“What’s our digital strategy?” is the wrong question

"What's our digital strategy?"  or, even more specifically, "What should our social media strategy be?" are the wrong questions to ask. The right question is: "What's our strategy in a digital age?"

[Thanks to Charlie Hiscocks from SAB Miller helping me understand this]

Grasping the opportunities of the digital era is key for EVERY brand. But, many of the most exciting opportunities don't involve social media. Here are a few examples.

1. Product Innovation

Nike started working with Apple several years ago on Nike+ iPod. I blogged on it here, almost six years ago, before we'd even heard of social media. This ingenious system sends a signal to your iPod or iPhone from a little sensor you buy and put in your Nike shoes. It then records your run: time, length, calories burnt etc. You can keep track of how often you have run (or not).

This is a smart way of Nike selling more shoes, and offering a valuable service to its consumers. Checking in on the Nike+ site when you upload your runs is also a clever, and free, way of keeping the brand top of mind.

And for Apple, its yet another great feature on the iPod/iPhone.

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2. Insight

My Starbucks Idea is the most famous example of using digital "crowd sourcing" to get ideas for improving products and services, and inviting people to vote on them. A couple of things on this:

– Makes most sense for complex service businesses, like Starbucks. Here, there are lots and lots of things consumers may have views and ideas on. I think this is less the case if you're a simple FMCG product?

– You need to REALLY invest in talent and technology to run this sort of thing. If you ask for opinion, you better bloody well act on it. Or say why you have not. As Starbucks do very well.

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3. Route to consumer

My winner of "Best brand in the world" was Nespresso, here. Again, years before social media, Nespresso were building a beautiful, multi-billion Euro business model based on a direct route to the consumer. Capsules are sold online, on the phone or in Nespresso's own boutiques.

I am intrigued by Gillette's eStore, which is a similar approach in the FMCG space. They have a "subscription service", where you can have your re-fill razor blades sent to your home. This I thought was smart, as people replace their razor blades much less often than Gillette would like you to.
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4. Content Partnership

Ive posted before about how social media requires brands to become content publishers. And this is a skill set most marketing teams just don't have. Also, not every brand would have content that many people want to consume. This is why for many brands, you may be better off partnering with people who have both content and an audience.

I cal this "fishing where the fish are".

For exampe, rather than relying on their own social media site to promote a "Priceless in New York" offer, Mastercard have linked up with Time Out New York.

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In conlcusion, don't ask "What's our digital strategy?", ask "What's our strategy in a digital age?" And in doing so, think about your business model, not just social media.