Digital Essays 2022: Finding your digital North Star – by MediaCom’s Burt Reynolds

Flux is here to stay. Marketers need to recalibrate and think beyond technology, writes MediaCom’s Burt Reynolds

By Burt Reynolds, regional director – data, technology and consulting, MediaCom

Everyone in marketing and advertising seems to have a prediction of the latest tech trend that will radically define the future of marketing. We have seen this incarnate in a multitude of acronyms such as MX (marketing experience), CX (customer experience), DX (digital experience), IoT (internet of things) and NFTs (non-fungible tokens). This is where the rubber hits the road. Digital acceleration, transformation and leverage are not limited to technology. 

We live in an era of unprecedented dynamism. Through these years of successfully consulting and deploying client projects globally and regionally, we followed a key mantra of timely recalibration. To be aligned with their North Star, brands can navigate and drive value from their investments and efforts in their digital and partner ecosystem by following these three tenets:

Recalibrate for growth 

As marketers, we are muddled up with ways to improve our martech, adtech and xtech as a prerogative. The need of the hour is to take a step back and view the big picture of a business’s growth stack. This translates to looking beyond the enablers of marketing effectiveness and efficiency – which are presently tied to cost savings directly. 

At a high level, this could be evaluated with a two-way diagnosis framework, ‘P-I-E’, which defines and elevates the roadmap based on prioritisation of projects, investment return and ease of execution. We have seen clients drive traction through this structured and integrated workbench. Digital ads accomplish one of two things: generate demand or capture demand. As we approach a year of economic contraction and a possible recession, we see a clear benefit here; the value exchange becomes clear to the business. Digital driven by marketing will be seen as demand generation rather than a demand capture, which is currently a cost-centric approach.

Recalibrate for flux

Today, technology’s tectonic plates are shifting at their quickest pace since the launch of the iPhone in 2007. The relationship between marketers and digital platforms is being redefined. 

This can be attributed to two key events:

a. The removal of intermediaries from core offerings across big tech providers such as Apple for hardware, Google for services, Amazon for e-commerce, etc. Businesses are now becoming solely focused on driving top- and bottom-line growth by crisscrossing into each other’s territory – largely the ad and tech market. For instance, consider Apple’s ad ambitions or Microsoft’s LinkedIn buy-out in addition to the arrival of new avenues such as Netflix ads and Elon Musk’s obsession with transforming Twitter. Shareholders and investors will continue to increase pressure on these tech giants. As they explore and find their footing, flux will be a mainstay.

b. The rise of mid-tier technology platforms. Think of the unicorn generation of technology startups that have mushroomed since 2020. They entered the startup world with software/platform-as-a-service (S/PaaS) but most of them are yet to turn cash positive on the back of the investor gold-rush. Imminently, these enablers will experience a radical streamlining of their offering and resources in lieu of profitability. As marketers, you need to realise how this affects the capability of your technology or partners to develop and deliver at the pace of your growth plans.

Recalibrate for exponentialism

Everyone is familiar with the volume and veracity of data that is currently being generated. What is probably unknown is that 80 per cent of that data was generated in the last two years and only 2 per cent is being effectively tapped into on a continuous basis. While artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML) have rightfully been hailed as saviours, the human intervention and execution needed for analysis in the near future will continue to be a handicap. As marketers, we need to ring-fence how we game the data and algorithms:

a. Codify your operations with repetitive bandwidth techniques and automate the workflow with solutions such as low-code/no-code solutions. These include building competitive digital intelligence, outbound performance optimisation, personalisation, etc. While their costs and resource crunches are debatable, these systems become adept at aggregating learnings and executing in the long run, giving you the opportunity to incorporate any form of modelling or incremental datasets in a modular fashion.

b. Talent maturity is often addressed as an afterthought. However, it is the people in your team who need to be malleable to the changing pace of transformation today. This is possible through change management and being adaptable for adoption; the former primarily focuses internally while the latter is about staying proactive to external undercurrents.

In a world driven by disruption, make sure you are on the right side of change.