I was speaking to a colleague at an agency in Chicago about digital strategy because, well, because I’m just so cool and transatlantic and stuff. I said, “Dude!” a lot.
He called me, “Buddy” (even though my name is Scot…) and we generally pretended we were speaking the same language for a while. We were comparing notes on the B2B brand and digital developments in our respective geographic markets and there was a comforting degree of similarity in attitudes and beliefs considering they’re, well, you know, American for a start.
There has undoubtedly been a huge level of interest in digital development within the B2B space in the last couple of years on both sides of the Atlantic, but we seemed to experience the interest in different ways.
In Chicago and across the US according to my friend, the B2B market has been slow to change and reluctant to adopt new channels or platforms of communication. Nevertheless, the market was steadily growing, coming to terms with a digital future and becoming more focussed on digital strategies. He wondered whether his positioning of offering Integrated Branding services carried sufficient digital emphasis.
I explained how the B2B market in the UK was a little different in its intransigence. There had been a veritable frenzy of early interest before reverting to type and doing very little to adopt digital and social marketing practices. ‘Mmmm… interesting…’, is about as close to the digital revolution as the majority of the B2B market is prepared to venture in the short-term. Having said that, the outcome over here has broadly been the same as in the US – a steady growth but limited adoption of innovative digital strategies.
I made the point that ‘Integrated Branding’ is actually a very strong position in a market sector that is notoriously slow to change. The ability to develop and interpret brand strategy and apply it across traditional and digital channels is certainly closer to the expectation and comfort zone of the market than, say for example, ‘Digital Revolutionary’.
There is still an abundance of indecision and inertia as B2B marketers weigh the risks of following their experience in traditional communications against the potential rewards of following their audience into digital and social spaces. The market will change. It’s inevitable, because the audience has already shifted. But by the time B2B is fully committed, the brand building opportunity may be lost. Have you noticed how, already, we’re no longer calling digital developments ‘new media’?
New technology holds no competitive advantage if it’s no longer ‘new’ by the time you get around to incorporating it into your marketing plan. It’s just ‘technology’. Everyone has technology. The opportunity to be ‘first’ or ‘better’ or ‘innovative’ or ‘different’ is lost every time you say, “Let’s wait and see. Maybe next time…” The result of a conservative digital adoption policy is undoubtedly low risk. It’s safer not to experiment than to hang your ass too far out of the window, but it’s also a tragic waste of opportunity. The science of the practical triumphs over the art of the possible. Again. You may not have noticed the gap widening between the traditional and social B2B brands yet. But you will. Mind the gap.