Digital Transformation – Survival skills for the traditional brand

The digital landscape for the majority of sectors has witnessed a meteoric rise in the number brands. These brands come in all sizes and shapes – On one side you have the traditional brands making the steady transition to the world of digital and on the other, the start-up brand, out there to cause disruption to the sector and to offer that something a little different. And they all have the same objective – vying for our attention.

In with the old

The transformation traditional organisations are learning to wrestle with is the fact that moving to a digital future, traditional brands should not still try to control media content that impacts the brand and its perception, rather the brand should instead focus on becoming more transparent and seek to build engagement, credibility and collaboration with its user base. For example take Ford, a 100 year old car manufacturer who has embraced social media to empower the organisation to remain relevant and engaging with its audience.

Ford is a classic example of a “traditional” organisation that was willing to re-define it’s brand and what it stands for by embracing digital and seeking out new, innovative opportunities. Ford also played on two key attributes it has built throughout its 100 year history, two attributes that any other traditional organisation should utilise in how it redefines itself:

1) Knowledge Centre –  Ford is a knowledge centre for the automobile industry. It has accumulated a library of content and information central to its sector and with it has allowed Ford to become the go-to authority for their respective sector. It has provided the opportunity for Ford to tell a great narrative through authority content and can be syndicated, shared and re-purposed through a multitude of different digital channels, tailored for the right audience.

2) Trust – The importance of having an easily identifiable brand helps the effectiveness of the messaging or the value proposition. Building a level of trust and indeed retaining a brand reputation takes years in development. It’s perhaps something the start-up brands will always find difficult to match with the more traditional organisation that has fine tuned their offline proposition over decades and now is at the beginings of migrating their proposition online.

A brand that exemplifies trust provides the user with an affinity and helps to build a relationship by engaging with the consumer’s emotions through imaginative associations such as user-generated content. Ford demonstrate this perfectly through their social media presence where they proactively engage their audience to participate through the brands social media channels.

Brands need to create a reason for customers to engage with your brand on a daily basis in a world of choice, alternatives and new entrants willing to disrupt traditional and existing markets. Traditional organisations need to take a look internally, and the opportunities that exist around them through their library of content on tap which can be re-defined and optimised for a digital audience. This content provides a route for the brand to not just become the go-to source for content but to also refine and develop their content offering to become the expert within their sector.

The industrial-era organisation is being replaced by more connected organisations who are open to collaboration and building external relationships in a globalised market. More traditional organisations should consider launching a Skunk work, which is an off-shoot of the main organisation, protected from cultures and processes that inhibit progress and has a remit to create, develop and concept test new opportunities, products and services. This would help drive innovation and collaboration in partnering with organisations and individuals.


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