Digital Essays 2020: The invisible disruptor, by Publicis Media Stacy Fisher

Publicis Media, head of digital transformation & innovation, Stacy Fisher looks at how marketers must transform digitally as they emerge from the Covid-19 pandemic.

By now, everyone is well aware of the unprecedented times we are living in. How overused the word ‘unprecedented’ has become. But I digress. There is no need to recap or labour over the implications Covid-19 has already had on the world and those that are yet to be seen. Rather, I’d like to focus on how you can acclimatise through the power of digital transformation. But first, let’s look back at how the year started.

2020 started off on an awkward foot. We faced countless unexpected events – there were wildfires in Australia, a Ukrainian plane crashed in Iran, and Kobe Bryant died, just to name a few. Then, the world as we knew it transformed with the flip of a switch, with the declaration of a global pandemic, a first for nearly all humans to experience in their lifetime. The invisible being, Covid-19, spread among us faster than anyone could have planned for and forced most to accommodate work-from-home immediately, which was once a taboo way of working that required the manager’s approval.

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At the start of the year, in our marketing world, advertisers were moving along their digital transformation journeys by placing greater importance on the usage of their own data, shifting budgets to digital channels and growing their e-commerce capabilities. These topics have been discussed for years, and while some clients were early adopters, many lagged behind. In MENA, common barriers for digital transformation included data privacy concerns, sub-par e-commerce logistics, lack of proper data collection, faulty attribution and, above all, the fear of change and uncertainty.

Now we are witness to the biggest disruptor to humanity in modern times, and with this change we need to stop talking about it and start acting on it. Businesses need to embrace digital transformation immediately but also understand how the world’s transformation isn’t over. The world will continue to evolve, and do so at a fast and unpredictable rate. This begs the questions: How can a company be prepared for this if they haven’t already caught up to where we stand today? And, how can one adapt quickly so as not to be left behind? These are tough questions to answer, and if companies aren’t discussing them as part of crisis management planning, it shows there’s quite a bit of reality checking that needs to be done. In an effort to bring some focus, I will shed some light on the key principles and areas to address in the realm of digital marketing transformation (DMT).

I view DMT as revamping your digital marketing techniques to leverage the appropriate technologies, data, people and infrastructures to effectively communicate to your prospective and current customers in a seamless and user-friendly way to deliver on your business results. Likewise, it is creating and maintaining a digital presence that is easily accessible and flexible to adapt with consumer usage patterns while providing the most current information. The main elements fuelling our DMT methodology hinge on distinctive pillars rooted in an unbiased approach:

Uncovering and being honest with exactly where the business is today. This is all about creating an environment of truth so business stakeholders can acknowledge where they stand and reach a unified consensus among themselves.

Fearlessly leading clients and businesses to be comfortable with change and the evolution of their current marketing practice. Critically ensuring C-suite buy-in and alignment to transform.

Empowering key stakeholders to make bold decisions by educating them on solutions and technologies needed to succeed.

Pacing the transformation so as to not take on more than a business can possibly handle.

To embark on this journey, adopt the philosophy that collaboration is key. It is time to set our egos aside.

In our process, we first audit our client’s business by asking questions across a range of categories so we can generate a score to classify their digital maturity. Some of the categories we assess include paid and organic media tactics, audience targeting, data and analytics strategies, organisational setup and decision-making processes,. Conducting such a discovery session can be uncomfortable for clients as they realise they might not be as progressive as they thought. It’s important not to play the blame game at this time, and it’s equally as important to hear everyone’s answers so as not to overlook potentially important details.

Once we have the score across all categories we’ve assessed, our consultants curate a tailored plan showcasing the best recommendation to progress to the next level. We’ve developed our own blueprint to ensure each area is tackled from all possible angles within what we offer (data science, commerce, performance solutions, search engine optimisation, user experience design, user interface design, technology & operations, talent and more).

Generating this custom roadmap for our clients requires our own utmost collaboration and capability linking across our teams. Once clients agree to the plan, we tackle the groundwork to implement our solutions, train teams to effectively adopt the new technology or concept, troubleshoot any issues and, finally, repeat the process to ensure you are advancing your score. Proper implementation and solution adoption are necessary to advance. Far too often I’ve seen clients pay to know the answer, but not care to see it carried forward.

Measuring the value and success of the DMT solutions that are implemented can be difficult if criteria to define success isn’t agreed upon before making the change. Client stakeholders should align on what success looks like for their business. Please keep in mind quantifying hard metrics might not be possible if you are first-to-market. The most important agreement you should make when it comes to measurement is the acceptance of failure and the learnings that come with it. And, of course, to celebrate and acknowledge positive outcomes that deliver impact to your business.

Progressing your business is possible when you keep an open mind. Never stop learning and be humble enough to accept learnings from those around you. Just remember, today the biggest competitive threat to your business is not using your time effectively to transform. Your competitors likely have already forged ahead. If they haven’t, they are preparing to do so. Don’t let time get the best of you. Nobody needs another global pandemic to finally make the changes they need to.