“It is not the strongest or the most intelligent who will survive but those who can best manage change.”Leon C. Megginson
Darwin’s concept of the survival of the fittest is well known to most people. What’s less well known is how easily and significantly this concept can be applied to the world of marketing and advertising. The marketing world is place of intense, messy competition where the fittest come out on top and the less fit fade into nothingness. This doesn’t sound that different than the wilderness or the untamed competition of nature, does it? First, let’s talk about a few components of Darwinism that can be applied to marketing.
This principle of Darwinism makes itself very important in the competitive world of advertising right from the get-go. The marketing campaigns that are most well-suited for the product environment succeed, while those that are less suited are left in the dust. This competitive pressure is almost identical in function to the process of natural selection that Darwin discussed in The Origin of Species.
Nowadays, advertising, like nature, is a competitive environment where only those with the right combination of skills can sustain themselves and grow into dominance. The others become weaker and fail. Consequently, the phenomenon of competition in the advertisement industry can be considered an analogue to the phenomenon of competition in the natural world.
This comparison might seem less obvious at first, but it’s very intuitive once you think about it for a while. A large part of Darwinism is the concept of genetic mutations, which deceptively occur almost randomly and proceed to give some organisms a competitive advantage in their environment. When a genetic mutation occurs, the organism passes down its new genes, which can be fitter and more capable of the act of survival than the old genes the organism was made up of. This is a major moving force in the whole cycle of natural selection.
Likewise, in the world of branding and marketing, there are small but significant differences in products. They can be a matter of functionality or aesthetics, but these differences are the mutations that will make some brands more suited for survival and success than other brands. Because of this, we can see product differentiation as the industry equivalent of genetic mutations, for they are very similar processes that result in nearly identical effects.
Finally, there are adaptations. In the natural world, it’s sink or swim; you either change yourself to fit your environment or your environment defeats you. This cold reality is what ultimately drives evolution; organisms change because they must change to survive. They simply have no other choice, short of their own extinction!
Just like the natural world, the industry is also an unforgiving place of constant adaptation. Its people must constantly change and reinvent themselves to match up the changing circumstances of their environment, or else the company will undergo turnovers, lose clients, relevance, revenue, and fail. It’s the exact same process, only happening to institutions rather than organisms. Adaptation, just as in the natural world, is what drives change in the industry; there is barely improvement because companies must innovate to survive and then thrive.
“The universe is transformation: life is opinion.”Marcus Aurelius
In the era of massive technological disruption, old ideologies have been thrown out the window. It’s no longer “slow and steady wins the race”, but rather:
- Who can innovate fast enough?
- Who can change the fundamental nature of the industry first?
- Who can and who wants to change their skills set?
- What new miraculous invention can we reach before anyone else?
- How many times again should we change?
Software, technology and a new generation of multidisciplinary people has changed the structure of the industry forever therefore, we live in a transformation era that we can now call Digital Darwinism.
What do companies need to know to properly market their services and keep it alive in this climate?
Big Changes are Necessary
With the new reality of Darwinism, small and incremental changes simply aren’t enough. You can’t just add a relatively new and cool piece of tech to your old product and call it a day; there are no cutting corners here. If you want to adapt to the new industry, you must think in terms of big and permanent changes.
Real innovation is a matter of either inventing or reinventing something in a forceful but defining way. You can’t try to stay safe in the middle of the crowd: You must rush to the front and lead the charge! Ironically, the best way to survive in this industry is to do things that feel less safe. Those who try to keep themselves stable and protected will be the first ones to fall victim to the sweeping tide of innovation. The riddle is, if you haven’t changed yet “is change still an option?”.
Transformation is Key
Digital Darwinism has made transformation the way of success. Like above, radical changes are necessary; what this means is that you can’t just try to rebrand yourself. You should transform yourself! You must become something you weren’t before. Think about it, it’s a process that will take a long time and involved changing many of the things you might have thought fundamental about your industry, agency, and people.
Every product, service and aptitude must be thought over in painstaking detail. You can’t just assume that anything can remain the way it is. In anything, you should be assuming the opposite! Assume that everything you thought you knew could be wrong.
Word of advice…
“If you want to make enemies, try to change something”Woodrow Wilson
How to Make Change Happen
It’s not enough to just think about how to change: You must make it happen. While it’s, of course, necessary and useful to focus on analyzing possible changes, at the end of the day, the difference is going to be how you make those changes a reality. Because of this, your goal should be how to take those changes you’ve perfected in your head and apply them at your agency. It can’t just be about imagining them; it should be about bringing them into the world and staying “ahead of the curve”.
