The “digital” transformation is a mistake

by bold-lichterman

It is decided I stop !!! I stop saying on my Linkedin profile, in my presentation of my services, that I support brands in their “digital” transformation. This is a mistake and I will explain why.

There is a deep misunderstanding between consumers and brands.
However, the terminology “digital transformation” is not neutral in this issue and can be dangerous because it naturally leads to bad strategic choices. I had the opportunity to talk about it last week, but in reality, it is much more a new societal paradigm in which digital plays a role than a digital transformation per se.

The term “Digital” implies focusing on technologies

digital transformation

When we approach digital, very quickly we talk about technologies and innovations or even feats. We do digital as we do fireworks, we try to make a big “boom” and a lot of light but very often there is only smoke left. And we see it everywhere every day in all sectors. Few of the campaigns can anchor the brand in the minds of consumers today.

The vast majority of marketers tick boxes (virtual reality, Artificial Intelligence, mobile, connected products, Snapchat and yesterday Instagram, Twitter, Facebook … the forums) but without really understanding why they do it except to reassure the management committee, try to communicate “where lies the target ‘or to win prizes.

Believe that digital is a magic wand which will make you (tick the wrong answer) cool, modern, more profitable … is a serious mistake of understanding. Yes digital is inevitable but not so much because the technologies have to be adopted as because the world has changed.

The risk is obviously to do “digital washing”. From innovation to innovation. Without really caring in fine of the primary goal, ie to provide service to consumers in a transformed world.

The reality is that technological transformation is a tool at the service of a greater transformation of society. So everyone has their own little sentence: “Snapchat is the future of the press”, “virtual reality is the future of content”, “we are going to hack marketing” … Loic Prigent makes us laugh on the pearls distilled in the world of fashion but I think we could laugh by taking the sentences of certain people also in marketing (I must be myself the author of several of them) …
Consumers have changed, they have changed uses, expectations, understanding of the world and more specifically of marketing.

A societal transformation through the use of digital


It is true that when you see this kind of image, it is logical to think that it is necessary to rush into the mobile. I’m not saying the opposite, but what is at stake is much deeper than the simple use of technology. What is hidden under this “technological” revolution is a change of paradigm.

To tackle the problem through technology is, somewhere, to be wrong in the fight. It is a fact that consumers use digital technologies (mobile, social networks, etc.) but this hides major developments.

Let’s take 4 that seem major to me:

1. The more balanced consumer / brand relationship

After 50 years of mass media marketing, consumers have learned the workings of marketing, understand it much better, and are critical. Digital technology allows them to completely change the relationship they have with brands because they can search online, compare, find less, discuss with other consumers, organize themselves, question brands, etc.

They are informed in real time and can play against power with the brands who fear a “bad buzz”. They want some form of transparency now and armed with a phone and a connection, nothing can stop them. It is this new relationship to which brands must adapt even google (although the controversy is moot).

2. Consumers stronger together

Digital has enabled consumers to find solutions together, it has streamlined reports, advice…. We can easily find how to do whatever we want ourselves, the DIY trend is no longer to be demonstrated for example.

But more than that, what we call collaborative economy (I linked my slideshare on the subject) allowed consumers to do without brands. Blockchain is also part of this same logic but by calling into question, this time, the institutions.

3. A leveling of tastes and opinions

Thomas Friedman from New York Times said it a few years ago in his book “The world is flat”. Recently, un really relevant post highlighted how there was no longer any difference in interior design between Germany, Korea, the United States or others. In question, Airbnb, Pinterest or even Instagram which distils images which are “global” and dictate to the world how to decorate its interior.

This can obviously be extended on the opinions on different subjects all the more with the “Filter bubble” that Eli Parizer criticized a few years ago and which has found resonance in Facebook’s Edgerank and wherever algorithms do their work. This is also what underlined this article from the world. (although the controversy is moot).

4. Expectations that have changed significantly

The “Gen Z” in particular no longer interested in possession but in enjoyment at a given time and the experience that a product can give them. A definitively service-oriented dimension that brands must now integrate into their offers. They also expect more socially committed and responsible brands and expect a form of transparency as offered by brands like Everlane, Made, Jimmy Fairly or jeans with DSTLD.

They also feel citizens of the world and digital has helped to remove these barriers which have become more or less obsolete, which implies international service expectations. What is interesting is that this transformation of expectations has greatly accelerated and the integration of technological innovations by consumers as well.

Therefore, it is all the more difficult for brands to stay in the race. Our professions have come back to life and we need to set up a permanent updating system for the teams from now on.

A need for transformation, of course, but …

It is obviously not a question of chasing after the last technological shooting star but rather of agreeing internally at all levels of the company on a common vision of the company and the brand and to integrate digital as we would put oil in an engine to fluidify the internal as the external.

To acculturate above all else. Without breaking the silos (it’s illusory), to allow (in reality to force) the services to work together, such as for example IT and marketing. And finally to innovate by applying a lean method, that is to say to try and adjust as you go.

So work differently. These are the issues that companies must face and they go deeper than a simple update of the tools used. In fine, it is not a question of integrating digital but of integrating the digitalized consumer.

gregory-pouyGregory Pouy is the founder of LaMercatique, a digital transformation consulting firm focused on the marketing part. Based between New York and Paris, he is a marketing “expert” for To follow his writings and discuss with him:

His blog:

His account on Twitter: @gregfromparis

Photo credit: Fotolia, royalty-free stock images, vectors and videos