Consumers continue to move in droves to a digital mindset, a transformation in behavior that, each day, introduces a nuance to market dynamics.  The challenge for companies, however, is mirroring that shift in their own business, marketing and communications strategies to keep pace.

Chasing the latest shiny object – while perhaps enticing for consumers – is not the key to marketing success in the digital age.  Platforms will come and go (and perhaps come back again) with varying degrees of fanfare, but the key to success requires a fundamental shift within the walls of the organization itself.

Never before have the divides among marketing disciplines been so transparent, due in large part to consumers who are dictating it with their behavior.  Consumers effortlessly traverse paid, earned, owned and shared digital spaces as part of their relationship with a company and its brands.

Make no mistake – companies clearly recognize the importance of evolving toward a digital-first (or at least digital-also) mindset.  According to The 2014 State of Digital Transformation report from the Altimeter Group, 88 percent of representatives from within companies who are responsible for digital strategy reported they felt their company was undergoing a digital transformation.

But while many make this claim, the same report revealed that some of the fundamental investments and activities required to usher in this shift were lagging.  For example, while the vast majority of respondents reported their company is undergoing a digital transformation, only 25 percent of those companies have mapped the customer journey within the last year; and 42 percent have updated digital touch points with new social and mobile technologies, but without researching the digital customer journey.  It’s the contemporary equivalent of not understanding what broadcast news shows your consumer watches, or what magazines they read, but rather just pitching for pitching’s sake.  You’re essentially flying blind.

Some of the biggest challenges we’ve seen in helping companies with the digital evolution are simply fundamental – many don’t know how to get started.

I’ve been in numerous discussions with clients, advising them on how to get this process going, and, I always come back to three very basic questions:


  • Who is your “starting five”?  Identifying and recruiting key advocates are critical to early success.  For me, a team of five is a good place to start: anything smaller and you may miss critical representation of business operations; anything bigger and it becomes too big to move.  When thinking about those starting five, I come back to five internal functions – marketing, communications, IT, legal and customer service.  However, in recruiting the starting five, look not just for the leaders of those functions.  It’s more important to identify team members within those organizations who are bullish on digital.   And, if all else fails, follow Jeff Bezos’ "two-pizza team"—that is, any team should be small enough that it could be fed with two pizzas.[i]
  • Where are your consumers?  Many marketing organizations have reams of data defining their consumer; but equally important is to understand where their consumer is from a digital standpoint.  This is perhaps one of the most important shifts required to truly move toward a digital evolution, because it requires the organization to reframe how it views its research efforts in defining its target audiences; advocating for this consideration is critical to true consumer insights, and should be applied across any and all marketing and communications strategy.  Make it a point in every meeting, strategy session and brainstorm to advocate for understanding the digital journey a consume takes in relation to the brand.
  • Where are your early wins?  In the end, the evolution can’t occur without proving the value.  Don’t wait for the big win; identify the key points of confidence leadership needs to continue to invest, find your quick wins, and build the business case with individual building blocks that articulate the impact in terms your leadership can appreciate. 

Organizational shifts in mindset and practice won’t happen overnight, but they will happen with proper planning, teamwork and, most importantly, a healthy dose of risk-taking.  

[i] “Birth of Salesman,” The Wall Street Journal, Oct. 15, 2011.

Kevin Lamb

Kevin Lamb is 
Senior Vice President 
of Digital Practice at Coyne PR