Though the digital revolution really began in the early 90’s, we’re just beginning to grasp what’s possible for brands and marketers. Meanwhile, the future of brands, of brand building, of marketing is being invented, right now, every day.
For instance, as I write this post, the digital marketing headlines center around the founders of Snapchat turning down an acquisition offer from Facebook, holding out for a better offer.
It should be noted, they have no revenue.
Snapchat didn’t exist three years ago (and, if you are reading this in 2017, Snapchat may not exist anymore). Yet, some observers agree they may be worth more than the rumored $3 billion dollar Facebook offer.
Has the business world gone crazy, or is it truly possible to invent, design and grow disruptive, innovative businesses that fast?
For those of you not living in the digital space, the pace of change may seem disorienting. But trust me, it will never be slower than it is right now.
Unlocking Innovation: The Next Phase of the Digital Transformation
I’ve been involved in the digital business in one way or another since 1995 when I was teaching classes on “What is the Internet” or “Understanding the World Wide Web”. I’ve done a lot of the jobs required to bring web and mobile experiences to life, from coding and designing to advertising and promoting. I’ve lived through a couple boom and bust cycles.
I’ve seen Web 1.0, Web 2.0 and whatever Web 3.0 was supposed to be. But, based on my experiences, I believe we’re in the early stages of the most important cycle for most businesses: Accelerated innovation through new products and services.
In today’s landscape, smart business leaders see the massive opportunity for innovative products and services that weren’t possible even 5 years ago. Bold, modern marketers are recognizing that there’s never been a better time to build brands through useful, helpful services and content.
These leaders are looking for ways to reinvent, to unlock new ways to grow.
The good news is that in almost every category, I’m seeing examples that should appeal to the soul of modern marketers who recognize growth can come by re-examining all aspects of their business in light of the digital transformation hitting them: their business model, their go-to-market strategy, their consumer communication model, the products, services and content they offer and their brand, overall. Just a few examples of bold innovation I’m seeing.
- GoPro has built an incredible business and brand in a space that should have been owned by Sony, without much paid advertising (marketing model innovation)
- RedBull has become one of the largest providers of action sports programming (media model innovation)
- SpecialK has built and delivered a diet plan around their cereal brand (brand building innovation)
- DollarShaveClub.com is disrupting the men’s grooming business through price, brand and distribution (business model innovation)
Brands Need a Different Kind of Partner to Spark Innovation
To unlock real transformational growth and innovation, smart marketers need partners that aren’t satisfied merely to work on this year’s campaign materials. As a matter of fact, I’m seeing some of the most exciting ideas happening when companies work with smaller, more experimental firms at the front of the change.
Fortunately for marketing leaders, there is a growing number of great firms out there. The marketing service companies that support the brands (i.e. the ad agencies, PR shops, design shops, management consultancies) are going through their own, difficult transformations, too.
As a result, new kinds of firms are emerging, focused on dreaming up new businesses, inventing whole new products or services, or planning out alternative marketing models; Firms that are purpose-built, designed from the ground up to be agile, fast, data driven and iterative.
The agency disruption is leading to the kind of collaborators who help marketers answer that age old strategic question, “what business are you really in?” and then bring those new ideas to life, in market, to drive growth.
These new model, smaller firms are alternatives to legacy agencies which are trying to compete on strengths (scale, global network, heavy investments in “creative”) that aren’t as valuable anymore. And, in many cases, the operating models and cost structures of legacy firms make it almost impossible to move quickly and to work with the best collaborators available across the globe.
An Amazing Time to Build Brands and Businesses
Disruptive innovation is hitting just about every industry. New collaborators arising to help marketers win in a changing landscape. Has there ever been a better time to be in business?
So, marketers, we have a choice: are we going to wait and watch and react when it hits your category? Or are we going to drive the change. I don’t know about you, but I want to be a driver.
My Next Phase: GoKart Labs
I’ve recently left one of America’s great brand building companies (General Mills) to join a company not many know yet. GoKart Labs is a small, stealthy company that builds real businesses and drives remarkable innovation. We build our own businesses (Sophia, Kinly, a couple in the pipeline). We build them with our partners (BringMeTheNews). And, we will use our business building chops to grow yours.
Your ad agency can’t do what GoKart does.
We’re built to invent new products and services, help you find and grow your customer base or help you generate whole new business models. We’re designed for market acceleration, not conference room creative conversations. Then, we’ll help you design, develop and deliver the digital experiences that build your brands. And, finally, our growth hackers can help you find customers through the truly agile marketing we use to grow our businesses.
Now, as I buckle up for this next phase — both mine and the web’s — I couldn’t be more excited. I’m excited to bring what I’ve learned working with some of the best marketers and brands in the world.
I’m excited to learn from the many entrepreneurs and business leaders in and around GoKart Labs. And finally, I’m excited to be part of a crew of collaborators inventing new businesses, products and innovations. I’ve got my foot on the gas and I’m ready to drive.