Embracing Change in the Digital Age

“Are we still talking about change? Change is here.” This seemed to be the prevailing theme of WFA Global Marketer Week in Kuala Lumpur. Here are some of our key takeaways from #GMWKL:

1. Embrace change AND accelerate. “I’d rather let people fail, try and fail, than not try at all.” And so begins the case for embracing change by the opening keynote speaker, Tony Fernandes. Fernandes spoke of the need to empower employees and facilitate experimentation to drive businesses forward. James Temple of R/GA, on the other hand, took a different approach, begging the need for ‘outside in’ initiatives, such as the R/GA Accelerator program. No matter the method, the case was made – brands who not only embrace change, but also actively make adjustments to accelerate the speed of change,
will reap the most rewards in the future.


2. Adjust for discomfort. Maria Mujica of Mondelez International raised a poignant insight – embracing and accelerating change is not enough. Brands and agencies must actively adjust structurally and psychologically for the discomforts that transformation may bring. As an agency that grew from 1 to 120 in less than 3 years, we can confirm – change is not just an act; it is, as Brian Solis describes, a ‘hero’s journey.’ Politics, egos, self-preservation, lack of understanding, lack of expertise, and “not my job” are all possible challenges on the road ahead. Yet, as Mujica described, change must come from somewhere, and we must “embrace the creative process for what it is” in order to truly allow company transformations to take place.


3. Empower…someone. Whether “insiders” or “outsiders” to an organisation, we must empower someone for change to take place. ‘Change agents’ are required to to catalyse acceleration, and must have internal stakeholders in place that believe in their power for change (such as the Mondelez “Fly Fearless” program). Internal stakeholders are key – we must not forget that transformation requires a journey on behalf of the entire organisation.


4. Stay true to your roots. “More clutter, people are less responsive, we’ve spent too much…and it’s our fault,” David Wheldon of RBS delivered marketing’s bleak future rather wryly. Yet, he claims, marketing can be saved if we return to our roots. “Brand is the product, the people, the promise, and the purpose,” says Wheldon. By delivering better quality marketing (and steering clear of the ‘Seven Deadly Sins of Marketing’), advertising “won’t just survive, it will thrive.” Fundamentally then, we must understand that what change entails is not a new understanding of marketing, but rather a “re-alignment of, or investment in, technology and business models” to more effectively engage with digital consumers. As Tom Goodman of Havas Media says, “You don’t need a digital strategy. You need a digitally transformed company.” Marketing has not changed, but consumer behaviour and technology has – brands must embrace these changes if they are to succeed in the modern world.


And so closed a fantastic week of presentations brought to us by the MMA and WFA.

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