7 questions we never asked about the role of Digital Strategist

Who is a digital strategist?

A question which has bothered me every single day. More so now, because after all these years, my designation finally says “Digital Strategist

Does that mean that I was not doing any digital strategy before?

Wrong! On the contrary, I was more immersed into digital strategy while I was doing hands-on execution. 

Does that mean I’ve stopped looking into execution now?

Wrong again! I am doing a lot more sharper execution now since I’ve got a much broader perspective about digital.

I’ve tried searching many times in the past, here’s what google has to say about “The Role of Digital Strategist”

Who is digital strategist

 

I guess the operative phase in that definition is “create and oversee the execution” of a plan.

However, the real problem Is..

When it comes to digital strategy, there are plenty of problems. Most of them are man made.

In some way, all of us in the business of advertising or communication, are equally responsible for contributing to the master problem.

Most of the brands hire their agencies / digital partners to answer the following question, “How to solve the complex digital marketing ecosystem?”

(Also Read : Gartner Digital Transit Map )

But the real question remain un-answered.

WHAT PROBLEM DO WE WANT DIGITAL TO SOLVE?

And then, there are below questions which are never asked.

Why?

Because nobody bother to ask them.

Why?

Because everybody think nobody knows the answer.

May be they don’t even discuss. They do what they do every time when they don’t know, THEY ASSUME!

 

7 NAQs (Never Asked Questions)

 

Q. Is digital strategist someone who knows everything?

Ans. While startups and agencies are looking for a candidate “straight out of Marvel comic books”, I doubt if that is even possible? If yes, someone please tell me how to find such talent? 

 

Q. Is digital strategist not supposed to execute things?

Ans. That would be disastrous, because in my opinion, no digital strategy can be created without keeping an eye on its execution.

Also read:  How to build digital strategy for execution?

 

Q. At what point someone becomes a digital strategist? 

Ans. Buddha once said: “Everyone has a buddha inside”. In case of digital marketing as well, everyone has a bit of digital strategist inside.

 

Q. In that case, is digital strategist really a skill? 

Ans. That’s a great question, but in order to answer this question, we must first answer “IS STRATEGY A SKILL?” (Read : Difference between skill and strategy). Role of strategy in digital ( and again, that’s just my POV ) is to have a strong aptitude to curate a solution for a marketing problem.

 

Q. Can we quantify the effort a digital strategist? 

Ans. Quantifying the effort of a digital strategist is like quantifying the effort of a “Chief Chef” in the kitchen of a 5-star fine dine.

 

Q. Does the responsibility of a digital strategist gets over after a pitch is won or when the campaign is approved?

Ans. Ideally no, because he/she may not execute the campaign (also depends upon the seniority of the person), a strategist must keep an eye on the campaign / marketing metrics to see if his work is going in the right direction.

 

Q. How can a digital strategist own the end outcome of his strategy, if he/she is not executing things? 

Ans. I personally like the analogy of a “Chief Chef” with Digital Strategist. Most of the times, a chef may not cook himself, but he does something more critical like defining the flavour of the day for his customers, hand-picking the supplies, ensuring quality control and work hygiene in the kitchen and most important, the presentation.

The Conclusion

Strategy vs Execution

I don’t think it is either-or in case of Digital Strategy and Execution.

Depending upon the person’s experience, caliber, organisation requirement and team structure, a digital strategist may or may not be executing or managing the operations.

But, one thing all of us (as digital strategists) must own, is the end outcome of our work.

RIP CMO, viva CDO!

Has digital really killed the role of traditional CMO?

As the adoption of digital media and devices surges, digital is getting pushed towards the ‘most basic need’ in Maslow’s Pyramid.

Digital readiness is now looked upon as the key differentiator and also a success factor for any organisation’s future growth and competitiveness.

This elevates the importance of the chief marketing officer (CMO) as a strategist, a social innovator, and above all, a curator of advisory services and technology.

According to a C-level survey conducted by CMO.com, 76 per cent of CMOs believe that marketing has changed more in the last two years than it did in the last five decades.

Until now, the role of a CMO was leaning towards handling marketing communication and brand management. However, in the last few years, the digital industry’s growth has forced the organisational talent map to re-design the CMO’s role and tilt it more towards technology and data-driven marketing. So much so that companies are now even considering a dedicated Chief Digital Officer to drive this crucial mandate.

To get the maximum ROI from their digital efforts and also stay ahead on the innovation index, the CMO will have to become a ‘jack of all trades’ and wear multiple hats at the same time.

Due to the myriad digital devices, a consumer journey is no longer linear in any industry or type of business.

Technology is successfully delivering the end-user experience across multiple touch points in every purchase journey. As a CMO, keeping a hawk’s eye on the changing technology trends is indeed the new ‘marketing way of life’.

Modern-day data analytics has forced CMOs to stop making any hypothetical assumptions about the marketing process. In fact, CMOs will have to take data science as their biggest ally in marketing warfare. Focus on data insights would allow them to make scientific business decisions at every step of customer engagement.

As a CMO, digital transformation is the new mission critical which is a lot more complex than just running an integrated marketing campaign.

The real transformation journey never ends, and begins a lot earlier than campaign launch. It involves tying up all the loose ends in design, technology and data science, including cross device UI & UX, website SEO strategy for overall brand discoverability, defining audience targeting filters for laying down rules in the programmatic campaign, and so on.

For all this transformation to happen simultaneously, it is vital for any CMO to get their hands dirty with new emerging technologies, devices and marketing tools in order to understand the brand’s core target audience better and recommend any strategic changes from an organisation standpoint.

In the words of Leon C. Megginson:

“It is not the strongest or the most intelligent who will survive but those who can best manage change.”

It would not be an exaggeration to say that the role of a traditional Chief Marketing Officer in its current avatar may go several feet below to the dark soil. Only to be able to resurrect as a digital transformer.

And like brands have to now re-imagine their story and bond with the customer, the CMO too will have to morph quickly and surely into the CDO. And place the epitaph on their past with an RIP.

[The above article was first published in The Hindu Business Line]