Best Digital Strategy

Episode 28: The Best Digital Strategy – The Case For Simplicity

“One day I will find the right words, and they will be simple”. Jack Kerouac wrote that in The Dharma Bums, and it defines the element that sits at the core of the best digital strategy.


We live and work in a world of sometimes overwhelming complexity. Complexity breeds ignorance. Complexity begets paralysis. Complexity leads to confusion. It is within this confusion that the charlatans thrive. And it is these charlatans that make our work harder.

Where does this complexity come from? It’s the nature of the media. Think about the things we deal with as digital marketers that didn’t exist a couple of years ago. DSPs. DMPs. Cross device tracking. Multi-touch attribution. Programmatic buying. This incredible rate of change, fed by a voracious, well funded and deeply innovative ad tech industry has spawned functions and careers that have led to unprecedented opportunity for many, but invariably confusion to those that hold the budgets, make the decisions, and determine the direction of marketing initiatives.

What’s been the result of this confusion? In the best cases, we have seen campaigns undertaken in a haphazard, disjointed way that undermines the brand message, the ability to achieve objectives, and most important of all, a lack of relevance and often coherence for the consumer. In the worst cases we see paralysis by senior leadership, with the perspective being that since they don’t understand the space, doing nothing carries less risk than doing something badly. This is how brands with a long heritage suddenly find themselves caught flat-footed by digital native competitors.

But it’s not just the fault of senior brand leaders. Agencies are complicit in this confusion. The traditional agencies, fighting to keep budgets in tired old media are only too happy to tell their clients that the digital environment is too messy and risky for them to use. Digital practitioners speak in condescending jargon, frustrated at their lack of traction and bemoaning clients’ inability to understand them, forgetting all the while that it is their responsibility to translate the bits and bytes into dollars and cents.

But this is benign compared to the way others are taking advantage of this confusion, from major agency conglomerates pocketing undisclosed commissions from media companies, through to the army of shady SEO providers that promise to rocket you to the top of Google for the low, low price of $99 per month.

Confusion holds us back and diminishes our effectiveness. And the antidote to all this is simplicity. This is the key to developing the best digital strategy. But simplifying this environment is not in itself a simple task. And that is where digital strategists show their value. This is the key role of the digital strategist, to understand the business, including objectives, stakeholders, expectations and the definition of success; and to understand the combination of digital tactics, that together align into the best possible digital strategy for the situation at hand, a result of direct first hand experience managing campaigns and initiatives. This knowledge is critical since it is only through a deep understanding of digital media that we can make complex ideas simple.

And that should be a clue to any client as to whether or not you have the right partner. Does your digital strategist have the ability to explain complex ideas in simple terms? If not, are they trying to hide their ignorance, or perhaps something else. Either way, are you likely to get the best digital strategy out of them?

Next week on octopus, we will continue to explore the role of the digital strategist. Please be sure to comment below. I’d love to hear from you. Please subscribe for alerts about new episodes and content. Thank you for listening to octopus. I’m Nasser Sahlool.

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