Coexisting in a Post-Digital World -> #marketing #CRM #brands #business #digital #Good #storytelling
“Digital wisdom is made of recycled electrons that are meaningful until you pull the plug.”
-- Don Rittner
[image credit: Russell Davies, from his 2009 blog “Meet the New Schtick”]
To be perfectly clear, the post-digital conversation isn’t anything new. What is new is the context in which we are having that conversation.
Some pundits say it’s just another thing for industry minds to cavort over while technology sweeps the masses. Others will contend that the associated behaviors are in their infancy; meanwhile, we’ve witnessed revolutions across the Middle East arguably spawned by social media communications and have seen entire Third World economies subsist, if not flourish, on digital initiatives.
To my mind, “post-digital” means that the technology revolution is superseded by the human evolution. It’s a predicate for coexistence. But more on that in a moment.
Here’s what we do know:
- Technology never seems to be what we think it is, at least not at first glance.
- Digital means don’t necessarily improve our lives, but they do amplify our behaviors.
- We consume what we want and need, not what we’re prescribed or are made to believe.
- Concurrently, channels, of all types, are ever increasing in variety and scale.
So, again, why “post-digital”? Because there isn’t, and never has been, one primary medium for exchange.
By medium, I mean a channel through which we communicate, share and/or or transact, and by exchange, I mean an act that signifies or defines a relationship between people or groups of people.
The CRM landscape, for example, is changing in that relationships and transactions are no longer mutually exclusive, nor are they representative of a “sales funnel" per se. Rather, they coexist as the linchpin of a new paradigm in social commerce.
Social commerce - evidenced through the likes of alternative currencies (Bitcoins, FB credits), independent merchants (BankSimple, Quirky, CREDO Mobile) and more popular exchange platforms (Social Living) - merges hard and soft values such that our purchasing behavior is almost entirely based on interest, intent and advocacy. Managing customer relationships, therefore, is a function of how we address needs in real-time and develop product according to cultural shifts or behavioral anomalies.
More obvious: innovative companies endeavor to use social channels as a proactive means for business growth, and to create a transparent layer that seamlessly aligns business goals with marketing functions.
Not so obvious: Think of supply chains as true communications and social platforms, and retailers as educational centers.
Historically, we’ve defined “one-to-one” or “many-to-one” or “many-to-many” as functions of channel, not communication or connection. Nowadays, connections can be made anywhere. Cases in point: Apple thinks of the interface as a means to inspire creative interactions. Google sees email as a social opportunity. Facebook uses likes to build one’s social circle. Twitter leverages conversation between two or more people as a means for social discovery.
And there’s so much more emerging, at breakneck pace. But note: ultimately, this isn’t about technology, this is about people.
As disruptive tools such as NFC (near-field communications), pervasive games and mobile "geotilties" continue to transform how we relate to each other and how we transact amongst our peer groups, the next five years will see a radical shift towards a true, post-digital world. This is not at all to suggest that device or channel adoption won’t continue to spike in various ways; rather, we will see profound behavioral shifts in accordance with cultural and economic imperatives. This brave new world will watch mobility blossom into smart, "mesh" networks – movements of people with unique interests and intentions such that they can leverage their own resources to create, access and share products and services literally on-the-go.
Imagine, as a CPG company, that all of your commodity ingredients are grown locally and fit only the tracks where there is actual demand; imagine that people who discover the hyperlocal farms you use or own are given new job opportunities; imagine that these new, connective supply chains reignite our GDP by looking beyond subsidies to build infrastructure through far more efficient, incremental means.
The best part: some of the world’s biggest brands have already begun this transition.
Their wisdom is our wisdom; the networks we comprise will act as intelligence banks that have the power to enjoy or forego - at least to some extent - channels, devices, experiences, messages and special offers, as well as edit or shape the transactions between people or between organizations.
In a nutshell, there will be no major divisible lines between offline and online, and the consumer experiences people share with brands will be co-created, again, according to their needs and desires.
A “brand” will actually mean something to a consumer as an action of intent, and a “consumer” will actually be considered a creator of products and services, as well as a curator of stories that reflect their value.
In order to sustain relationships both on- and offline, brands should continue to become publishers and curators of meaningful experiences that are reflected in the content they distribute - stories, articles, short films, eBooks, etc. - and specifically provide context for why they matter to people right now.
The essence of living and acting in the now is not only what helps define our individual senses of identity, but also helps redefine, with consistency and clarity, our motivations for buying, selling, and better yet, taking action. This type of perspective – what we can rightfully describe as context – is critical to our survival and growth as both merchants and members of society.
Context is and will continue to be delivered through storytelling and its myriad forms – whether we use data, pixels, film, print, ad-like objects, or, all of it in concert.
In this way, a brand should think of itself as more than a supplier of products, but a progenitor of products that service the transitional needs of people in complex environments. Brands should use digital and analog channels to coalesce the needs and feelings of those who are challenged by their jobs, confounded by their relationships, or are seeking new ways to define themselves and their lifestyles, or, the psychology behind the decisions they make... Whether they make purchases or not.
Put it this way: people can demonstrate their will, one way or another.
As we know, many people have already started their own movements online and have been building their digital voices. Now, it's time for legions of others to be given the chance to curate their ideas, process their intentions and connect with their communities in more meaningful ways... Such as learning new vocational skills, or organizing events to raise awareness around mental health or financial security.
By leveraging these social movements, in using earned and owned media to fulfill on cultural needs, and in carefully weeding out the dizzying abundance of content (and messaging) on offer across the web, brands can become catalysts for growth in emerging markets where, to date, many people have been unaware of their options, or have not had access to resources for better understanding their roles in society.
In a phrase: commerce can strengthen our coexistence.
The lateral benefits for corporations of all types?
Brands can revitalize and keep pace with their segmentation.
They can not only target and engage, but they can sustain interests & intentions.
They can optimize their media and greatly reduce, if not eradicate, wasteful spending.
They can discover huge new market opportunities.
They can make better products.
They can make more money...
... And in the process, they can help create a better world.