I was flicking through the channels on Fox the other night and landed on Project Runway (for the first time, honestly) and guest judge Lindsay Lohan came out with this pearler:
"You can be the best designer in the world, but it counts for nothin if no one buys your stuff."
How good is that! No wonder she's an inspiration to millions.
Well, the premise holds true with our digital media efforts. With the deafening amount of noise online these days, it's become increasingly difficult for brands to achieve cut-through in their web, social and mobile activities. Customers have become more and more desensitised to shock tactics and online gimmicks - what they are screaming out for is innovation and a personalised online experience.
The grandfather of modern marketing, Peter Drucker, famously wrote in 1954 that any business enterprise has just two basic functions; innovation and marketing. With the rapid pace of digital change further fragmenting traditional marketing channels, the imperative to focus our digital efforts on innovation and marketing has never been more poignant than now.
So, what's it mean for us in Oz? Is Australian digital innovation dead?
Not by a long shot, but we need to get back to the basics of the Marketing Concept to ensure digital innovation translates into long term success for Australia.
The Marketing Concept basically says that everything a company does should be oriented towards firstly identifying the needs of your customers and then satisfying those needs.
Profitability will invariably follow.
It's the same with digital. As marketers and agency people, we need to be careful our clients don't get too caught-up in the current hype of gimmicky Flash games, iPhone Apps and Augmented Reality (...although the latter is definitely showing some promise for consumer brands).
What customers are demanding - and what we should be focusing on - is innovation in website usability and navigational ease. They're looking for location-based services and semantic search tools which will be intuitive enough to get them the information they want quickly. That's why the iPad is going to be so huge - it's been designed solely to satisfy existing customer needs through digital portability, price sensitivity and intuitive navigation (using your fingers rather than a keyboard and mouse).
Most importantly however, the digital public wants a customised, one-to-one experience with their favourite brands online, as opposed to the scattergun / CPM approach still adopted by so many digital campaigns in Australia.
This concept of customisation is huge. By offering an online experience in the form of personalised home or landing pages - which can be driven by click-stream and geo-targeting technology - we allow customers to engage with brands on levels never before imagined. Even if you don't have the budget, you can still achieve customisation by simply segmenting your database to deliver EDMs with content tailored for a particular demographic.
With any campaign-customisation, ROI is inevitably stronger - as consumer engagement is locked in from the start.
When it comes to digital, Australia is very much the clever country. We have a huge amount of intelligent people and killer ideas within arm's reach. Far too often though, the Australian approach to digital innovation is more reactionary rather than truly innovative. Customers want digital solutions which better suit their needs; but in the insatiable drive by agencies to appease clients, they often take the easy, gimmicky and less risky approach to online projects. OK, one of the drivers of this in Australia is the fact that global brands often have strategy dictated to them from foreign head-offices, so local hands are somewhat tied when it comes to experimenting too left of centre with online campaigns and digital spend. Regardless however, our industry must continually push innovation at every turn.
As we know, one of the great things about digital is that it's all measurable. Very quickly we're moving on (….or more importantly our clients are demanding we move on) from the world of CPMs and click-through rates to value-based metrics such as ROI and Customer Lifetime Value. Last year, Forrester Consulting released the results of a survey amongst Marketing Managers which indicated that the most desired online metrics were Return on Ad Spend, Customer Satisfaction and Customer Lifetime Value. These are the metrics that matter in today's world.
Over the past few years we've seen advancements in technology send the trajectory of digital through the roof - five years ago it was nigh on impossible for online to get a 40 per cent slice of the marketing budget. In 2010 it's almost commonplace, but this rush into digital needs to been underwritten by a return to marketing fundamentals.
In a recovering global economy, now is the time to revisit the Marketing Concept and place the customer squarely back in centre frame. It's time for marketers and agencies to refocus our R&D and digital media efforts on the simple objective of satisfying customer needs, instead of trying to emulate what's been successful overseas.
This is where the focus of Australian digital must be, to avoid our great country being relegated to the backwater of global digital innovation. We need to move on from the cookie-cutter view of innovation (doing what's been done before) to the truly innovative home-grown “Anzac biscuit” approach (never two of the same in the house where I grew up).