POINT OF view

The Center is Everywhere: Behold the Digital Tribe
By Laura McFarlane, VP Strategy, Sapient Interactive
There is no centralized location in the digital world. Increasingly, digital content spans platforms and devices seamlessly connecting users with information and with each other. In doing so it democratizes and levels the traditional playing field for the persistently connected audience becoming a global platform capable of providing ubiquitous access to content and experiences. For brands, it represents a new priority, influencing the digital tribe. The concept of neighborhood has evolved to include digital communities comprised of formal and informal social networks where people connect and gather around common interests, behaviors, passions and attitudes. In these networks, consumers increasingly turn to each other for information, advice and opinions trusting their peers more than advertising or formal brand-driven communications. For the digitally connected, how you behave, what you know and who you know in the digital space may define you. For many, information is social currency, sharing is the best way to gain experience, and letting others in on the moment boosts satisfaction while raising your social kudos and driving your community influence. For brands, there’s little doubt that consumers have actively assumed roles as audience, producer, director, distributor and critic and what they are left with is one question: “What’s our role now?” Stand back and empower the audience to do what they want. A product’s success or failure can be determined in moments by the digital tribe so rather than trying to exert control brands should facilitate desirable audience behavior; enabling sharing, encouraging co-creation, and leaving space for the consumer in the message become important brand behaviors. The more people shape or ‘co-create’ with the brand, the greater their sense of ownership and the more likely they are to redefine their relationship with the brand and share it with others. For brands to be embraced they need to take an active role in providing value and benefits to their audiences. When they do, the rewards can be great.

© Sapient Corporation, 01.2010

POINT OF view

To connect with their consumers, brands must engage in the digital spaces where their audiences live and play. Understanding more about the consumer and context allows brands to appropriately connect with consumers at the right time and place. Brands should sprinkle experiences and ‘discoverable’ nuggets across the digital landscape, like dropping pebbles into a pond and measuring the ripples. Marketers today have access to technologies that allow them to map out digital ecosystems around topics and communities. By monitoring and measuring conversations and behaviors it’s possible to identify their location, the sentiment around topics, the behaviors arising and the authors and their influence. Today’s tools can help map out the ecosystem and identify and measure the strength and reach of influencers. They also allow brands to keep a finger on the pulse, gain an understanding of the ebb and flow of communication, understand the impact of marketing initiatives and competitor activities and identify roadblocks, successes and failures and critical centers of influence. In digital worlds consumers define the brand relationship and by extracting their own meaning and value determine contexts and venues in which brands can authentically reside. Understanding this landscape and adjusting brands’ traditional behaviors becomes increasingly critical to driving success and sales. Ultimately the rules for brand are: • Step back and let go • Celebrate and respect the consumer • Encourage co-creation • Facilitate connection • Be open and honest • Listen and learn • Experiment • Activate and engage only where it makes sense • Understand the relation between content and context • Entertain

Do you have a Digital Tribe? It’s time to take a look.

Laura began her career in London in 1988 at the DMB&B group. In 1994 she went on to establish and grow Europe’s first agency, in-house, interactive marketing offering. After holding several key roles, including one as strategic consultant for Publicis’ CEO Maurice Levy, she started her own marketing consultancy. In 2003, Laura was appointed global digital lead at Microsoft, and spent the next three years in Seattle establishing and running the global digital strategy and practice. As VP of marketing strategy for Sapient, she is responsible for developing and leading our global strategy practice.

© Sapient Corporation, 01.2010

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