Digital Marketing Culture: How to Recognize It, Cultivate It

January 21, 2015 | Lorraine Stewart

And now we welcome the New Year, full of things that have never been.

– Rainer Maria Rilke, German Poet

The inherent attraction of anything new is the sense of expansive possibility it affords us; the way a new color refreshes an old room or a new diet inspires us to think we can actually drop old habits. Despite our best intentions, the broader environment we operate in either serves to encourage the possibility or squelch it.

As marketers move into the new year many have a heightened sense of possibility focused on continuously improving the customer experience; this view is informed by ever-expanding digital capabilities. Customer-centricity can be especially grueling for large, complex and technology-challenged organizations. For some, this goal is a mandate born of a competitive pressure to not be left behind.

B2Bs and B2C marketers can accelerate digital evolution and prepare their organizations for transformative success by conditioning their cultures.

Sign Posts for the Journey

Digitally-sophisticated marketing cultures recognize and reward core values that support continual adaptation and change. The hallmarks of digital cultural values are as follows:

Simplicity of concept and process – New anything dies quickly in highly complex organizational cultures and systems. While execution of an innovative marketing idea may require technical skill sets, the beauty of a strong concept that resonates with consumers also illuminates an organization as instantly as turning on a light bulb; clarity accelerates organizational understanding and in doing so, builds the necessary consensus and support. All organizations rally around good ideas that are easy to understand; digitally-savvy cultures unburden themselves from the common and convoluted processes of moving all mediocre ideas forward, as if the work effort was an end onto itself. They light lots of light bulbs. They land on good ideas, test, and refine them as a way of working towards the ideas of highest value, those that promise to burn the brightest.

Creativity – the digital, mobile, and social expression of brand ideas will continue to require high quality and original content. It stands to reason that creativity, defined by traditional psychology as inclusive of two parts, originality and functionality, will continue to be in great demand. An organizational culture produces a meaningful impact on its creativity because it operates with a set of shared assumptions that are reinforced in part by its leaders, informally and formally. Environmental factors such as freedomsupport and positive challenges play a key role in fostering creativity within a culture, according to Psychologist Teresa Amabile, PhD, of Harvard University. In organizational cultures that allow for both imaginative thinking and active listening, current employees and customers are wellsprings of better ideas.

Dissident POVs – Insights from the Adobe/Econsultancy 2014 Digital Trends Briefing, based on a survey of more than 2500 marketers, reports that this year consumer expectations will outpace corporate innovations. Innovation can be applied to concepts, apps, products and services but also to insights and experiences; Companies that over emphasize consensus-building and collaboration risk creating sluggish cultures of like-mindedness, to their detriment. Agile learning organizations and organizations that recognize not all conflict needs to be resolved, or reduced to a common view, will yield more expansive thinking, richer insights and substantive work product. Diversity and freedom of expression are core values that contribute to broad, divergent thinking.

Authenticity – As more companies seize the potential to create high-quality and original content for their marketing, it becomes important for both B2B and B2C marketers and their agencies to offer a distinct and original voice amidst the noise. Social and digital media will be tasked to target, personalize, engage and convert users. The integration of offline and online marketing for a seamless and transparent customer experience that comes from one voice and of one heart will, at the end of the day need to remain one thing – trustworthy. The producers of such marketing messages generally operate within cultures that appreciate authenticity inside and outside their organizations.

Intentionality – Digital cultures strike a balance between being simultaneously flexible and deliberate. A sense of purpose informs work efforts. Leaders within these organizations still work from strategic plans and with budgetary constraints, respectful of the reality, complexity and expense a company must make to become customer-centric; not just in marketing, but with product design, customer service, within distribution channels and across the infrastructure that supports the effort. Intentional leaders articulate the impact of being customer-centric on revenue and costs with high degrees of credibility. They also orbit within a culture that values agility within its limits.

Marketing leaders with high levels of cultural awareness are the catalyst for things that did not exist before, and for innovation yet to come.