The lovely folks at Campaign wanted to know: Are brands in the region using the right digital transformation tools and strategies? So they reached out to all the brightest minds in the Middle East to help with an answer. They were all busy so the honour falls on me to take a crack at this.
[Editor’s note: 1) Not all of them were busy – see page 18. 2) Solomi is only being modest – see below.]
I’m honestly not sure how anyone could confidently know the answer to this without having knowledge of the inner workings of the hundreds of brands and companies that operate in the region.
The truth is that any answer other than “I don’t know, maybe” is likely to be of the Dunning-Kruger variety.
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Answering a question like that isn’t helped by the lack of mutually agreed language. One person’s digital transformation is another person’s “we updated our laptops to the latest version of Windows”. It’s a point the fantastic JP Castlin talks about in reference to strategy in his wonderful self-titled 2021 Castlin Manifesto and it’s no different with digital transformation. It means so much and so little to so many. You rarely see two physics grads talking over each other because they each have their own personal definition of pi (although the same can’t be said for everyone else’s painfully liberal interpretation and use of words like ‘quantum’. Take a bow, Deepak Chopra). This level of standardisation of language just isn’t there in the softer sciences and humanities, marketing being no exception.
Alas, I digress, but the point is the phrase digital transformation is ill-defined and can mean so many things to so many different people. The question is hard to answer because there is little to no consensus on what the question itself is asking. What is being transformed exactly, and what was it before? Have all parts of the company been transformed or just the logo so it works better on the company app? Hopefully, it hasn’t changed so much to the point that they’ve just thrown away all their distinctive brand assets and years of mental build-up because ‘digital’.
I’m pretty sure it was William Gibson who said the future is here it’s just not evenly distributed. I could very easily Google this to check, but the internet at Omnicom towers is painfully slow, barely 5G. (It’s actually not slow at all, we digitally transformed the IT department years ago, our Internet speed is fantastic.)
It was Gibson, I don’t need to Google it, but the point is I imagine that many companies have digitally transformed but done so with the same level of uniformity as the future is here. Acme Inc, the famous widget-maker, may have fully automated AI-enabled, demand-sensing supply chain management but still hasn’t got around to implementing a customer data platform (CDP). Shocker. What were they thinking? Don’t they know how important a CDP is? This is, of course, not always a bad thing. Ways, means and resources are limited. They probably haven’t got around to speaking to their analytics vendors because they really needed to make sure they had enough material to make widgets. Seeing as this is Campaign, however, I’m going to take an educated guess and assume the question refers to digital marketing transformation.
I genuinely don’t know the right answer to this question, and it’s very likely you don’t either, but perhaps a good place to look for a glimpse of insight would be the database of clients that have taken Google’s Digital Maturity Assessment. Lots have taken this assessment, I’m led to believe, but precious few rank as ‘Connected’ (the second-highest tier, Silver medal), and far fewer still have achieved the Godlike status of ‘Multi-Moment’ (the best rank, top of the podium). That doesn’t answer the question of whether or not brands – and lots of them, for that matter – are investing in the right tools and strategies for digital transformation. But it does hint that perhaps the answer leans towards the negative. If they were investing right, we’d probably see a lot more of them ranking higher. Now, I can practically hear the eyeballs rolling as some of you read this. I get it, it’s a Google assessment, it’s all part of a master plan to get brands to spend more with Google. That may be true or not, but that doesn’t mean the assessment itself has no value in measuring digital maturity. You can have a profit motive but still, be right.
One of our clients, KFC, is painfully close to Multi-Moment status, one of the few in MENA (a shameless plug for us and them), but only after a great deal of time, effort and willingness was invested in people, talent and projects. It’s been a long journey and one that involved a roadmap of projects that have enhanced measurement, automation, digital asset usage, how media is planned and bought, and how we target consumers. Each of these delivers better efficiency, effectiveness or the ability to measure this.
Helping clients with digital maturity projects is a service area we have been focused on developing, and also where we’ve seen huge growth in demand over the last year. This growth does seem to show there’s an appetite for marketing transformation, but also an appreciation that brands know they have a bit of a way to go, and that’s OK.
Does that answer the question? If not, I still managed to shoehorn in William Gibson and JP Castlin, and that means I just won a bet.