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2016: The Year of Digital Modernism

Posted 5 January 2016 9:00 AM by Jared Degnan @MoxieUSA, @jareddegnan

If you’re looking for what’s next in marketing, you only have to look back — way back. I’m talking back to the turn of the last century.

In the early 1900s, culture and society had been redefined by the industrial revolution. Machines had literally re-engineered our way of life and, in their transformative wake, forced businesses from railroads to retailers to rethink what consumers wanted. The new era that dawned was known as modernism, and its trademark was the rejection of traditional ways of thinking. People in every industry and trade set out to remake everything in novel and inventive ways.

Sound familiar?

Today, we’re dealing with the aftermath of a much different revolution — one driven by the dual forces of digital and social innovation. Yet, much like its predecessor, the digital and social revolution has forever altered the very core of consumer behavior. And in this new era of marketing, the old rules not only don’t matter, but they can also undermine a brand’s bottom line.

That’s why 2016 isn’t going to be about a particular technology, app or device. It’s going to be about something bigger: How brands adapt to meet consumers’ demands for more meaningful engagement — and more control — than they have had at any other time in history.

2016 is going to be the year that digital modernism takes hold.

So What Exactly Is Digital Modernism?

The modernism of the early 20th century and digital modernism of 2016 share the same core principle: the reinvention of art, science and culture based on the impact of new technology.

Digital modernism, in particular, is about how brands are dealing with things like the proliferation of social media, the rise of mobile devices and their new balance of power with consumers.

Though these elements have been considered mainstream for upwards of half a decade, only now are they becoming the norm. Digital modernism is the next phase for these trends — one where the platforms themselves are no longer “new,” yet the ways that brands use them are.

Think about it: Even the most staid, traditional brands — conservative financial brands like Lloyds of London, legacy construction brands like Caterpillar and even the super-secretive CIA (@CIA) — have now bought fully into digital. It’s not enough to simply have a presence on digital platforms like Facebook, Twitter and Instagram or to be active in digital advertising. A brand’s success today is defined by its ability to innovatively and creatively target and reach one consumer versus another.

Digital Modernism’s Impact on Strategy

Digital modernism’s most acute impact is on the world of strategy. Previously, strategy was about answering the question, “How?” Now we need to answer the question, “Why?”

Enter the era of modern digital strategy.

Like Michael Porter’s impact on business strategy itself, modern digital strategy isn’t just about the means in which brands articulate themselves in digital, but also how they use it to create a competitive advantage.

Digital Modernism’s Impact on Analytics

Analytics is the second area impacted by digital modernism. With the social and digital revolution specifically, we’re now looking well beyond the ability to track consumers, their conversations and behaviors.

Thanks to the combined forces of big data and digital modernism, our purview now encompasses millions of other aspects of consumers’ personalities, preferences, habits and more. We can now generate deep, actionable insights that enable us to enhance consumer relationships and privacy — at the same time. It’s a tough tightrope to walk, but it’s one that presents new opportunities for brands. And brands that can leverage big data to create experiences for their consumers that are progressively more relevant, meaningful and customized will be most successful.

Digital Modernism’s Impact on Creativity

Creativity is no longer about coming up with new ways to dazzle and captivate consumers. With digital modernism, it’s now personal: Brands must be able to use new technologies and consumer insights to craft not just one amazing experience but millions.

This type of creative won’t just be disruptive. It will have immense impact on the success rate of everything from banner ads to emails. Instead of measuring CTR in terms of halves of a percent, we’ll see many brands launch into double-digital success. By harnessing multiple customized creative ideations for each channel, brands will be able to become more relevant and more connected than ever.

Opportunity, With a Caveat

Whether we’re talking about strategy, analytics or creative, 2016 promises to be an exciting year for brands — and one full of unprecedented opportunities. The key question is how brands will respond. Remember, modernism wasn’t just a time for innovation, but also for natural selection in commerce. Ford’s Model T ignited the automobile revolution, but it also spurred competition. And competition can make or break brands. Digital modernism will no doubt bring similar pressures. Each brand’s ability to thrive will depend on how well it adapts and innovates.

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