. I thoroughly loved it and the fact that he weaved it all together. To one edible little 30 minute fortune cookie. And did it in a very amusing and clear way. I hope I present like that. Plus that moped idea is right on, and makes you wonder “what’s been going on before that”? The answer being that we think of products as we’ve always done. Not from the user’s (people) perspective and its context (culture).