My last Q&A article focused on the merits of disruption and innovation with an end-user focus, so I'd be lying if I told you I believed it's OK to sit back and react based on what's happening around you. Brands that act as laggards tend to get caught in a cyclical game of catch-up which rarely pays off in the long-term. While it's advisable not to jump onto whatever cool new technology comes floating about (note that I recommended that brands not act too fast to develop apps for the Apple Watch), there's an important balance to be struck by digital marketers. Take those brands that wholly embraced advertising on Instagram when it launched last year; they took note of what was on offer, realised it was a valuable channel to their audience and ensured that they built relevant and striking campaigns, which paid dividends. The key here is to pay attention to what's happening in digital and constantly scrutinise what you're doing, particularly in terms of how and who you communicate with.
We conducted some research last year looking into the rise of the over 50's demographic and its importance online, despite common misconceptions that this age group is made up of luddites who can't switch on a laptop. What was interesting was how those retailers who were targeting the all-important 'digiboomer' market had carved themselves a very unique position in terms of creating communications which were relevant and spoke to their audience effectively (whereas most retailers have put a strong focus on millennials as it's a basic assumption they're the most important market to capture).
Know what's right for your brand and invest in that area
I think many brands are struggling to keep up with what's happening around them because they can't help but listen to what competitors or other leading brands are doing. There's a fear of missing out sometimes, so you just jump on the bandwagon - but the error here is that those brands aren't being nimble. It's fine to try new things, but you need to undertake lots of small tests and consider whether the results are enough to go ahead with further investment, not dip your fingers into all the honey pots you can find and think you've done your job.
A good place to start is by just getting the basics right. Considering that only two thirds of businesses have fully optimised their websites to be mobile friendly, it's quite a wake-up call for marketers to note how long it's taking for the industry to keep up with vital criteria. Furthermore, not being mobile-friendly will get you punished from an SEO standpoint, so in essence there's no good excuse not to optimise your site or app for mobile.
Alongside the basics, you need to build up based on what your audience's needs are - this will impact your overall digital strategy completely as there's no point in looking at anything that won't drive value for your business.
You have to reflect on the fact that trends are often centred around the popularity of a platform (MySpace, Facebook, Instagram) so what you're actually saying on these platforms, whichever platform, is still the most important thing. As Steven Adler (the Guns N' Roses drummer) quipped, "don't try to follow any trends, just concentrate on writing great songs and knowing your instrument. All the other stuff will fall into place".
My recommendation to marketers today is to be active in keeping up to speed with what's happening in the industry - be that through alerts, feeds, blogs - so as to be aware of the latest news and updates which could add to your digital offering. This knowledge allows you to evaluate what's viable and what's not for your brand, enabling you to focus capabilities where they matter the most for all the right reasons. What's important is not just to follow the herd, as you'll get lost amongst all the noise; things move fast in digital, but don't let that lead you to irrational decisions!