The Digital Planet – Brands Should Prepare for Arrival


I’ve spent some time pouring over Razorfish’s¬†latest study FEED: A Digital Brand Report. In the past they have studied how consumers alter their behavior to adapt to new digital technologies. In this installment they look more closely at how consumers interact with brands online. With each one of these studies I read the stepping stones to the digital age grow larger and come closer together. Here is what I think are the most important findings and insights.

The Emergence of Digital Primacy

We are at a tipping point in how consumers live their daily lives. Digital is becoming first and in many cases the most important channel to consumers. Please fasten your seat belt, we are departing Planet Analog. We will navigating a broad and exciting cosmos to our final destination, Planet Digital. The analog world was safer and more familiar of course. We were cocooned and protected. But man will not be bound. Individual humans are painfully aware of our physiological boundaries (mortality) and limits. But the human race wants more. We gravitate to things that are boundless and infinite. It’s not a surprise we are embracing the digital world. It allows us to topple previously unscalable walls and sets us free to more easily travel and connect.

Digital Fluency is the new Language

Being online was once a privilege reserved for computer scientists. Browser development made it easer for more people, but you had to learn to be a netcitizen. Online was used primarily for communication and getting information. But the digital language continued to evolve and more people could do more things. A big step, but digital was still largely a place for companies that had the funds to invest and develop. The average person’s browsing experience (speed for instance) was better at work than at home. Now we are fully fluent in digital. It’s fast, easy and everywhere. Personal computers and other devices offer a much better experience than the locked down corporate environments. The language of digital adapted to people, and people, especially the young, didn’t have to go to class to learn it.

Digital Consumers / Digital Commerce

These data points are telling indeed. We are beyond a trend here folks. Consumers have landed on a new planet and there is no return space shuttle back to the old place. Will brands follow and set up shop to serve these new colonies?

Has an experience you have had online ever changed your opinion (either positively or negatively) about a brand or the products and services it offers?
Has that experience influenced whether or not you purchased a product or service from a brand?
Have you ever made your first purchase from a brand because of a digital experience (e.g., a web site, microsite, mobile coupon, email)?

If you are a brand you are probably doing things online. Or at least you think you are. You have a web site, send e-mail, add functionality regularly, maybe even dabble in mobile. Great. Now go back through your last three annual expense plans. Do they show yearly increases of funding devoted to digital development and marketing? What’s your Social Media expense line? Do you discuss digital as often as you discuss broad media advertising, direct mail or the call center?

Consumers are making digital their preferred language. If brands don’t learn to speak it and fluently, they will have a very difficult time communicating with their customers. Let me re-phrase. They will lose customers and employees on a steady basis until only a few corporate non-believers are left to perform one last analog act; turn out the lights.

FEED 2009 is available directly from Raorfish here. The illustration style chosen for this report is quite a departure from past editions, and I really didn’t find them very compelling. I Tweeted about that and one of my friends, who works at Razorfish, read that Tweet and immediately sent me good old fashioned hard copy. It’s a perfect bound book in a compact trim size. In my opinion the illustrations work much better in that form factor. Maybe there are still some flickering lights back on Planet Analog.

Charts and Data:  Razorfish FEED 2009. Digital Primacy and Digital Fluency are concepts from FEED.

Globe Image: Social Networking Wiki