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November 5, 2013

Digital First Business Implications

Online Marketing Trumps All

Reading a great post by Neil Ferre telling reluctant lawyers they must embrace content and social marketing made me smile. I smiled because Neil’s post reminded me of many conversations with powerful, rich men and women.

I recall a conversation about “infinite inventory” with one of the founders of a $150M specialty catalog. This successful catalog merchant couldn’t process “digital inventory”.

Digital inventory costs pennies and can easily produce dollars I attempted to explain. For this amazing founder inventory was a hard good, something we put in our automated warehouse and picked when needed. Inventory couldn’t be digital living inside our servers.

As an Internet marketer “inventory” was primarily digital in my way of thinking. Our digital inventory did translate, at the moment, to physical things in our warehouse. “Why don’t we ‘sell’ everything,” I remember asking. He looked at me with the fear of writing a check for “everything”.

Even if we didn’t have a product in our warehouse we could still “sell” the content and the link the content created I argued to little effect. Inventory for the successful catalog merchant was always a physical thing that came and went on trucks. My “inventory is mainly digital” idea didn’t get through.

When I wrote Infinite Inventory, Moore’s Law, Saving Ford in 2008 I didn’t go far enough. 2008 was before Google CHANGED THE WORLD and that would be one reason the piece doesn’t go far enough. The other is “appification” of everything thanks to social media marketing and mobile swirl.

Swirl because social and mobile are in a tornado dance where one trend is driving the other faster and faster. There is no down time or slack in this tornado. If one of these two massive altering trends slows the other half of the equation picks up slack speeding the creation of our digital future.

Digital First

Digital first is a simple idea that will be hard for many of past employers such as P&G and M&M/Mars to accept. Digital first says no matter what business you are in your online presence is the most important “product” you create, and any online product must be created daily.

P&G will reject Digital First because they see themselves as R&D supported by an army of soldiers creating distribution. I was one of those soldiers more than twenty years ago and all the shelf space in Wegman’s can’t help a product unsupported by social shares, content marketing and strong Digital First presence these days. Save the slotting fees and build your brand, business or service to online acceptance or face a dissonance so large other marketing is moot.

P&G is a great multi-channel manufacturer. Their marketing portfolio is so strong and diversified accepting the idea that what happens on the web trumps all will be difficult since there would seem to be evidence to the contrary. P&G’s other strengths may mend many content and social marketing weaknesses…for a time. Over time every P&G brand must carry its own water online or slowly diminish.

“Carry its own water online” means building a network of engaged and active content and social support. Even as strong as P&G’s product creation and brand proliferation machine is they must bow to Digital First. P&G’s distribution and branding strength must be matched online or a hard rain will fall.

M&M/Mars is different than P&G. M&M’s also has product development strength, but they rely on love of their cherished brands. Digital love is fleeting and different. If M&M’s can’t translate the amazing TASTE of M&M’s along with generations of “brand love” online they to risk a slow fade. Candy is not the most “now” brand.

Candy would seem to have significant health and other limitations. If you think that read’s Guilt Free Consumption report (not sure how long this report will be at this link so if you land on something different Google TrendWatching Guild Free Consumption briefing).  The tough online marketing job for M&M’s is NOT to attempt to fight health issues since that conversation is a boring non-starter.

The challenge for my old Hackettstown, NJ employer is to create a digital world as great as their chocolate, to understand all business is Digital and digital comes long before and long after taste buds. First before advertising in print or on television. First before creating that new peppermint M&M’s. We live in a digital first world and our new digital first world doesn’t care if we understand, accept or embrace its many profound implications. Digital First simply IS.

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