For the past few months or (honestly) years, I’ve had the pleasure of witnessing digital transformation which, admittedly, never took the turn I anticipated.
Now, with a penetration of 46% in terms of Internet users—yasss, that’s more than 3.4 billion out of 7.3 billion world population has access to Internet!—digital marketing has become a lot more promising. But take time to look around. Right this very moment, businesses around the world are still struggling with digital shock—the point at which businesses are forced to shift and invest in digital without a clear roadmap and digital marketing strategy. I remember with perfect clarity how brands raised brouhahas over all the changes affecting not just the revenue and budget structures, but also the core business and operating models, when digital marketing has taken over the stage for the first time.
Well of course, the impact of digital transformation varies widely by industry, but all businesses share the same challenge—and guess what, it is more than revenue and cost savings.
They all want a larger scale of the whole value chain.
While sales attribution, mobile, e-commerce, content, and social media are getting the spotlight in digital, the bottom line really is survival in the marketplace. SURVIVAL. But how?
The ‘Marketing’ Pendulum
A pendulum is a point of mass suspended from a pivot. It can move back and forth, but is subject to restoring force due to gravity.
The principle of a swinging pendulum is also being used in the marketing world. For several years, marketers tend to sway across borderlines like a pendulum as they innovate products and services to “survive in the marketplace”. Push the technology too far then you’ll end up alienating your consumers as you fall way beyond their comfort zone. Play it too safe then you will not be seen in the competitive space or worse, your idea will be acquired and improved by others.
One recent and devastating example is that of Stephen Elop and Nokia. Nokia has unequivocally dominated and actually has been tagged the ‘genius hermit’ of mobile phones not long before the iPhone came out in 2007. Late last year, Elop stunned the world as he admitted that Nokia has lost its grip of the marketing pendulum. Elop, in his speech, said that “They missed out on learning, they missed out on changing, and thus they lost the opportunity at hand to make it big.” Scary. Here’s hoping the top brands right now won’t experience the same thing in the coming years of ambiguous technological advantage.
Yet another cautionary tale tells of how Kodak lost the fight for the digital film industry. Remember the film roll sold in a yellow box, captured birthdays, vacations, weddings? A once-leading tech company lost the fight because of technology. Well, if any promising future is up for Kodak, it better hurry up.
Now, let us question what just happened to Kodak and Nokia.
Did they really lose the grip of the pendulum? Did they get stuck at the borderline? What made them stop dancing to the rhythm of the swinging pendulum? Was it Nokia’s shortcoming for failing to maintain at the gravity center, or has the pendulum simply changed its manner of movement? Is it still the question of what your audience wants and what the technology dictates? Or is there something more complicated? Is it possible that the two-dimensional pendulum has evolved into a chaotic or a double pendulum?
As part of the brand-eating-brand chain, we can’t help but question the marketing pendulum, its movement, the force and of course, the equilibrium point.
The Chaotic Pendulum of Digital Transformation
Let’s get a bit scientific for a while and let go of our gut feeling, sheer speculations, and our spirit animals.
Chaos theory, as science explains it, is a field of study that focuses on the behavior of dynamical systems that are sensitive to initial conditions — a response popularly referred to as the butterfly effect.
For a system to be classified as chaotic, the following properties should be considered:
- Sensitivity to initial conditions, also know as the butterfly effect
- Topological mixing
- Dense periodic orbits
All these properties are, arguably, the very characteristics of digital. First: yes, digital is very sensitive to its initial condition. Who would ever think that a flap of a butterfly’s wing in New Mexico can cause a hurricane in China? Translating this principle to digital arena, the flapping of wings delineates the unprecedented technological evolution. Each discovery and innovation slowly disrupts the things that we are used to—marketing, sales, decision making, customer experience, and more. Minute initial actions leading to large-scale phenomena.
If you think about your digital marketing initiatives, there’s a lot of cause and effect at play. One little flutter of a marketing blooper or a bad consumer experience can set you to a digital downward spiral. Consumer adoption has become more dynamic and intertwined across channels than ever, increasing the opportunities for butterfly effects to ripple through every interaction.
Hold on a bit longer as I try to be more scientific than I was in 6th grade.
The next property arguing that digital follows a chaotic system is topological mixing. It is a property of space that is subject to continuous deformation without tearing. However, it’s not the first time that topology is related to marketing, so calm your horses everyone!
Years ago, businesses conduct data analysis by formulating hypotheses before even examining available data to prove or disprove. Seriously, there was never a shortage of hypotheses back then. Until today, the rise of technology makes it possible to mine and collect large volumes of crude and granular data. More and more brands are continuously collecting data about its consumers, which is synched to collecting mountains of information about the various activities of the user base. Can the patterns in this data be analyzed to provide benchmarks of their primary consumers? Can marketers draw insights from these patterns to come up with the tactics that will work in 2020?
Lastly, for digital to be considered chaotic, it should have a dense periodic orbit. A little nosebleed won’t hurt but I won’t discuss it in detail. Just think of it this way: an orbit that repeats is periodic, while a dense periodic orbit never passes through the exact state twice. Think about sea waves to simplify its characteristics. This unpredictability defines a chaotic system. Factors like branding, product consumption, human interest, tools, customer feedback, customer experience, channels, content, data, human emotion, budget, returns, and more are on collision courses with each other.
