Digital Is Dead. Long Live Digital!

When you define “digital” by its ability to connect us, you’ll discover the Post-Digital Era is a long way off.

Trend-spotting and the names and definitions that result can be tricky things. Take “Post-Digital Era,” for example. It’s a concept that has intrigued marketers of late, but one that also means different things depending on who’s doing the defining. Sometimes it’s the “continued blending of the real and the virtual.” It’s been called the “purposeful eschewing of the screen for real life.” Or, and this one is particularly relevant for brands and those who market them, it’s also been defined as “digital marketing moving past 1:1 marketing and into a 1:Moment phase.” In this version, “Post-Digital Era” is defined by the idea that consumers feel entitled to the brand meeting their needs at the very moment those needs are felt. Although that’s a tall order for brands to fulfill, it is indeed the mindset and reality of most consumers, especially the millennial and Gen Z demographics. That should come as no surprise, as technology has conditioned them to expect, even demand, this level of interaction. And as technology continues to grow in its abilities to connect us, these expectations will increase as well. All of which means marketers may not be thinking about digital enough, nor about the role it plays in what should be their singular strategic imperative: connecting with their audience.

Welcome to the Era of Connectivity

Forget about a “Post-Digital Era”: We’re smack in the Era of Connectivity—and there’s nothing post-digital about it. This era is powered by digital’s ever-evolving systems and platforms, all driven by people’s desire to be more connected to their devices, to interactive and real-world experiences, to the Internet of ideas and things, to each other, and, yes, to brands and products.

This Era and what it promises is nothing if not empowering to marketers who have forever asked “how do I connect with my consumers?” The glib answer is “in more ways and through more channels than you ever thought possible.” But for many, this promise of true and meaningful connectivity is not being fully realized. Instead, the goal of always-on connectivity continues to be lost in a clouded and often-overwhelming conversation about existing and emerging tools, measurement opportunities, and our ever-evolving social landscape.

The Era of Connectivity: Still a Digital Era

So how do marketers rise above the confusion and thrive in the Era of Connectivity? By staying focused on consciously connecting, of course. And that requires they think more broadly about the digital systems that can be leveraged to enable human interaction.

Connectivity is the goal, and the digital ecosystem continues to evolve in ways that help marketers succeed. The evolution allows marketers to consider more holistically how to use digital systems and platforms to first gain critical audience insight and then use that insight to connect in ways more meaningful than ever before.

Consider, for instance, how digital data-mining capabilities are able to connect marketers more intimately to their consumers. The information that’s gleaned then charts a course that’s implemented across platforms and work streams delivering precise and targeted communications.

Almost every digital experience and platform provides marketers with multiple customer-connection opportunities, and in many cases offers ways to leverage learnings that have already been invested in. Consider another example: how data can now empower CRM programs by delivering rich, actionable and proven insights that take the guts-and-opinions guesswork out of the relationship nurturing exercise. When marketers are able to work with their media and data partners to create look-alike audiences that can be communicated with, they’ll be much better positioned to meet the demand for always-on connectivity. And all the while marketers continue to focus on finding new customers to connect with—and communicating more effectively with those to whom they’re already connected—using emerging systems like adaptive creative to ensure the right message is getting to the right people (and, of course, at the right time!).

Of course, half of communication is listening. And digital systems (Digital Publishing, SEO, and Social Monitoring, among many others) all help drive new business by helping marketers keep their fingers on the pulse of what consumers are thinking about and reacting to. When marketers are able to quickly and accurately answer questions like “What are my consumers looking for,” “What terms are they using to look for it,” and “What social media avenues are they engaging with and what are they doing there?” they become far more agile in their ability to course correct and capitalize.

The heart of the entire digital ecosystem is the myriad ways it connects us and helps us communicate. And because marketing will always be about connecting and communicating, it will be digital systems, platforms, and work streams that drive us forward. So don’t be so quick to herald the Post-Digital Era. Instead, embrace the Era of Connectivity.

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Kim Waggoner
Kim Waggoner

When Kim’s not collaborating, she’s analyzing. As a Campaign Manager on the Account Service team, she helps lead multiple accounts across industries, and collaborates across disciplines to deliver the best work to Empower’s clients. If she’s not meeting with clients or coworkers, she’s mulling over analytics in search of great insights into the performance of a campaign.