For a decade or so, the world has been treated to copious tales of the inexorable rise of the Internet and social media. Across all sectors, commentators ruminating on digital change and disruption are a dime a dozen, weighing in on the seismic shift brought about by the changing ways brands and people communicate and interact.
It’s undeniable that the fragmentation of media and communications channels has changed the way we do things and it’s certainly a topic worth examining. Very often, however, analysis is limited to assessing the respective merits of various channels, examining which ones are on the rise and which are on the wane. It’s safe to say you’ve probably lost track of the number of times you’ve read how content is king, or why social media is the holy grail for brands, or how television is dying (and, of course, print is already dead, allegedly).
But these sorts of discussions not only tend to miss the point, they reveal a basic misunderstanding about the ‘digital revolution’. The channels through which we deliver messages may have changed (or, rather, the options available to us have multiplied), but the fundamentals of communication and marketing remain exactly the same.
By way of analogy, consider the fact that, once upon a time, humans got around on horseback. When they needed to get to the other side of the world, they jumped on a ship. Then cars and planes happened. And guess what? Even with sedans and jets at our disposal, we still ride horses and travel by boat. Frankly, if anyone in 1886 saw Karl Benz’s first motorcar and declared ‘boating is dead’, they’d have been long proven wrong.
The thing is, whether we fly, drive or sail, the fundamental purpose of transport remains the same: moving us from point A to point B. Even if we choose one over the other for different reasons than we might have done in the past, even if the experience is not as widespread as it once was, the function remains the same.
And so it is with the modern media landscape. Each of the multitude of channels at our disposal offer experiences that are unique to them—some are faster, some more tactile, but when you break it down, they’re just methods of delivery, much like a Honda or a horse. Traditional channels won’t die, they’ll continue to hang around and offer something different compared to the newer ones that come along.
Just as a journey starts with a purpose, a destination and a plan, content requires a roadmap… a strategy. And yet so many brands, seduced by the mantra ‘content is king’, set out with the intention to focus on social media or to build a ‘digital only’ approach rather developing a sound strategy first. Which is a bit like saying ‘I want to go by boat’, except you need to get to Uluru. A tactical-first approach is destined for failure. Tactics should never usurp strategy.
Filling social media feeds with content several times a day, maintaining blogs and firing off eDMs all just to fill space, must never be an end goal in itself. Without a sound strategy and purpose, the desire of brands to create content just ends up creating clutter. Get the strategy right and the tactical often takes care of itself.
You’ve got to know where you’re going before you can decide how to get there.