When companies adopt digital, they do old things in new ways. When companies internalize digital — make it part of their mindset — they find entirely new things to do and new ways to do them. They become digital disruptors, and they swiftly go on to take over the markets they set their sights on.
The best proof I have of the power of mindset to put a company ahead during an era of transition has nothing to do with digital or even business. The evidence comes from the Comanche Indians, who dominated the American Southwest through the 1700s and most of the 1800s because of a spectacular new technology they not only adopted, but internalized: the horse. As perfectly described by S.C. Gwynne in his bestselling book, Empire of the Summer Moon, dozens of tribes across the Great Plains had horses. But most of these tribes saw the horse as a new way to do an old thing: to get from point A to point B. Just faster and with more things in tow.
Comanches, on the other hand, internalized the possibilities of the horse, aligning their entire “business” around them. That mindset opened them to new possibilities that others missed. They became skilled breeders, they rethought their cultural practices and values, and they tested the limits of horses to see just how far this enabling technology could take them. For most of the 1800s, Texas Rangers and US Army majors struggled in vain to subdue the Comanches.
I love the Oscars with all of its glitz and glamour, celebrating the year’s best films. And while this year’s crop of Lincoln, Argo, and The Silver Linings Playbookare all great films, one of my all-time favorites is still Moneyball. Although the discussion about the Moneyballstory isn’t new, it’s still a great lesson of what we can learn about using data and insights in new ways to change the game. Billy Beane harnessed the power of data based insights to assemble a winning team. He ignored the conventional measures of success — batting averages and stolen bases — and hired a number cruncher to rewrite the rules of the game. By applying data-based insights to day-to-day decisions, Beane stacked up win after win, ultimately challenging the American League record for consecutive wins.
You’re going to hear a lot about digital disruption in 2013. And not just from the traditional culprits, like Silicon Valley startups or Israeli engineers or Russian coders. You’ll hear about digital disruption from big companies like GM and G.E. Even agribusiness giant Monsanto has released apps designed to give farmers the digital tools they need to improve crop yield, right down to the square meter. Amid this digital melee, it's important to understand what digital disruption is and what it is not. Important enough that I've written a book about it.
If you’re not careful, when you hear stories about traditional companies like HBO setting up software development teams on the West Coast, you may conclude that digital disruption is about apps. Or if you listen too closely to the pitches at startup conferences, you may think that digital disruption is about social media. Or social TV. Or whatever new flavor excites the digital elite.
Every few years we marketers think we have digital figured out. First it was websites, then it was about eBusiness strategy, then came social, and more recently, we're all about mobile. These are all good things, to be sure, but conquering any one of these – or all of them together – still misses the larger point: Digital disruption is bigger than any of them on their own, and it is nowhere near finished turning the marketing and advertising world upside down.
Consider the Super Bowl. Every year the big game captures more eyeballs and, along with them, more ad dollars. Some point to continued TV spend as evidence that people are in denial about the role of digital, as Adobe did with its clever spoof on Super Bowl ads this year. But note that some of the most prominent ads in Super Bowl 2013 encouraged an expressly digital component – from Budweiser's name-the-pony campaign to Oreo's crowd-pleasing Cream or Cookie campaign, tagged with "Choose your side on Instagram @OREO." The most elaborate of these was the Coke Chase, a Twitter-based real-time voting campaign that earned @cocacola nearly a thousand more Twitter followers on game day, according to Twittercounter.com.
These are worthy – and relatively cheap – forays into making TV ads more, rather than less, relevant in a digitally disruptive era. But these all miss the broader point about the power of digital. Digital won't just disrupt the way brands communicate with consumers, it will afford those brands the chance to build a direct digital relationship with those consumers. If they don't blow it, standing idle while someone else grabs that relationship first.
"Hello, I'm Laura Ramos, and I write for chief marketing officers."
That's the standard line around here. It'll take a little gettting used to saying it. Heck, I still find myself saying "Xerox" instead of "Forrester" from time to time, but I hope to get out of that habit soon.
Luckily, I won't have to break my habit of thinking and writing about the issues that face large companies that sell highly-considered products and services to other businesses through a direct sales force or channel partners. I've always been a business-to-business (B2B) girl, and I'll stick to that focus here at Forrester.
