Making Digital Part of Your DNA

Moderated by Pete Blackshaw, the second session of the Advertising Age Digital Conference offered great insight into how both brands and agencies have successfully made digital part of their DNA. The panel included Tom Cunniff (VP, Interactive at Combe), Erin Nelson (Chief Marketing Officer, Dell) and Vivian Schiller (President & CEO, NPR).

Pete started off the conversation by defining "digital" as "an enabling framework for marketing and businesses." He also talked about how all communications have digital as a foundation; embedded in all processes. And, because it is embedded in all processes, multiple stakeholder groups are involved (e.g., research, quality, customer service, agencies) - which makes everything just flat out complicated at times. Interactive marketers, especially with the emergence of social media, completely understand this notion and recognize that organizations need to go through a massive cultural shift in order digital to be fully embraced. Both Dell and NPR stated that digital is simply part of how they operate and that it's part of the company's "fabric." While many of us, especially at large organizations, recognize the "simply" part of the previous statement is not easily achieved. It has to be supported from the top-down, and Erin and Vivian are perfect examples of this idea in motion given their companies progress in the digital space.

Erin also talked about how Dell avoids the interactive-friendly "shiny object syndrome." Her initial reaction without hesitation was by listening to her customers. Admittedly, Erin said Dell was a bit forced into the social media scene with the "Dell Hell" situation in 2005. Since then, Dell seems to have made significant progress in the social media space. More specifically, she talked about how social media monitoring was key to avoiding shiny object syndrome and allows her team to keep their fingers on the pulse of both customers and prospects. Digital communication strategies are then crafted around knowing where their customers are and how they prefer to take in content. This brings up a good point about social media monitoring in the planning process. While social media monitoring is less of an unknown as it used to be, the applications for its use still are. But one thing's for sure. Agencies and brands need to make sure to incorporate social media monitoring into their planning process during the discovery phase. Even more importantly, agencies and brands need to strive to drive useful insights from doing this to help move the overall strategic vision forward. Lack of education, time and money are barriers to allowing this to happen more frequently, but agencies should take a more proactive role in helping brands understand the value of social media monitoring and the insights that can be surfaced by subscribing to a paid service.

Is digital part of your company's DNA yet? If so, how did it come to be? If not, what are your biggest challenges in making this happen?