Every movement begins with a moment.
“It was the best of times, it was the worst of times.” The classic opening to Dickens’ A Tale of Two Cities gives the two alternatives for brands depending on the path they choose in dealing with digital upheaval in 2014. We are still in the throes of the big digital land grab, with some positions firmly entrenched and others still being fought for. But even those seemingly stable positions can change almost overnight as new disruptive ideas explode in culture and business, upsetting the status quo and changing the way we as humans live and perceive our lives.
The current blurring of lines across culture, media, digital channels and disciplines within the marketing industry will drive new sensibilities and processes to foster more creative and better problem solving. Likewise, the boundaries between digital and physical experiences will continue to dissolve as the two become more reliant on each other, accelerated by the ubiquity and maturity of mobile. As global pop culture and digital culture continue blending, we will see new forms of entertainment and content emerging from unique situations and the far reaches of the world.
But not every disruption is instigated by technology and data; sometimes it is a cultural shift facilitated by digital, a move away from a dominant paradigm. The collaborative economy is one of these. The movement away from physical ownership of products and content -- and toward more sharing, subscribing and renting -- is being powered by digital, and social in particular. AirBnB will be renting more rooms than Hilton this year. Netflix has a subscriber base of over 44 million. Smart brands are joining this movement as they begin to rethink and reevaluate their relevance in the marketplace. Citigroup’s sponsorship of Citi Bike and BMW’s foray into car-sharing services are two examples of brands thinking ahead.
In this process, speed is the key. Success isn’t linear; instead, it encompasses a multitude of decision points, with which we must experiment early, fail early, and reap the rewards from an iterative methodology. There must be continual optimization at every part of the marketing process for continued and repeatable success.
Driven by an increasingly mobile and social culture, our digital world will continue to evolve at a rapid pace. How brands and marketers address the ongoing digital revolution in our world, as an active player or a passive spectator, will decide whether these are the best of times or the worst of times.
This article was originally published on Wired's Innovation Insights blog on 2/10/14.
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