This won’t be an easy thing to do and it will involve a whole lot of trial and error. However, if you believe in self-transformation and changing not just yourself, but the whole industry, you can implement those changes and not only survive, but thrive in the era of Digital Darwinism.
“Extinction is the rule. Survival is the exception.”Carl Sagan
The digital era has become an inescapable reality for businesses. No matter who you are or what industry you operate in, it inevitably happens that one must face the fact that they are part of this new era whether they want to be or not. So, how can you survive knowing all of this? How can you keep your agency/brand alive in this ceaseless torrent of new technology and innovation? Here a few steps to endure the onslaught!
Like it or not, digital culture exists and is with us permanently. It’s not about traditional media and digital media anymore, digital media, is, traditional media. Yup! you can drag your feet and resist it, but that will only result in your own disadvantage. What you have to do now is embrace it and grow up!
The important word to note here is “embrace”. You can’t simply adapt to digital culture and roll with its punches. You must truly live, breathe, and consume it. It has to become an organic part of your agency/brand and what your agency/brand represents. The sooner you accept and learn to love this reality, the sooner you can began to succeed in this ever-changing digital landscape!
Cut the Bullshit
This is something any good business must do regardless, but it is critical in the advertising industry. If you want to succeed and beat out your competitors, you have to be focusing on building the best customer experience possible. Every single question you ask about your business should begin and end with: What will this look like for the customer? and/or What would we like our customer to say about us?
If you’re not doing this, true success is impossible. Your customer or client is the reason that you need to be surviving in the first place, not awards!
Trial and Error
Finding the path to success is extraordinarily unlikely without a few failures along the way. Don’t be too timid to try to experiment and don’t be shaken when some or many of those experiments fail. No one has ever forged a path without encountering some obstacles along the way and your business is not going to be any different!
Once you feel that you’ve perfected a new idea or course, the only way to find out if it will hold up is to test it. Put it into motion and see what happens; if it fails, start the process again!
Finally, you must measure your own progress. There is no real way to determine how well you are responding to the digital age if you aren’t keeping detailed metrics and analyzing everything you can about them. Every single useful metric needs to be monitored; the more vital, the more frequently and intensely you need to be looking about. The important thing to remember this: You can’t just rely on your gut here like traditional (past) creatives, you need to have the data to back it up!
Note, you have two ears and one mouth, adapt or newer mutations will eat you up.
A man who dares to waste one hour of time has not discovered the value of life.Charles Darwin
What many companies don’t understand is that disruption is an inevitable reality. And what even fewer companies understand is that disruption, every now and then, must and should be inflicted ‘dangerously’ on themselves. The only way to transform yourself is to interfere with your current functioning. There can be no progress without first having a little upset and chaos.
“Sometimes, mutation must be forced.”
With that said, here are a few things that companies should keep in mind when it comes to self-disruption.
A Holistic View
The thing you need to understand to begin embracing and investing on self-disruption is the holistic nature of disruption in general. In all of life (and certainly in the digital era), disruption is endless and inevitable. There is no way to escape the destruction of the old ways and the invention of the new; this will always lead to a certain level of disarray. Many companies try to cling to the past in a desperate attempt to avoid commotion, and this only leads to disadvantages and the stifling of their own business advancement.
Since there is no way to truly avoid disruption, the best way to adapt to it is to embrace its inevitability and allow it to affect your business. You must accept the fact that potentially everything could be thrown off course for a short while as you try to figure out what you want your agency/brand to become. This is the first step toward a self-disruptive mindset, to innovate and reinvent yourself in a world of technology.
A Drive to Transform
To thrive in the process of self-disruption, you need a drive, a reason, to transform yourself. You can’t only be doing this because you understand the unavoidable nature of disruption (though that’s also a requirement). You also should want to become an entity of change and chance. If you drag your feet in the cycle of self-disruption, you will never get anywhere!
Only those who have a real, palpable desire to innovate their own brand and transform into the best possible version of their business will survive. Otherwise, they are merely fooling themselves and imagining a transformation that will never be able to happen!
A Forward-Thinking Understanding
Another required component for successful self-disruption is forward-thinking. While wanting to transform yourself, you also must understand how this transformation will fit in the big picture. You can’t think where do I want my brand/agency in five years? You must think: Where do I want my brand/agency next year?
Real transformation can’t be a blind process. It’s crucially important to have a vision in mind when you’re engaging in the process of self-disruption. The big picture view can only come into focus when the long-term goal has been established and when you have your eye on the future.
The past and present are important, but the future is what’s going to guide you in your cycle of transformation and self-invention.
to be continued…