The 4 Elements

The 4 Elements

Here are a couple basic digital principles I try implementing whenever I head a digital group.

1.  Strategy integration

This is a concentrated effort to involve digital at the brand strategy and messaging level. A simple multichannel plan detailing what the optimal channels are and messages to reach the target audience is usually enough to provide some perspective and understanding.

2. Marketing automation

We ask : how can we leverage technology and automated processes to build efficiencies and eliminate redundancies and errors? This might include project management softwares and reporting, campaign tracking or implementation of holistic technology frameworks.

3. Analytics and performance

This one is a no brainer. Most agencies have some sort of analytics and performance KPIs. The emphasis should be put on creating top level dashboards, finding direct causation between the low level analytics and business KPIs and, of course, in building process cycle that will allow agile optimizations.

4. Actionable Innovation

Innovation is one of those words that doesn’t mean anything anymore. Whenever talking about innovation we should always ask “So what?”. What will the business impact be? How much will it cost? What is the ROI? Is this really innovative? Does it generate a competitive edge?

In order for an agency to thrive and be innovative, a simple innovation framework is usually implemented.

i. opportunity identified
ii. alignment with brand objectives
iii. detailed landscape and technology assessment
iv. innovative opportunity business model
v. integration with client workstreams

These principles are usually used as a soundboard to ensure we’re always on the right track.

Conquering the known world

Conquering the known world [From the awesome http://www.ancient.eu ]

We’ve heard it over and over again. Everybody and their brother is a strategist (the digital ones are the worst. just kidding, the social media ones are the worst :)).  Usually in the business world when one doesn’t understand a competency he or she will add “strategy” after it.

Digital strategy can be interpreted in a myriad of ways.  Taking it from the top we have the digital business strategy.

A business model is just a mechanism that defines how a business can live and thrive. When we’re considering digital as an element of that business model we’re dealing with digital business strategy (the IT function is usually very involved at this level).

Digital Business Strategy answers questions like:  Can we use digital and technologies to optimize the business model? How does digital impact different business practices (sales, marketing, hr, production, etc)? 
In terms of KPIs: increase in sales, decrease of marketing and HR costs, optimized production, etc.

Digital marketing / brand / product strategy is somewhere below this. The marketing function supports sales, business positioning, and other good things.

Digital marketing strategy answers questions like: How can digital marketing improve the business marketing function? Integration with the multichannel marketing? Consumer engagement models? What digital marketing programs can be implemented? How do they relate with current marketing programs? 
In terms of KPIs: increase in consumer reach, brand equity, sales, community size, community engagement %, etc. These should be tied into the digital business strategy KPIs. 

What about digital strategy?

At this level we find the most common usage of digital strategy. Often is it brand related and specific to a program, project or campaign.  Here, the brand/creative/multichannel strategies are already defined and/or planned. The remaining questions have to do with the digital execution of the multichannel plan and it is very tactic specific.
For instance we can ask: How can digital support the multichannel plan? What are the few principles that will drive our digital tactical planning? Which are the best platforms to leverage? How much weight should we give to specific digital channels?
The KPIs are pretty much the standard digital KPIs: reach, engagement, channel or platform usage, etc. The details of these KPIs are provided by the supporting tactics.

Hope this helps clarify some misconceptions.

And of course, no strategy is worth the paper it’s written on, unless it is supported by a consistent tactical planning that ties in its KPIs with the business and brand’s objectives.

[unrelated] Gorgeous blanket octopus

[unrelated] Gorgeous blanket octopus

Let’s look at 3 business objectives that apear regularly on advertising KPI dashboards: sales, awareness and community. There are many interdependences between them, however there is a stronger link between Community and Sales than between the two other combinations involving Awareness. Basically with digital, social media and technological ubiquity a potential consumer needs less and less direct awareness.

Consumers increasingly validate their value-based brand judgements though a simple Google search. Google: “best organic non-fat milk brand in New York City” and you’ll find what you are looking for.

Advertising campaigns can no longer simply focus on awareness building. The challenge is now to put the product as fast as possible in the hands of the consumer. This adds more pressure than ever to create exceptional and competitively priced products (recently Microsoft and Blackberry tablets made the mistake of setting non-competitive prices thus creating artificial adoption roadblocks).