Wait a minute . . . this all looks very familiar . . . I think I've been here before . . .
After almost three years at Xerox, I returned to Forrester Research in January to resume my quest to remake business-to-business (B2B) marketers and advance their standing in the corporate world. It's great to be back, and while much has changed, still more remains the same.
Welcome to 2013. This is the year during which business-to-business (B2B) CMOs will have to step up as strong officers of the business to propel innovation forward and drive business growth, as customers continue to do their own shopping for big-ticket items. The task: to deliver experiences that customers seek along their buying journey, which is no small feat for B2B CMOs to accomplish who have been beholden to a sales-led approach all of these years. A laser focus on a few key imperatives will ensure that B2B CMOs succeed in making the leap to the age of the customer.
Embrace customer insights. Accept the fact that customers are now in control of their buying process. Respond with strategies that build in-depth customer understanding and leverage the skills and resources that can turn that understanding into actionable insights. A new position of data scientist will become one of the most sought-after roles for B2B marketing organizations in 2013. Why? The ability to make sense of the data deluge by identifying market trends, correlating unrelated data sets, and delivering predictive go-to-market strategies delivers winning results. My earlier post on the 2012 elections shares a best practice from Obama’s team. Start now to partner with your human resources colleagues to define the resources you need to succeed in 2013.
After spending opening day at CES, I couldn’t agree more with my colleague Sarah Rotman Epps in her blog post that CES matters more now than ever to every marketer, product strategist, and C-level executive in every industry. Across the CES floor, connected TVs, tablets of all sizes, and a new breed of “phablets,” combining the form factor of tablets and smartphones into one, confirmed the fact that we’ve left the PC-dominated world behind for a mobilized and connected home and work life where content and context will dominate.
What struck me while I walked the floor at CES was that Peppers and Rogers were actually way ahead of their time. Remember them, the ones who wrote The One to One Future way back in 1996, well before the digital age became a reality? Their vision continues to become a technology-powered reality. With CES showing an abundance of new ways to connect with mobilized customers, the ability to target, reach, and effectively communicate with customers one-to-one, customizing and personalizing messages and offers to their unique needs, is increasingly within the reach of the marketer.
Available channels to the customer exploded on the CES floor to include everything from connected TVs and other devices in the home to all types of mobile devices and ruggedly made tablets built for the enterprise and everything in between. All are connected and share content in the right context to the devices consumers or business customers want, when and where they want it — just like Peppers and Rogers dreamed would happen.
I know what you're thinking: CES is so last week already. But the lessons of CES will follow -- some would say haunt -- us all year long, so it's worth a sober summary of last week's events. To make this quick, I'll summarize this year's trade show in four sentences. I will then defeat the purpose of a four-sentence summary by explaining each sentence, but you are free to withdraw at any moment.
The Internet of Things is really an Internet of Sensors.
Your body is a wonderland.
Device makers should invest in better experiences, not better products.
I swear I've been here before. Not here, as in here at CES, where I spent the week checking my product assumptions against the actual offerings arrayed on the showfloor. But here, as in at a crucial moment in time when a single industry rushes to push a massively expensive, relatively unnecessary technology on unsuspecting consumers. That's the case with Ultra HD at CES 2013. Formerly known as 4k TV (because of the rough number of horizontal pixels employed in the technology) and now already truncated to UHD by company reps on the floor and in the hallways, Ultra HD is supposed to be the next thing every consumer will want.
It ain't gonna happen. The reasons evoke a ready comparison to 3DTV. And indeed, I have been here before, back at CES 2010 where I wrote a piece called 3DTV at CES: Poking Holes in the Hype. That year, some industry thinkers had conducted a survey and concluded that as many as 5 million consumers were ready to jump into 3D with both feet while opening their big, fat wallets. So I wrote the obligatory post that said, pointedly, no.
The comparison between 3D and Ultra HD is obvious. They were both too expensive at introduction (Ultra HD much more so than even 3D); they both suffered from a dearth of content availability; they both required a complete retooling of the equipment used by video production teams and film studios; and they both landed at a time when consumers were pretty happy with the awesomely large, cheap TV screens they already had.