2015 is drawing to a close. This has been a fruitful year from a business point of view. From a personal point of view, it has been a very stressful year, with two deadly attacks at the very centre of our City, a stone’s throw from the Visionary Marketing offices. We have no doubt that 2016 will be another fruitful year from a business point of view and we hope it will also be more joyful and positive. Our Season’s Greetings go to you dear readers. We will be back soon with new content and a brand new white paper on innovation, currently in the making. Merry Christmas to you and a Happy New Year!
Not a long time ago, we’ve all heard about the blogger Sam Cookney who lived in Barcelona and worked in London. This sounded like a weird thing to do. However, a lot of people have that exact same lifestyle today. Indeed, there is an increasing number of digital nomads. If you type these two words on any search engine, a huge list of posts, stories and testimonies will roll out in front of you. As the name suggests, digital nomads are individuals who use technology and telecommunications in order to live and work independently, in a nomadic manner. Let us discover and understand this new phenomenon further.
Digital nomad: a new type of traveller
Technology and telecommunications are at the basis of this new phenomenon. Indeed, the Internet has created a new definition of ‘work’. It has revolutionized the traditional 9-5-job routine. Focusing on one’s career is not an excuse anymore to say no to travelling. Thanks to the huge digital development that happened in the last decade, a growing number of digital nomads are now independent, and are able to work from anywhere. Even teams are successfully leading this lifestyle.
So, in other words, digital nomads are travellers who can work from anywhere in the world. These people are not dependent or constraint to any location, or any cubicle space anymore. Whether it is in an exotic destination like Bali, or a big city like Barcelona, digital nomads found an efficient and productive way to combine work and travel. Is this perfection?
What’s the coolest place to live and work in?
Every now and then, people publish lists of the coolest offices in the world. One could say that digital nomads have the best and the coolest office, which is composed of all the different Read more
‘Content marketing’ is under the spotlight. Blogs and tutorial videos are surging everywhere on the Internet. Some brands are doing it perfectly right: they are telling the right stories to attract and retain new and existing customers. The common belief that ‘Content marketing is a new concept’ is completely wrong. It has existed for ages. The difference is the impressive exposure posts can get today, with a little marketing effort. In this article, content marketing will take us back in time to tell us its story.
The art of content marketing
Content marketing is an art. The art of educating customers, without selling. The brand accompanies the customer in a continuous way, by delivering information, educating them and making them more intelligent. Like every strategy, content marketing has a purpose: enriching customer behaviour in a certain direction, towards a goal. In other words, content marketing is based on a constant delivery of information to customers. In return, the brand wins loyalty and sales.
We live in a highly visual world: a post that includes a picture, a graph, an infographic gets much more exposure than an ‘empty’ post. Consumer are more attracted to visual content than text, and thus interact more with it. So when creating a worthy content, enhancing it with visual element is a golden rule.
A good content must be relevant. The brand should understand what its target audience finds interesting, appropriate and useful. By doing so, it can be referenced by influencers, and gain a multiplied exposure!
Content marketing is not new
As promised, this article will take us back in time.
Some believed John Deere to be the original content marketer. In 1985, he started publishing ‘The Furrow’. This magazine was an educational resource for his customers. In it, one could learn how to become a more fruitful farmer. Back in the 19th century, publishing magazines was the only way to transfer content to consumers. The Furrow had 1.5 million copies in circulation in 40 countries.
Another name we have all heard: Michelin. A few years after the conception of the Furrow, in 1900, the Michelin guide was created. This guide helped drivers maintain their cars and find travel accommodation. In addition to offering advice and content to consumers, this guide helped the tire manufacturer drive sales, by encouraging consumers to drive and wear out their tires.
Content marketing is so powerful it not only drives sales, but also saves companies. Jell-O would not be where it is today without content marketing. In 1904, the plant was on the verge of being sold, before one last strategy was attempted: the distribution of free Jell-O recipe books. This initiative lasted 11 hours and was very effective. By 1906, Jell-O sales were boosted to $1 million.
All in all, content marketing has always existed, and has always had a huge impact on a company or a brand’s performance. It has increased in importance, in power and in exposure.
Wherever we look today, we come across two words: ‘Digital transformation’. In fact, it is a new hot topic, along with big data, and internet of things (IoT). On this blog, we already discussed the digital transformation of different industries. Some might wonder how these businesses reach this digital transformation phenomenon. Well, there are three main ingredients to consider when one digitally transforms a business. Let’s dig deeper into that in this article…
Digital transformation is a major disruption to the way businesses operate. Thus, rethinking 3 different elements: customer experience, operational processes and business models.
