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10.9.2010

Blurred Vision – The Changing Landscape of Digital


james smee

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Blurred Vision – The Changing Landscape of Digital

2 months ago ‘Customer A’ says to me with a beaming smile across his face.
“I’ve set up a Twitter account for the company. Good hey?”
“Urrmm, no.”
“What do you mean, no?”
“Well why have you done it? And what are you going to Tweet about?”
“Well firstly, everyone’s going on about it. Secondly, dunno yet, just bits and pieces I suppose, about what’s going on, news, products updates, stuff like that.”
“OK. We need to talk about this.”
I’ll come back to this…





The lines are blurring. Landscapes are changing. Evolving. The tectonic plates of the digital world are shifting. What will be left with? A brave new world or a state of anarchy and disorder?

Overly dramatic, GCSE geography based, blog openings aside, this isn’t news, not by any stretch of the imagination. The industry has been in a continual state of flux since inception and those within it have excitedly bobbed and weaved their merry little ways through it. Me included. However, recent murmurings, trends and movements would indicate something larger is afoot. Something more significant.

Speed of change and innovation have always been the main driving forces behind evolution in the digital space. As one channel of communication is born, another dies (or more likely evolves into something different). More established areas, for example, email, haven’t been afforded the luxury of laurel sitting but have had to diversify and innovate in order to stay current. All of this has shaped a wonderful, ever changing, high speed world full of colour, chaos and above all opportunity.

Agencies have adapted – we’ve had no choice. The big ‘oil tanker’ traditional ad agencies, amidst stifled screams of panic, have had to either acquire or restructure (slowly) in an attempt to keep up. At the other end of the scale the boutique, specialist agencies have ground out successful niches in areas such as SEO, email and more recently social. This has all made for a very interesting playing field (one that’s unfortunately often left brands and businesses a little unsure as to which way to go and what to do). All of this is going through a shake up. A shake up driven by the customer.

OK, exposition done, context given. Now to the point…

Whilst brands, businesses, agencies, technology providers, etc have been charging around seeking holy grails and the like, the customer (consumer/target audience member) has been quietly and assuredly maturing. In fact, they’re now the catalysts for change. They dictate the rules of engagement. For the second time in this posting I’m stating the obvious. There’s been a great deal written about the changing customer/brand dynamic, consumer power, etc but that doesn’t necessarily mean businesses and the marketers within them are taking note. In fact I’m regularly left dumbstruck when a shiny, new piece of digital is unveiled and it whole heartedly neglects the most important thing… the customer, the prospect, the target audience, the very essence of marketing!

Anyway, getting back to the fact of the matter, customers have matured both in terms of expectations and needs. Fact. But how is this changing digital? Well, to start with it’s forcing integration, the hard lines that have formed around the main pillars of the digital mix are starting to blur, crack and crumble. Social media, mobile, viral, search, email, eCRM, web, apps, etc are being mashed up by a gigantic consumer driven pestle and mortar. The new breed of customers do not consciously differentiate between a social media interaction and a website, between an email and a text message. To them it’s all part of the same conversation. A conversation that they want to be relevant, consistent and engaging. Research recently published in NMA stated a 30%+ drop in the last 6 months in the usage of terms like ‘mobile’ and ‘social media’ across industry blogs, forums, Twitter, etc – clearly pointing towards an end to ‘siloed’ thinking.

This is good news. In fact, very good news. It means people’s hearts, minds and digital marketing plans are being led by the right reasons. Businesses should be looking at their customer, in finite detail, understanding what makes them tick and then talking to them based on this knowledge. Don’t charge off setting up a Twitter and Facebook account purely on the basis everyone else has – will it add anything to the conversation with your customers? Probably not. If you’re a plastics manufacturer please don’t look crestfallen when your polymer based tweets haven’t whipped your industry and client base into a frenzy of excitement and awe. The fact that your 7 followers (all of which are colleagues you’ve bullied into following you) have re-tweeted you (count them) 8 times doesn’t constitute success. What I’m saying is, businesses shouldn’t be ‘channel led’ but ‘customer led’ and within the digital space this message is starting to come through by virtue of the fact people aren’t talking about ‘Social Media’ incessantly, on loop, 24/7. It’s a conversational tool, one of many, to harness and use to engage with your customer in the best way possible. Integrated, consistent thinking and delivery that’s customer centric. Beautiful.



marketing strategy•customer engagement•agency