Digital redefined

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“Digital”—a word that has perhaps outlived its meaning—has become ubiquitous in communications. Literally, digital is defined by using the internet, mobile and other interactive channels. However, more than anything, digital is about immediacy—it’s about instant gratification. Digital also means being accessible by anyone from anywhere, anytime.

The very word “digital” no longer seems to be relevant because it implies it is only one piece, separate from the rest of the picture, which it certainly isn’t. Using the term can imply that you hold this old view. Alan Duncan, Marketing Director of Sony PlayStation explains, “Our online strategy is our marketing strategy, there is no difference between the two. We reached a tipping point a few years ago, when our marketing was led by big above-the-line TV campaigns and digital was an afterthought. Now, the situation is very different. We have gone from creating bursts of marketing activity around launches of games or products to maintaining a constant dialogue with consumers… The audience wants to be part of the company. They are battering down the doors. It used to be about being clever and creating mystery around the brand but credibility now is all about honesty.”

(Marketing Magazine, September 2009, 26)

Digital has been essential to the idea of value co-creation amongst companies and audiences. It has allowed user-generated content to exist, providing a platform for conversation, a multidirectional dialogue. Digital has also contributed to the movement towards the democratisation of marketing, handing over control to the public. Today’s cyber-savvy generation feels entitled to have a say, so the response has been to give this power to them. While initiatives like Dell’s “IdeaStorm” and Starbucks’ “My Starbucks Idea” did open the doors to customer involvement, they elicited a great deal of criticism about using consumers for free market research. Nonetheless, whether we like it or not, in a digital world, innovation increasingly happens together in a “many to many” rather than a “one to one” or “one to many” scenario.

One of the most common misperceptions about digital brands is that they are inherently hi-tech. The best digital brands do not necessarily use the most cutting-edge technology, rather they are useful to people today. For example, Google, Wikipedia and YouTube are simple applications that work well and deliver a clear benefit—that’s why they’ve become such powerful tools in our society.

In short, digital elements penetrate every aspect of marketing communications from research to strategy to design and implementation. That’s why it’s just as much the responsibility of everyone at Siegel+Gale as it is for the likes of digital content producers to adopt a digital paradigm.

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