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Michael Nutley
Michael Nutley 12 March 2013
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The next digital revolution is cultural

In a recent survey of digital marketing budgets for 2013, a third of respondents gave company culture as a reason they didn't spend more on digital marketing

The fact that we live in a time of unprecedented technological change is so obvious as to seem barely worth mentioning. But what if that’s not what matters any more?

 

In a recent Econsultancy survey of digital marketing budgets for 2013, a third of respondents gave company culture as a reason they didn’t spend more on digital marketing; the second most cited barrier. Given that the most cited reason was budgetary restrictions, which is a circular argument (“we don’t spend any more money because we don’t have any more money to spend”),  that suggests that culture is really the most important barrier. It was also the top reason given by agencies for their clients not spending more, cited by 43%.

 

The idea that companies are worried that they’re organised according to principles that no longer apply was first voiced to me by an agency head five years ago, as a result of his experiences with CEOs seeing how the internet was changing not just relationships with customers but other relationships too; the supply chain and the shareholders, for example. Since then social media has transformed every aspect of business, from R&D to CRM, and becoming a key driver for thinking about how companies should restructure to accomodate new approaches. The discussion about who should be in charge of social, common a few years ago, for example, has resolved itself into agreement that everyone should have responsibility, within a social media board. Yet the vast majority of companies continue to operate in silos, and in silos within those silos, not cooperating or sharing data between departments. At a recent roundtable I attended about attribution modeling, one of the main topics for discussion was the reluctance of some departments - often traditional marketers - to adopt the process because of the threat it posed to their own budgets and therefore status.

 

At the same time we seem to be in something of a technological lull. All the prediction pieces written at the start of the year highlighted the same group of trends that would be important for the coming year - mobile, big data, social media, etc - but none of these are particularly new. I don’t doubt for a moment that all these things are going to have a massive impact on the way we do business in the coming months. I also don’t doubt that there’s another massively disruptive new technology on the way. But right now we know what the major forces are, and we have done for some time.

 

So I’m not saying that you shouldn’t be developing a tablet strategy, for example, following the recent news from Adobe that the tablet has overtaken the smartphone as the mobile access device of choice. But maybe it shouldn’t be the top of your list. Maybe the next revolution will be cultural, as companies think less about the technologies and more about the staff who will use them, and the structures in which those staff will operate.

 

The digital marketing industry is packed with neophiles, people who want to be first onto  the next new technology. This isn’t a bad thing. It’s what excites them and inspires them to find new ways to communicate and deliver value. But as the idea of post-digital continues to be bandied about - meaning a world where the internet is just part of the pumbing - maybe the key trend for 2013 should be the emergence of the post-digital company, with a new structure that allows it to take full advantage of the massive technological change we’ve been through, and to better weather the massive technological change to come.

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