Since the explosive spread of social media platforms that happened a few years back, customer experience had to become digitalized. Whether they were planning on it or not, companies place the development and implementation of the digital customer experience, on top of their priority list. Today, customers use different social media platforms to seek information, and share reviews and opinion. According to a Capgemini study, customers can now create a “wave of negative noise in a way that was previously unimaginable”.Digital transformation pushes businesses to use social media to understand Read more
David Shing, also known as Shingy, is a digital prophet. His job is to identify trends for brands, audiences and companies at large. He spoke at the SAS Forum 2015 which took place in Paris on November 5 2015. He delivered a great presentation. Right after the show I had the chance to ask him a few questions..
You are a digital prophet. Could you explain this term to us?
The idea is to look at the trends, to still them down from the industry for brands, for clients, for companies and for the industry itself.
So, you work for AOL. But people probably don’t always know what AOL is about now.
You are absolutely right. They don’t necessarily have to know about the core brand of AOL. They know about services and some of the brands I work with; such as Huffington Post and Engadget. There is some science that we own; people call them ‘love brands’. Within our industry, our job is to bring people to brands and brands to people. AOL Inc. is an organization that classes together all brands that actually deliver these ad solutions. And that is the idea of brands to people, people to brands.
You delivered an amazing and very inspirational pitch this morning, in which you said “technology changes our behaviour; it does not change our needs”. What do you mean by that?
Technology is something you are holding that has changed your behaviour. In fact, I saw a photography piece done recently: an artist who had taken out the divisors to see how people’s behaviours have changed. The result is amazing! We’ve had these touch screen devices for less than about 10 years now, and look how our behaviours have changed. I was thinking about it yesterday: I have all these photographs of people that are completely not interacting and they’re missing actual connection because they think they’re connecting elsewhere. We have a generation of people that are head down. We’re going to end up with some sort of syndrome
I’m sure! But this is almost a disconnection; that’s changing the behaviour of what we are
doing. Now does it change our need? No, we still need to connect. So a younger generation is actually connecting more digitally at physical events like sporting, because they still have a need to connect. They’re just doing it differently now, they’re doing it digitally.
You mentioned something that really struck my mind as well: “the current generation has more to do with their grandparents’ generation that they have with their parents”, how can you explain that?
The values that they have are definitely more in tune with the grandparents’ generation. They understand consciousness, they understand things like organic and eco. Read more
In a recent discussion with a founder of Anaxago, a crowdfunding startup, I was asked a seemingly simple question: what’s digital innovation? In what respect is digital innovation different from innovation alone? As we are entering an age of digital transformation where “software is eating everything”, I’d like to initiate a discussion on what this major industrial revolution is all about.
2 ways at looking at digital innovation
I would say that, to start out, there are really two ways at looking at digital innovation:
- first of all, one can look at digital innovation from the perspective of an established company with an existing value chain
- second of all, one can look at digital innovation from the perspective of the startup which aims at replacing established companies operating a free digital value chain
Understanding digital innovation from the perspective of established companies
As noted in my discussion with Luka Mucic, Chief Operating Officer of SAP, digital innovation is really a profound process of transforming a company’s existing value chain with digital equivalents. One looks at the entire value chain from resource acquisition to operations, marketing, sales, distribution and servicing. One would list every single production activity along this value chain and see how the same production output can be achieved using digital technology.
I’ll provide an extremely simple example to make my point: 30 years ago, individual contributors working in large companies used to correspond with one another in face-to-face meetings and paper envelopes. Now, they may use digital tools that can replace face-to-face meetings with Skype or telepresence. And they routinely use texting and emails in place of paper-based letters.
In addition, in a discussion I had with Bruno Delahaye, I learned that Dassault Systèmes, is developing an end-to-end solution which aims at optimizing companies existing value chain. I was particularly struck by the solutions features of organizing this online in order to get suppliers to bid and suggests the best resources at the lowest price.
So basically digital innovation from the perspective of an existing company is really meant to optimize the company’s operations by using digital technology.
Understanding the meaning of digital innovation from the perspective of the startup
Startups, as opposed to established companies, don’t have to compose with an existing value chain. They create their own value chain using digital technology from the very beginning. This allows them to focus their attention on creating more value for the customer based on digital technology. The example of Nest comes to my mind. It’s a connected thermostat which replaces the existing thermostat and is based on a different business model. Whereas in the past, a thermostat would cost approximately $250 which was broken into two different costs (the cost of the thermostat itself and the cost of installing the thermostat at home,Nest is a connected thermostat which requires no installation and no special expertise.
