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People, not tech, are the drivers of digital transformation

“True architects of this transformation were not lines of code or algorithms, but the people,” writes Cheil’s Tyler Yeom

In the face of unparalleled challenges posed by the global pandemic, industries spanning the spectrum found themselves compelled to reassess their operational frameworks and accelerate their efforts towards digital transformation.

The marketing and advertising sector was no exception, swiftly embracing the new normal by leveraging technological prowess to maintain relevance and engagement within a constantly evolving landscape.

In hindsight, it becomes unmistakably clear that digital transformation is not just a story of adjustment; it encapsulates a proactive mindset, transcending passive processes. 

At Cheil, this essence is encapsulated in what we proudly refer to as “CONNEC+”. As we move through 2023, we reflect on what has worked for us, what lies ahead, and what digital transformation truly means to us.

People at the heart

In the grand tapestry of digital transformation, it’s easy to become enamored with the technological marvels that drive change.

Yet, as I reflect on our journey, it becomes clear that the true architects of this transformation were not lines of code or algorithms, but the people. Individuals whose agility, collaboration and adaptability were the true driving force.

When the tides of change tested our mettle, it was the people within our organisation who rose to the occasion. Their ability to swiftly pivot, to reimagine processes, and to align diverse expertise into a harmonious symphony was the essence of our success.

While technology provided the tools, it was people who wielded them with ingenuity and vision, connecting previously isolated silos into a united front against uncertainty.

In the realm of digital transformation, it’s easy to assume that there’s a singular right answer—an algorithmic elixir that solves all problems.

But the reality, as we discovered, is far more nuanced. It was our teams’ understanding that there wasn’t a predefined formula for success that paved the way for true innovation. They embraced the idea that solutions evolve, that the journey itself is part of the destination.

This acknowledgement of uncertainty fostered a culture of exploration, where new ideas could flourish, and breakthroughs could emerge.

Data-driven marketing

The pandemic brought a clear shift in consumer behaviour and mindsets. Data emerged as the guiding light to navigate these uncertain times.

In contrast, pre-pandemic days were all about demographics and pre-defined target groups with somewhat predictable messaging. We used data to re-adjust our communications and find new segments. The key was to quickly adapt to the ever-changing landscape.

With Dynamic Creative Optimization (DCO), we were able to test and tailor messages constantly, which kept us relevant throughout. Furthermore, we understood the importance of data and introduced Cheil Optimizer, an integrated solution to consolidate disconnected data and discover consumer insights.

Reflecting on this transformation, it’s evident that it not only primed us for data-driven marketing but also ingrained it as a pivotal ground zero for consumer insights and messaging.

Channels and experiences

Social media platforms evolved from being mere channels of communication to becoming dynamic marketplaces. Our introduction of live commerce took consumer engagement to unparalleled heights. By merging entertainment and shopping, we unlocked a new realm of possibilities.

Audiences could now actively participate in product interactions, receive real-time demonstrations, and make purchases seamlessly. This marked a paradigm shift in how brands and consumers interacted in the digital sphere.

Offline product launches, once a staple in the industry, underwent a radical transformation as physical gatherings became impractical.

Undeterred, our team harnessed the potential of virtual platforms to create immersive and memorable product launch experiences. Through cutting-edge technology, we engineered novel ideas that not only engaged audiences but also elevated the brand-consumer connection.

This shift marked a watershed moment, showcasing our ability to adapt, innovate and captivate, even in the most challenging of times.

At the core of this transformation was transitioning offline experiences to online. However, it was more than just digitisation; it was about redefining channels to create relevant experiences.

Retail innovation

The concept of traditional retail transformed overnight, prompting us to redefine the rules of engagement. Our innovative field force management team seamlessly transitioned offline operations to the virtual realm.

As e-commerce became the primary mode of purchase, we adapted swiftly to monitor e-tailers and their online activities, ensuring our clients remained at the forefront of this digital revolution.

To this day, the team leads the industry with fully digitised platforms such as Retail Onsite. Looking back, retail innovation was a result of persistent individuals who redefined the game.

While the pandemic has concluded, a vital lesson remains—a culture, more precisely. Digital transformation is not a passive programme; it’s a perpetual journey, and it’s imperative to acknowledge that the true catalysts of digital transformation are the individuals who power the change.

This is the culture that “CONNEC+” is built upon.

All credit goes to those who drove change during the pandemic. Digital transformation resides in individuals, not technology alone.

By Tyler Yeom, Group Director, Integrated Campaign, CHEIL MEA