What is Digital?

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A couple weeks back, the digital leadership team at Deutsch LA held a week-long 101 course on digital marketing for the entire company. The goal of the program was to set a common literacy of digital marketing across the agency and to create a sense of shared purpose across departments. I ran two sessions. The first was “Thinking Digital” and the objective was to share a series of perspectives on digital technologies as they’re related to marketing communications. Here are the basics of what was covered:

Digital is a layer.

Digital is not a channel in the same terms as print, television, or radio. As long as someone has a laptop or mobile nearby, anything can be digital (whether you’re ready for it or not). Device multi-tasking is no longer a niche behavior. Digital is also not just something that lives within the confines of a PC or mobile; more and more of the objects we interact with are becoming digital themselves.

Digital is a bridge.

The greatest inventions of mankind are as follows: language, fire, the wheel, the printing press, anti-biotics, Haribo gummy bears, and the hyperlink. We may not have jetpacks or pneumatic tube stations in this future, but we have the means to transport someone from one experience to another via the hyperlink. Yet, advertisers continue to create dead ends. With everything we do, we should be engineering the best path tothe next experience.

Digital is a feedback loop.

Every single action we take as consumers, and every single interaction we design as marketers, causes data to spew in all directions. Success on the web is dependent on our ability to harness data to make intelligent choices. And because of that …

Digital is iterative.

Digital is the ultimate etch-a-sketch. And if you’re not treating it as such, you’re doing it wrong. Agencies should aspire to be more like Zynga, which advocates for “ghetto testing” new features in real-time and learning from those experiments. Ultimately, analytics must move from being a department in your building to become an integral part of your organization’s culture.

Digital is participatory.

… whether you like it or not. The web has led to the rise of a more participatory consumer, each a media outlet in their own right, and she/he isn’t waiting for instructions from your brand. Moreover, brands now have to cope with networks of consumers that can synchronize their viewsquickly thanks to the web, which meansconsumer protests can coalesce faster than ever before. One of the most important lessons that ad folk can remember is that sharing is NOT an unconscious act. All sharing is conscious, some is just less so. When people choose to share your brand with their friends, they are negotiating the social value of your brand in relation to their social bonds, collective identity, and personal status. The more you can appeal to those interests, the more likely someone is to share your brand.

Digital is mainstream culture.

I used to say that digital was moving into mainstream culture, but really, whatever is left of mainstream culture has gone digital.

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