So the consumer is only paying for the price of the thermostat itself, which helps to lower the cost. In addition, the thermostat collects data on energy consumption and identifies patterns before suggesting ways to reduce the consumption bill, to reduce the energy bill. Also, consumers may program the thermostat to start before they make it home, which provides additional benefits to all of us who prefer walking in a heated room in cold wet weather.
Here, digital innovation not only replaces the existing thermostat but also provides additional features which both help to lower costs and accentuate product differentiation with a new value proposition.
These examples provide a definition of what digital innovation is all about. What’s your take on digital innovation?
I recently delivered several presentations to the chartered accountants community composed in and around town. My impressions after those presentations are reminiscent of the ‘boiling frog syndrome’. This phenomenon mirrors the issues linked to change management in a large number of businesses concerned with digital transformation. Surprisingly, I found chartered accountants to be the epitome of the ongoing changes in the service business, an area much impacted by automation and new generation IT systems and cloud.
Digital impact on chartered accountants: already old hat
The definition of ‘digital’, including automation and the convergence of cloud/IT and mobile, is broadly accepted even though the ubiquitous ‘digital’ moniker is quite recent. When it comes to chartered accountants however, the story goes deeper into history and reminded me of things I had heard and seen as a young man even though the context has changed.
My Father, in the 80s, came up with one of the first (if not the first) accounting automation system, at least this side of the channel. Let it be known that he was an IT director with a background in IT which started in the early. His newly designed HR and accounting system included stock management, payroll management, the whole trappings.
He had also created a very sophisticated book-keeping subsystem (considered a visionary initiative in those days). This system could collect stocks through remote personal computers, powered from a distance by a Mainframe computer. That central computer was connected through the Transpac network. It was a bit like seeing E.T. connect to remote information systems via a phone connection at the time. It was really ground-breaking. Most companies had to wait for years to get something which worked like that.
“You have automated 90% of our work!”
“You have automated 90% of our work”, the chief accountant commented when my Father released his new system. And what do you think happened after that? Absolutely nothing, of course. The accounting team went on using pen and paper. They were sinking in the comfort of their routine, and patiently waiting for retirement age. Which came in due course. They were right not to fret after all.
35 years later: the scene changes
It’s not surprising at all, I should mention, that it is far more convenient for many to procrastinate and prefer routine to change. It might even pay in the short term, but could prove quite dangerous in the long run however.
35 years later, accountants are finally faced with the need to change. And even to change fast. Their tasks will have to increasingly evolve towards consulting, as recommended by the ACCA (Association of Chartered Certified Accountants).
Well, on paper, this isn’t such a difficult task. Accountants have everything which is required to succeed: finance skills, know-how and the habit of working in the service industry. But if we dig deeper, we find that there will be a strong need for employees to evolve and be able to drive the business. A far more difficult task than that of keying in data manually into systems and validating accounts. A lot of training and support will be required, not everyone can become a skilled consultant. And not everyone will welcome that change.
What will happen to the accounting industry then? It looks like it’s been like a frog which stayed for too
long in boiling water and did not see or understand what was happening to him. Other sectors (healthcare, banks, education, travel and tourism…) may be given less time. Let this example encourage them to reconsider their need for a real digital transformation.
Note: I have reproduced per below the recommendations issued by ACCA to British accountants a few years ago. I’m not sure they have all stood the test of time. It’s not always easy to predict what will happen and when. Having said that, most of their predictions are highly plausible.
ACCA’s 10 tips to British accountants facing a professional disruption
- In 2015, every accounting firm will offer their clients an application granting them access to their business/accounting information using a Smartphone or tablet;
- Accountants will have to stay up-to-date to maintain their role as guardians of corporate data;
- The Accounting sector needs new ways to measure and evaluate technological costs and benefits of cloud computing;
- Accounting will shrink as a profession, while software vendors progressively integrate financial expertise with products that are increasingly considered self-learners;
- The CFO of tomorrow will have to have as much technological knowledge as financial knowledge;
- If accountants do not seize technology, they will go extinct just like dinosaurs: both as individuals and as a profession;
- By 2020, audits could be conducted in real time. Auditors will extract data directly from the information systems, that are linked to real time stocks using sensors (stocks, livestock, employee count);
- If accountants do not position themselves as emerging trend experts (i.e. crowdfunding, new payment platforms, …) other professions will do instead;
- Accountants must use emerging technologies to attract talents and develop existing talent;
- By 2025, all digital data will be available to everyone.