“If you can transform your business to be relevant in a world that is entirely digital, then you have a future. If you don’t, you go the way so many companies who people thought were invincible do… where’s Kodak? Where’s Nokia?” asked Publicis Sapient global CEO Nigel Vaz.
He continued: “A company like Kodak could have said: ‘Hey, we’re going to build Instagram, or we’re going to host all your photos in the Cloud.'”
Yet as we know, they didn’t. And so they were ultimately left trailing behind.
Then, of course, there are businesses who have navigated this brilliantly well, like Netflix.
Vaz said: “They were a mail-order DVD business. And they disrupted Blockbuster. They thought: what if you put the DVD in the mail? And then they disrupted themselves to move from mail order to streaming the videos themselves, and then they disrupted themselves again to produce content.”
The point? Disruption is going to happen to your business. And, if you don’t prepare, you’ll be the next Kodak, Nokia, Blockbuster or one of the countless other brands that ultimately failed to digitally transform itself and therefore failed to succeed in business.
“Digital transformation is the ability to get on a grip on [the inevitability of disruption], and then do something about it,” said Vaz.
According to Vaz, Publicis Sapient pioneered the first generation of digital business transformation 30 years ago, just when companies were grasping the internet.
Fast forward to digital transformation today and Vaz said it’s almost like “generation three” where it went from building internet-enabled businesses, to now “building businesses that are fundamentally reimagining everything you can think of in the context of digital.”
How can businesses prepare for disruption? Vaz said one of the most important aspects of digital transformation is creating value and experience for the customer, with a big focusing on engineering.
“If you are not able to engineer technology that is complex, you can never deliver on the experience, and therefore you can never create the value for the customer.”
He also believes traditionally, businesses “straight-jacketed” people into doing things only one way. What digital enables businesses to do is to allow consumers to engage with them in the ways the consumer want. Take online banking for example.
“Online banking is the result of humans taking something that is perfectly natural and saying, ‘hey, I want to bank my money, but I want to do it from home.’ That to me is the power of what digital is enabling. Traditional ways have always been quite rigid because there was a very specific way that companies wanted customers to deal with them. And oftentimes, I think it represented their dysfunction, as opposed to their focus on the customer.”
On the brand of the future, Vaz said it’s less about brands saying something, and more about brands you can experience. He said the brands we will remember are the ones that do, rather than just say.
“I think one of the biggest challenges we have with brands today is as people we’re seeing brand proliferation everywhere, and thousands of brands are trying to get our attention. The ones that actually stick in our minds more and more will be brands that simply don’t tell us how amazing they are, but allow us to experience how amazing they are and actually make you believe they’re amazing.”
Vaz looked to Apple as an example.
“If you think about Apple commercials, they don’t really tell you much, because everyone knows Apple. So their ads are actually product demos because they’re like, ‘look, if you try this product, you’ll understand why people love our phone. It’s not because we make great ads’.”
Vaz also believes if a brand is to be successful, it needs to have a purpose, yet shouldn’t forget they are not a charity or a government organisation.
“Ultimately, [brands] have a commercial interest. So I think if a company ever got confused about that, I think that would be a problem. Where you suddenly try to be entirely about social good.
“But I also don’t think that today’s consumers will forgive a brand that is solely focused on its interest or to the detriment of society or the world at large,” said Vaz.
Brands need to have a very clear head about what it is that they’re trying to sell, but also make sure that what they’re selling isn’t necessarily going to create a negative impact for the other things that people care about, like the environment or social responsibility.
“If you can create a balance between those two things, I think you have a winning formula,” he concluded.