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Are brands standing in the way of their own digital transformation?

By Lauriann Serra, Managing director, US

The Goat Agency

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The Drum Network article

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April 17, 2023 | 7 min read

Lauriann Serra of The Goat Agency suggests that brands are behind in the digital transformation timeline, and that the attempt to be omnipresent on digital and social platforms could be the reason.

White 3D printed skull scale model image

Do brands need to rethink their digital transformation checklist? / Kenny Eliason

With artificial intelligence, augmented reality and immersive virtual spaces strengthening their grip over the digital landscape, you might think that brands are immersed in the new frontier of digital transformation. What if that is not the case?

The ‘digital checklist’ (on the surface) serves as the perfect placeholder for brands to say they’re at the forefront of new-age tech. If at all, how does this checklist contribute toward a digital transformation? Sure, brands might be active across multiple social platforms. But are they the right platforms for that brand and its target audience?

For agencies, it’s simple. Innovate or die. The second big brands know more, agencies become futile. How is it, then, that agencies have succeeded in digital transformation, while brands have fallen behind?

Are brands preventing their own digital transformation?

For over a decade, a digital transformation has been afoot for brands, even at the highest scale.

The internal structures of brands and companies fight against digital transformation, often going without the proper requirements such as not having a shared budget and failing to establish long-term metrics across digital, social and influencer channels.

Brands have this mental checklist of digital must-haves, things that they believe to be the next step in innovation. This typically includes activity across selected channels. For example, having seen TikTok’s rapid growth some brands jumped the gun, entering into a market they did not understand without a predetermined know-how of reaching their intended audience.

The mistake brand-side is opting for an everywhere approach. Often, the content created for one media is shoehorned into a different channel, thus losing its impact. Effective use of multiple channels requires a curated ‘take’ on the brand messages to that channel, but it needs to always reflect back on the overarching brand message.

What this does tend to create inside many organizations of scale, are silos. Those silos, where experimentation with new technology occurs, can lead to messaging in the market that is not aligned with the identity or strategy of the brand.

Innovation through leadership: brands getting it right

Leadership requires knowledge on all sides. For brands to hit the proverbial nail on the head, those at the helm must have a roadmap, a deep-rooted understanding of digital channels and how to navigate them.

Leaders mustn't shy away from change. Change can be cumbersome, and those looking to implement it should consider spreading it incrementally.

Brands that have seen success in the way of digital transformation have benefited from incremental changes. We’re seeing the next generation of direct-to-consumer (DTC) brands coming through like Fenty, and more traditional brands like Oreo making those incremental changes to raise the bar.

Rihanna-owned Fenty Beauty encapsulates what it means to be a reactive brand that understands the power of user-generated content. The singer’s mid-performance touch-up saw Google searches for the brand surge by 833%. The mention of Fenty Beauty during the Super Bowl generated a total of 5.6 million dollars in media impact value (MIV) in the first 12 hours. Figures like these are linked to posts and content surrounding the brand, contributing to its impact and performance.

‘Cutting-edge’ digital agencies thrive on ‘innovate or die’ policy

Agencies are left with no choice. Innovate or liquidate. The second brands know more than agencies in an emerging space, it’s over.

Given the financial models of agencies, they are better structured to take risks in pioneering and refining technology than established brands. As a result of this, the in-house creative is dying. Agencies are far better equipped, especially now as more agencies look to centralize their exploits by handling influencer and social channels on a global scale.

You’re always going to get more expertise from a specialist agency. Brands who try to bring things in-house will often have to sacrifice budget in other areas, which again gives agencies the upper hand. The best digital agencies will prove their results, they have that secret sauce that puts the money where their mouth is.

The war on talent

Big brands I worked with tried to create their own social hub internally, struggling to find their own talent in a market where Amazon and Google were across the street.

The young, fresh, expert talent is always likely to find agencies or Apple and Google to be more exciting. It’s a war to get the best people and agencies are coming out on top.

Brand Strategy Digital Strategy Ecommerce

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The Goat Agency

We’re the leading global social media marketing agency powered by influencers. We pride ourselves in bringing together data-led performance, real human relationships,...

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