The digital landscape continues to grow, recovery from the pandemic continues unevenly around the world and local regulations are always in flux. It’s a uniquely challenging time for global brands as they aim to build connected and consistent experiences to show up for audiences more effectively.
But those brands may seek inspiration in what Wesley ter Haar calls “digital’s second reawakening,” a movement in which brands have shirked conventional storytelling methods to instead offer bespoke, personalized journeys to consumers across the digital ecosystem—ones that are measurable and drive better business impact. And as we enter a new era of digital, a new approach to partnership is needed to help global brands meet the needs of consumers around the world.
What Is Digital’s Second Reawakening?
The earlier days of digital—ter Haar calls them the “age of the microsite”—were blessed with a kind of renaissance of creative experimentation and fun. While the work was flashy and exciting, there was a catch: no one really understood how well they moved the needle, if at all. “Creators focused on things like storytelling and story doing, and then put that narrative on digital channels to create some form of consumer experience,” he said in a SoDA Series Live interview, hosted by the Society of Digital Agencies (SoDA) and Adobe. “But at that time, we didn’t have any meaningful way to show value against that.”
So, what’s changed? Ter Haar notes that those who have managed to connect insights with creative experiences across the customer journey are better equipped to meet their audiences’ multifaceted needs—and drive impact. “The easiest path we’ve seen for clients is the moment they have a good understanding at the data level of what their work is doing, where it’s going and how it’s impacting,” he says.
It opens up the next level where we can actually start experimenting with our messaging and content, and we can start seeing what the difference is between one message and 1,000 messages.
Connecting the Dots in the User Experience
Many global brands have turned to decentralization to solve for challenges like geopolitical pressure, representing local consumers’ values and adapting to local regulations. When done successfully, this strategy makes businesses more agile in the ways they show up for audiences around the world. But if handled clumsily, decentralization can backfire and result in inconsistent user experiences and siloed data.
This has given rise to multilocal firms: businesses whose work streams strike a balance between tech-powered efficiencies on a global level and creative autonomy on the local level. Giving more ownership to teams closest to the audience enables more relevant creative touchpoints and activations, with global guardrails ensuring consistency. These guardrails include things like a building global budget, connecting insights through a data spine or unifying the customer experience on a common tech platform.
We took the latter approach by partnering with ATCO, a global business whose vast portfolio of services includes logistics, utilities, energy infrastructure and much more. Throughout the pandemic, the remote working trend has accelerated ATCO’s desire to transform by decentralizing its properties and putting them under the control of specialized business units. But each unit caters to a different audience and need, raising challenges in unifying the customer experience across them.
After surveying both the business’s consumer-facing platforms and the back-end, including page navigation, content authoring and form data, we worked directly with ATCO’s robust internal team to roadmap how they could get the most out of Adobe Experience Manager (AEM). With AEM in place as a common platform used across the brand, ATCO now offers a more consistent experience and is set up to better understand audiences as they navigate throughout its ecosystem. This in turn creates more opportunities to drive higher engagement.
ATCO has focused on a nontraditional approach to enhance the customer experience across our brand portfolio. In placing more ownership into the hands of the teams closest to their customers, the firm has streamlined its efforts to activate audiences through a unique combination of data insights and creativity—and are staying one step ahead as new user behaviors emerge and digital’s second reawakening gains ground.
Most brands are in a similar situation where business transformation is concerned: they’re operating against an unknown.
Futureproof by Blending Analytics and Creativity
Connecting teams and experiences is crucial to driving relevance and personalized paths. But it’s made increasingly challenging with a rapidly expanding digital ecosystem, and the messy “frankenstack” of adtech tools brands have built to manage it. To truly set oneself up for success, a business transformation strategy must be built around futureproofing and maintaining the flexibility needed to build one-to-one, lasting relationships across the evolving customer lifecycle.
As brands adapt to a post-cookie landscape, they must offer compelling creative media moments that convince people to part with their data in a fair value exchange. To this end, our strategy is built around a solid framework that connects data, creative, production and technology to enable insights and optimization at every step of the creative process.
“The goal is to deeply understand what type of creative and messaging is influencing the performance,” says ter Haar. “Is there a reason behind this performance that can actually provide some type of understanding of what resonates with our consumers in that channel? That’s where everything we’re doing is moving.”
Digital’s second reawakening will benefit the brands who are best set up to drive impact by blending data and creativity at every touchpoint. As global brands decentralize to become more flexible and relevant to audiences online, unifying the customer experience will serve as a useful first step, helping brands combine insights to show up more effectively—and forecast where the brand should head next.
Make our digital heart beat faster
Get our newsletter with inspiration on the latest trends, projects and much more.