On the other hand, building a strong and engaged community (see it as a social CRM), can greatly improve direct sales and keep consumers engaged.

The following basic analysis should always be done when setting up advertising objectives.


This is usually the hardest and one of the most important business KPIs.

KPI: number of sales, in-store conversion rate, drive-to-store conversion rate
Message CTA: Drive to store, promotion, drive to store contest, rewards program, loyalty, etc.


Awareness of a specific product (knowledge of a specific product or brand);
Association with a specific product (e.g. Axe & nerds);

KPI: consumer brand awareness (aided, top of mind)
Message CTA: Emotional, content heavy, product presentation, open, no closure

BUILD COMMUNITY (CRM, Social Media, etc.)

1. Community building: opt-in consumer info (DM, email, Facebook, apps, etc.)

KPI: number of opt-ins, type of opt-ins
Message call-to-action: Join now, join promotion, participate, etc.

2. Community engagement: consumer participation in conversations (over social media, word of mouth, etc.)

KPI: consumer engagement (Likes, comments, etc)
Message CTA: Share, comment!, participate, engage, share contest, etc.

3. Community advocacy: consumer brand advocacy (positive brand support, message sharing)

KPI: consumer conversations, likes, recommends, shares, RT, etc.
Message CTA: Share if you love, Join VIP community, Brand Nation, etc.

Steve Martin

Steve Martin: Unrelated, love this guy.

Here is a full interview I did with Matt Alderton for PM Network Magazine that only got published partially. I think you guys might find it interesting.

1. First of all, let’s define the role of “Chief Digital Officer” (CDO). What is a CDO, exactly? What does this person do, and why is their job important? How is this person different from a Chief Information Officer, or a Chief Technology Officer?

The three positions are not mutually exclusive nor does one replace the other.
Here are some rough definitions.

Focuses on technology and technological innovation.
Specializes in technical architecture, frameworks, platforms, deployments and R&D.
Ensures the technological stability of the organization, and drives technological research and innovation.
Education (in order of importance): Computer engineering / management / business.

Focuses on business processes, information architecture, and internal organizational workflows and finding the technology that best fits them.
Specializes in business processes, content architecture, production and management, strong technical background.
Ensures the integrity, production and dissemination of digital content throughout the organization; optimizes business processes.
Education: Business engineering / Computer engineering / Management

Focuses on communication, digital tools and business optimization
Specializes in using digital platforms/tools for internal/external communication and to drive business opportunities.
Ensures the integrity of the digital communication, drives business using digital channels
Education: Marketing (Communication) / Business / Management / Computer engineering


2.     In your opinion and experience, is the CDO role becoming more common? Is demand for it growing? Why or why not? What’s driving the evolution of this new role?

Absolutely more common.
There are a couple factors which contributed to the evolution of the CDO role:

–       the high adoption of social media by the public (consumers)

–       the standardization of social media platforms with similar user experience: Facebook, Tumblr, Twitter, Reddit, Blogger, Wikipedia

–       the standardization of content types (tweets, statuses, images, videos, comments, etc.)

–       the standardization of the SAAS / SAAP (soft as a platform) model (businesses can use the same type of platforms with similar user experience)

In the past 10 years the digital consumer behavior, product usability and the type of networks and the SAAS platforms have converged.

The technological implication of a CTO is mainly focused on new product development and no longer on supporting an operational technological framework.

The business practices and information architecture are also pretty standardized, so the CIO mainly focuses on highly innovative business engineering or driving organizational change, no longer requiring a technological or content specialization.

Nowadays, with consumers converging in predictable usage patterns and networks, the focus is on communication.

The role of a CDO would be inputting all the existing pieces together (internal and external, earned and owned digital assets) into the optimal business configuration.

Thus the question is no longer what technologies should we develop in order to optimize our internal and external communication, but: which social networks we should use, and what existing technologies we should adopt internally. What is the optimal configuration for communicating internally and externally (with regulators, consumers, etc.)?

There is a clear business shift towards more open and transparent practices of communication. The CDO must have extraordinary understanding of the digital space from a communication, technology and social perspective.


