• Brand must lead digital transformation

    1. Camilla Tenn
    2. Communications Strategist

Digital transformation changes how companies do business, but brand determines the why

Humanity is shifting toward an increasingly digital-led existence. This mega-trend emerged long before the COVID-19 pandemic, and will certainly outlast it. With the accelerating pace of technological change, the very nature of our everyday lives will continue transforming drastically. 

Taiwanese brands cannot ignore this global shift, which has long been underway. Local companies, both B2B and B2C, are realizing that if they cannot provide the seamless online-to-offline experiences expected today, there are plenty of overseas competitors ready to step in.

It’s no wonder, then, that digital transformation — that big, vague term — has been a favored buzzword in the business world for some time already. Yet, in many companies, “digital transformation” never makes it past buzzword status to become a meaningful strategy for change. The idea sounds grand, but have the key decision makers sat down to decide what to digitally transform, how to do it, and most importantly, why?

This is where the role of brand becomes critical to a fully fleshed out digital transformation strategy, complete with coherent goals and meaningful upgrades in the client or customer experience. Brand isn’t only relevant when the graphic designers get involved. Brand should determine the very nature of the digital transformation sought.

What Is Digital Transformation?

Digital transformation generally refers to the fundamental reassessment of how a company does business, by leveraging opportunities created by new technologies. Think how centuries-old banking groups that used to run on pen and paper now offer smartphone banking apps. Or think how Industry 4.0 is revolutionizing manufacturing, with automation and remote monitoring significantly increasing efficiency and worker safety. 

While digital transformation is quickly changing how companies do business, it is a company’s brand strategy that determines the why. Solid brand strategy guides a business through the potential chaos of rapid changes in its offering, channel strategy, or even a shift in business model, without losing focus or direction. As such, it is brand that should lead digital transformation, and never the other way around.

Start by Asking the Right Questions

When brand leads a company’s digital transformation process, there’s a far higher chance the team’s mindset and efforts will be more effectively focused. Imagine spending significant time and resources on developing an all-new e-commerce app, only to realize that none of your clients use it, because they order via resellers anyway. 

Instead of diving straight into producing tangible deliverables, first ensure there is strong consensus when addressing the following questions. If your company’s brand strategy is solid, the first few should be easy to answer.

1. What does your brand aim to achieve?

2. Who is your target audience?

3. What does your audience expect from your brand? What have you promised them?

4. Are those needs or expectations changing? Have emerging technologies affected your ability to deliver on your brand promise?

5. How can new technologies help your brand deliver, and even over-deliver, on your promise? 

It’s worth noting that none of these questions ask, “How can you move your client/customer experience entirely online?” For many companies, that might not be the right objective at all. Each company exploring digital transformation needs to ask itself the above questions, and focus on leveraging the appropriate tools to achieve its brand goals. 

The Netflix Example

A standout example is how Netflix transformed from a mail-order DVD service into an online streaming behemoth, all while still essentially offering the same thing — in-home entertainment. The US-based company is Taiwan’s leading subscription-based over-the-top (OTT) provider, and has over 208 million subscribers across 190 countries. 

Let’s take a look at how they would answer those same five questions.

1. What does your brand aim to achieve?
“We want to entertain the world.”

2. Who is your target audience?
Consumers everywhere seeking the latest in-home visual entertainment.

3. What does your audience expect from your brand? What have you promised them?
“Whatever [their] taste, and no matter where [they] live, we give [them] access to best-in-class TV shows, movies and documentaries. Our members control what they want to watch, when they want it, with no ads, in one simple subscription.”

4. Are those needs or expectations changing? Have emerging technologies affected your ability to deliver on your brand promise?
Mail delivery is no longer the fastest delivery method, nor the cheapest. With online streaming, we can give members even more control of what they watch and when. 

5. How can new technologies help your brand deliver, and even over-deliver, on your promise?
Move to instant, online streaming of entertainment content, and speed up the customer’s decision-making process with AI-driven content recommendations.

It seems an obvious transition in retrospect, but these shifts completely disrupted brick-and-mortar video rental stores, movie theaters, and even home television. And Netflix is now also an Academy Award-winning content producer in its own right. Meanwhile, that original brand goal remains the same: “We want to entertain the world.”

In Conclusion

When digital transformation efforts fail, it’s usually due to a lack of direction, often arising from a weak or lack of strategy. If the team doesn’t agree why the company is undertaking a major overhaul of its processes and services, it’s highly unlikely anyone will be able to agree on the how. A solid, effective brand strategy empowers businesses to adapt to new technologies and shifting expectations, by aligning and focusing internal teams on the brand's overall, long-term goals. Digital transformation changes how companies do business, but brand determines the why.