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If your brand isn’t digital these days, what is it?

Aug 13, 2012 Business Daily

“I wonder what the ROI of bankrupt is?
And yet, if you have ever given a speech, a webinar, or a class on social media marketing, I can almost guarantee you have received this question: “But how do we measure the ROI of this stuff?”
Look, I’m a true-blue ROI guy.  Frankly, money is one of my favorite things. I’m a measurement fanatic and a data geek.  But pull up a chair and let me give you a dose of reality here. If you don’t have a digital strategy, your business is going to die.
And by digital, I don’t mean “a website.” In the last two years, 68 percent of the Fortune 100 companies had a year-over-year decline in their website page views. Why?  Because people are not looking for you on websites any more…”

MARK W SCHAEFER www.businessesgrow.com (July 12, 2012)

Mark Schaefer is making an important point in his recent blog entry, excerpted above.

He gives the example of Rand McNally, famed and long-standing maker of maps in the United States. Is this company leading the charge towards digital, mobile maps? No. Its forays into the new world are muted at best. The digital maps space has been claimed by others.

Think like a consumer owning a smartphone and/or tablet computer. When was the last time you consulted a printed atlas? You know, that big, heavy book where you have to search for a destination in the index, find the correct page, locate yourself using grid references, and keep turning pages as you travel?

Not recently? I didn’t think so. Once you’ve used a mobile mapping application, one that locates you instantly, places you in the middle of the page, and changes the map to suit you as you move – you’re never going back.

And that is the point. Sure, it’s not easy to figure out how you’re going to make money from the new technologies; and certainly you won’t enjoy your old-world profit margins any more. But staying away is even more dangerous, for you will drift into a place called Irrelevance, which neighbours another place called Bankruptcy…

Do I exaggerate? Ask Kodak. Or various print-only newspapers. Or Borders Books.

That’s why businesses have to think very hard about their brands and products in digital space. And the way to think about is not to try to just work out the return on investment (ROI); you also have to factor in the cost of doing nothing. If your brand isn’t digitally visible, where do you think it will be visible in tomorrow’s world? In print, or on billboards? Really? Look at where most attention is focused today: it’s that glowing little screen in everyone’s hand.

As Mark Schaefer points out, please stop thinking that you have a nice website, and that’s all the digital branding you need. All you can say about a corporate website these days is that you have to have one. But it’s nowhere near enough. Brand management these days is about continuous engagement with customers, in a multiplicity of platforms. You have to be conversing, not telling. You have to be pulled, not pushing. Brands are wholeheartedly social now, and in a social system it’s not just you talking.

Those aren’t issues I suggest you leave to techies or PR departments. Digital brands are about leaders reading the tea leaves and making bold leaps into the unknown. Social-network strategy is about leaders rethinking the basis for revenue and profits, not just about maintaining a Facebook page or Twitter handle. Whatever your business, it’s about to change. This is a time for leadership and deep strategic insight.

Like Rand McNally’s printed maps, your spreadsheet may not be the best guide to that decision. We are into uncharted territory. ROI may be the least visible part of the road ahead.

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