Digital Is A Layer, Not A Channel

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Writing an article about everything that’s changed in tech and for digital specialists over the past five years is tempting, but ultimately a pretty fruitless task. Social networks have come and gone, technology companies have been founded and IPO’d and deflated again (remember when Google offered to buy Groupon for like $6 billion and they said no?). And it’s been fun to follow along, but at face value, looking back doesn’t do a ton of good. Technology moves forward: learn your lessons, get over your mistakes, and try to be prepared for the next thing.

What we can talk about, though, is how our clients have gotten value out of digital in that time. Nobody’s going to argue that the internet’s going away, so it’s worthwhile to dive in and find out how to get the most out of a tech investment.

Since 2011, the evolution of digital marketing has transformed more than just communications strategies. It’s changed the way we build brands, provide customer service, reach audiences, distribute product, recruit talent, collaborate, research, and train new employees. Digital has expanded boundaries, personalized our workflows, exposed us to new cultures, and lifted geographic barriers. And the further it progresses, the more reason there is to develop a smart strategy to make sure your brand is taking advantage.

Digital specialists explain how digital has become its own layer

When we started out, “digital” was a channel. It was this tool for that seemed cool and interesting but that people didn’t really understand. Few brands had a cohesive “digital strategy, so they used digital to spread messaging that was already being spread in brochures, TV ads, and radio spots. Websites were one-way streets with messaging and maybe an email address to use if you wanted someone to get back to you. Ecommerce acted more like a catalog than a storefront and social was still a place where users shared lunch plans, not complaints about customer service. As a digital agency, our value prop expanded as we built our tech capabilities and learned to convince clients of the benefits of good design. As the sophistication of users grew, so did the demands of our clients.

Digital specialists were originally scooped up by brand managers who wanted to know how to use new technology. As the internet became more popular, digital entwined with the rest of a brand’s marketing, integrated campaigns became more and more important (think about the first time you saw a TV commercial with a hashtag slapped on the end), and the clear distinction between “digital” and “everything else” started to fade away.

Now, “digital” has permeated culture and everyday life so much so that it’s become just a layer of “everything else.” Digital specialists are less siloed than they were in the past, and looked upon less as technological alchemists and more as brand strategists.

Now, instead of tactics that work in digital, specialty shops like ours are figuring out ways to integrate brand values, customer experiences, and business goals across the entire digital presence, which is often the first — and sometimes the only — touchpoint for consumers. Technology is still a huge part of that, but it’s no longer tech for the sake of tech. Strategy asks the questions the tech is designed to answer:

What’s the first impression when a customer first stumbles across your brand? How do consumers know that the brand positioning is aligned with their needs and values? How do consumers view the brand’s personality when they interact with it on social? Is it easy to search for a specific piece of information and find it quickly and easily without being lost to distraction or a different brand providing easier answers?

Brands exist where customers interact with them: in their physical locations, in their customer service promises, in word-of-mouth conversations with friends, in marketing material. And now, they live in their digital footprint, as well. The same things that made brands effective before — personality, values, product, pricing, and availability — are what make brands effective still, albeit, now infused with more technology.

Digital is a layer, one that extends throughout a brand’s entire reach, and it’s grown to be almost ubiquitous because consumers have made it so. The focus of digital specialists like Huemor is to make sure that layer provides a effective, memorable, and consistent experience for customers. It’s about making technology work for a brand, but not letting the technology dictate how a brand is perceived. It’s about building effective brands that are viable today and into the future.



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