While most advanced practices in digital marketing deal with supposedly predictable phenomena like programmatic buying, predictive analysis, data-driven marketing; crafting your digital strategy or your sweet spot strategy, on the other hand, takes a different and chaotic route and often deals with nonlinear elements. Another way to make sense out of the chaos is by creating statistical models that can correlate to the noise behavior using time intervals, ranges, and frequencies.
Let’s take these two cases as clear examples: (1) Google Glass. This is no surprise since Google has an impressive history of first-to-market products (for the most part). Glass, a hands-free, smartphone-like wearable technology, was made available to the public last May 2014. It raised strong hype a few months after release, but failed to deliver necessary and real-life situations that would have made it crucial to everyone. Clearly, the mass consumer isn’t ready for Glass, thus its failure.
(2) GoPro. This is something that we can consider as somewhat of an anomaly. How can a standalone consumer electronic product that does one thing make its way to the public during the age of smartphones, devices that can do anything and everything? “They don’t just sell a video camera, they sell the memory of the wave or the ski trip down the slope,” says Ben Arnold, industry analyst at The NPD Group. That sounds lzike an undebatable emotional justification but to us marketers, that sounds like a bull straight from the horse’s mouth. But personally, I praise them for successfully positioning GoPro as a socially acceptable way to wear a camera on your head to take adventure-filled photos and videos. I, myself, wear one on occasion.
Evidently, finding your sweet spot strategy takes a great balance between time, relative advantage, consumer behavior, demand, pain points, vast amounts of data, and other unpredictable external factors that can ascertain your success or spell disaster. This is because digital disruption has made it far more complex than in the past to set and follow a linear strategy. Since digital penetrates to basically everything now—the core of the business, of the competition, and the customer—the whole market chain becomes much more, I say, unpredictable. Oh well, it turns out that there are very few things which are more chaotic than women—digital.
The Forces of the Pendulum
How far into the future and how accurately can you forecast demand, supply, competitive dynamics, and market expectations with confidence? As the pendulum swings continuously in a chaotic manner, more and more factors get scrambled. Gone are the days when linear forces control the marketing pendulum. This uncertainty comes with certain risks. Yes, it is a very uncomfortable situation to be in, I swear. It seems that this is the new normal—half predictive, half prognostic.
Now, what are the forces controlling the pendulum? Looking at the chaotic pendulum of digital marketing, technology and consumers are not the only forces orchestrating the whole system. Here are my unsolicited two cents in finding your sweet spot strategy.
1. Industry Leaders’ Malleability
How well can industry leaders influence change? Can they? In a survey conducted by Accenture, 39% of the respondents aspire to be the digital leaders in their respective industry. These industry leaders attempt to manage the risks of change, resist change, or control the direction of the change.
Apple, Amazon, Google, and Facebook—four of the most innovative brands today—are some of what we all consider industry leaders. Apple excels in personal assistant technology, Amazon in e-commerce, Google in search and Facebook disrupts they way we communicate. Their strides are affecting businesses and marketers everywhere. They are affecting other businesses’ pendulums; they are affecting the consumers’ minds.
2. Timing and Speed
While new technology arises, innovators are often keen to ride the tide. Traditionally, society determines the problem, then innovators create the tool to solve it. However, with the technologies available today, the tool reaches the marketplace even before problem is diagnosed. Technology is churned out faster than we are able to digest it.
Technology doesn’t just answer, technology asks. At this point in time, businesses should find balance between answering a need and posing a question to its consumers. Like yin and yang, you have to do both.
3. Feedback Loop
If all marketers have one goal to work on, it is to reach the consumer at a stage when they are most defenseless to go against what we want them to do—convert. It was never easy to get consumers do what you want them to do. Feedback loops make it a lot harder.
Laugh, but there is more truth to this than one might realize.
Post something online. Seconds after, opinions of people are all over the place—be it your customer or not. Now factor in the fact that a potential consumer reads or gathers up to 6 online reviews or feedback, both positive and negative, before stepping foot in your place of business. What’s even funnier is that people are more likely to share bad reviews than good ones. This makes your brand’s chaotic pendulum even chaotic.
I feel you and I know that brands are scrambling to guard against a point where consumers dictate the terms by building feedback loops into key business functions, such as marketing.
4. How about you guess it? Just try.
This has led many people and several companies to eternal meetings. It has brought many people to the idea of unlocking the “hidden gems” of businesses around the world. It has gotten several marketers (including you, probably) crawling under their chairs. Maybe you all know where this would lead us, yeah?
The shiniest and the sexiest disruptor in marketing—DATA.
Truly on the rise, data closes the gap between marketing intelligence and pure intuition. A word of caution though: with the deluge of data available, determine what you should be listening for.
“Alright. Got it. Now, Where’s my sweet spot?”
I bet you’ve heard “focus on your sweet spot” long before encountering this article. How can you find your sweet spot strategy, really?
By understanding the chaotic pendulum of marketing and how your very own pendulum moves, you can start identifying the equilibrium point or intersection which can provide your brand with clarity, the point that creates opportunity and maximizes your brand’s success—your sweet spot. You will remain a slave of the pendulum unless you find it.
Don’t give me that look. Propelrr doesn’t have a crystal ball to divine your business’ sweet spot. We’re going to need your input to manage that. How about we discuss it over a good cup of coffee or a tall glass of beer? Get in touch with us!