Editor’s Letter: Present Proofing Our Changing World

Our final Digital Transformation Playbook looks to the future

Customers' experiences and journeys have to be charted and supported rather than measured and interrupted. Sources: Getty Images
Headshot of James Cooper

This is our last Digital Transformation Playbook. For the past 12 months, in a close and unique partnership with Accenture Interactive, we have covered a wide span of topics and themes confronting—often vexing—and inspiring brand marketers stepping into the future. So, it’s apt that this last edition focus on what’s ahead and the futurists who believe that they know what’s out there.

The one key learning that the Adweek and AI partnership has made abundantly clear is the need to give in to the fact that the customer is now in charge. Their experiences and journeys have to be charted and supported rather than measured and interrupted. The customer is always right—the golden rule of a client-based economy. But in the future, the customer will not only be right but also virtual. Servicing her needs across an on-demand, omnichannel reality will be impossible with traditional marketing forms. It’s time to look to the future to save ourselves—from ourselves.

Part of that might be simply pulling back from the digital media maelstrom we find ourselves pointlessly shouting into. In her wonderfully written column, AI managing director and Fjord central regional director Tanarra Schneider suggests that silence is an underutilized asset for brands to tap in their attempts to form meaningful connections with hyper-connected consumers likely craving calm, not more chaos.

“Quieting down, listening and genuinely considering the needs and well-being of customers is the new path to loyalty, Schneider writes. “Asking, ‘Should we say anything in this moment?’ might be more powerful than assumptive communications and content planning without considering whether we have a right to be heard or speak in the current climate.”

Adweek technology editor Josh Sternberg interviews Tom Goodwin, ZenithMedia’s head of innovation, about the near-term future of the nearing—some might say looming—2019. Trend for the new year he sees as important? “I’m really excited about how advertising can make our lives easier, how it can allow me to buy things directly from ads,” Goodwin tells Sternberg. His opinion of futurists? “Someone who speaks at conferences as a dramatic entertainer with no concept of humankind and change in context. They exist to intrigue rather than be helpful.”

And in the last of what has been a long string of stellar analysis, Adweek contributor Dan Tynan explores data-informed insight as a crystal ball for brands of all types.

Future proof is a buzzword that I’m actually kinda fond of in an oxymoronic way. It’s aspirational, active (hey, let’s try this!), positive and forward leaning. But it’s also terrifying, because ultimately it’s unattainable. With data and advanced analytics, we can guess what’s coming and maybe get close, but we won’t really know until we get to when the future becomes the present and we have to look always forward again with curiosity and with hope.

“My job is not to predict the future. It’s to prevent strategic surprise and open people’s minds to a broader range of possibilities,” Tynan quotes Sheryl Connelly, Ford’s manager of global consumer trends and futuring.

The real proof will always be in the future, which will always be tantalizingly out of reach. It’s why we get out of bed every morning, right? The Digital Transformation Playbook was ultimately an attempt to present proof our changing world so we can be as nimble as possible when the inevitable disruptions hit and, to Connelly’s point, pivot to transformation as quickly and fluidly as possible when it does.

I hope you found these editions as insightful and useful as we did.

We’ll see you in the future.

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This story first appeared in the December 3, 2018, issue of Adweek magazine. Click here to subscribe.

@jcoopernyc james.cooper@adweek.com James Cooper is editorial director of Adweek.