What do you do when your digital partners passionately complain that people "just don't get the new reality"—and your other agency partners assure you that the traditional notions of branding and marketing haven't really changed? You listen.
The gloom-and-doom digital prophets who foretold that the world would be unrecognizable in 10 years turned out to be premature to an extent that we still haven't sorted out. But they had a few points, didn't they? Does anyone now disagree that digital is one of the most critical components of the marketing mix?
And considering the permanently distracted nature of many of today's consumers, doesn't it stand to reason that now, more than ever, a brand needs to have a singular, well-articulated idea of what it stands for, across all media? Isn't that what branding experts have been telling us for decades anyway?
Respecting traditional branding ideas in the face of an increasingly interactive marketplace may best be described as "Tradigital." It's a very real and very practical approach to managing your brand communications and getting the most out of your team and your agency partners when building digital properties. Frankly, it strikes me as the only logical adaptation to an environment where the consumer is demanding more and more interaction with, and control over, your brand—especially the type of control you should by no means simply hand over.
Here are four ways you can make traditional and digital values work within your own organization.
1. Tell the truth
If digital isn't your strength, that's OK. You've employed an agency for that reason. But in the long run you'll want to take a hard look within your organization. Is your commitment to digital obvious by how you staff? Are you identifying and deploying appropriate project leads? Be honest about your capabilities and intentions. This isn't a place where you want to fake it.
Make sure all your partners are sharing information, ideas, and expertise. If your digital team isn't included in the process of understanding and defining the market and your brand within it, it will be relegated to a strictly tactical role—a pair of hands creating digital content that may be disconnected from the big idea.
Keep in mind that agencies may not always prefer to play nicely together (even when they say they will). It's not uncommon for agencies to promise "full service" to their clients to keep profit in house. But all involved must understand that the needs of the brand come first.
If you like a little healthy competition between agencies, that may be OK. But don't expect them to work out the hierarchy on their own. You'll need to make the decisions and let them know how you expect them to work together to best serve your digital needs.
3. Question analytics
At this point, everyone knows they're supposed to be measuring something. It's just not always clear what that "something" is. Become familiar with what the industry values. Identify your key performance indicators. As a colleague once told me, effective analysis is a "hardcore skill set."
This is a function you may want a specialist for, or someone willing to become one. Ultimately, though, you'll want to appreciate that not everything meaningful can be measured, and not everything measured is meaningful.
4. Be tech-agnostic
Challenge yourself and your agency to understand the limitations and the capabilities of several digital platforms. Assign a competent technical director who has a working understanding of the latest technologies and trends.
It's all too common for developers to get comfortable with one platform, either because they've invested in the licensing of it or because they have simply gotten complacent about evolving. Relying on only one platform will substantially limit your digital potential.
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If being Tradigital sounds a little complicated, or even a little gimmicky, perhaps a simple analogy might help: If you were to say that the principles of the internal combustion engine haven't fundamentally changed over the years, you would be unquestionably right; but that doesn't mean Henry Ford wouldn't be hopelessly lost under the hood of your BMW 5 Series.
With new technology comes new challenges and opportunity. Make sure your company is poised to drive on.