3.     Where (i.e., in what industries and at what types of companies) are you most likely to find a CDO, and why?

In B2C and public entities (municipalities, government).
Especially companies that deal directly with consumers, since by using the available social digital assets, they will irreversibly cross paths.
However, since behind every B there is a C, I’d say that all companies should at least consult a CDO/digital expert


4.     In organizations that have one, is the CDO on par with other senior executives, such as the COO and the CMO? Or is the CDO a more junior role? Please explain.

By default, having a new position (that some might consider only a trend) and being younger (important) the CDO will not be considered on par with other executives.
Now, a smart CEO will take the CDO and protect the position until the latter gains enough traction inside the company to earn the respect of the other Cs.

The results will not be there right away. There is a team to be built, business cases to prove, communication philosophy and methods to change.

The best ally of the CDO should be the CMO, unfortunately it’s rarely the case. (Is a CEO ready to change his/her CMO for the strategic sake of developing a strong CDO practice?)


5.     In your opinion, would a project manager make a good CDO? Why or why not? Specifically, what skills and experiences do project managers have that might qualify them for the CDO role?

Every C must be a manager. Period.
Now, I happen to believe that project management is the best way to get into business management.

A project manager understands with great precision, how resources are allocated, the budgets used and timelines respected.

A good project manager can develop unprecedented insight into the organizational issues of a company. Very often project managers have to deal with communication risks between departments, bad hires, unmotivated employees, unclear business objectives, client management issues, etc.

This experience is crucial in understanding how the business works and what needs to improve.

Now, take a digital seasoned PMP with business and digital communication experience and you have the potential for a great CDO.


6.     What are employers looking for when they’re hiring a CDO? For example, are they looking for people with specific skill sets (e.g., risk management, project management, communications, IT, leadership, strategic planning), credentials (e.g., degrees, certifications, etc.) or experience (e.g., e-commerce, Internet marketing, social media)? Do they typically want someone from a digital background, or someone from a business background?

Many companies don’t understand the strategic necessity of having CDO. I guess most people learned about the title when Rachel (Sterne) become the CDO of NYC.

The decision to hire a CDO must come from a strategic plan focused on the evolution of  the company, not merely improving the existing practices. The mission of a CDO is more specific than that of a CIO. In the case of the CIO, change management is about knowledge, processes, leadership, information management, collaboration and ERPs. The CDO has more concrete KPIs as: improving the direct communication internally as well as externally, and detecting actionable opportunities created by digital assets and platforms.

In terms of competency, it is much easier to have a digital basis and then develop marketing and business competencies.

Social media is always an asset since this is the revolution that created the CDO position in the first place.

I would be looking for a manager of a digital business in charge of marketing with a social media flavor.

Being PMP is a great asset, especially for those working in communications since there are very few managers with expert project management knowledge in the field.

Education, degrees, awards: Computer BSci, PMP, MBA, a couple awards like Cyber Lions or SxSW.


7.     Where are most CDOs coming from? Are they being promoted from within? Are they coming from marketing departments? IT departments? Certain parts of the world (e.g., North America, Europe, Asia)? In other words: Where are employers getting CDO talent from?

On client side: from marketing departments, someone in charge of digital would be best (and this is one of the key reasons the CMO will not always get along with the CDO). Absolutely not IT. The focus of the CDO is communication over existing and new digital assets and platforms. You don’t want someone who will overthink the best technological configuration and ignore the business communication aspect.

Best source of talent: digital ad agency execs with a great understanding of social media and experience in your industry.

Absolutely North America. It’s the home of social media and we have the full spectrum of communication to deal with (from very open to closed networks). You want someone who will be able to see the big picture and scale it down to your specific business needs.


8.     What can project managers do to groom themselves for a future as a CDO, in terms of developing appropriate skills, experience and education? What skills and/or experiences do most project managers lack that they should work on?

Project managers tend to be very technical. Many lack the ability to manage creative people, find creative solutions to business problems. (an ad agency PM is a good solution).

Also surprisingly, communication skills are also very often lacking. In order to be a successful exec, you need to develop communication charisma. Having a blog and writing smart stuff is not enough. Public speaking (panels, presentations, conferences) is a great way to practice for anyone interested in evolving into good executive material.

Thirdly, social media! If you think social media is fad, and you’re waiting for the bubble to burst, you’re the wrong person for the job. What are the business opportunities offered by social media, that go beyond having a Facebook fan page and tweeting your lunch? Above any technological hype (that might come and go – FB, G+, etc), the usage of social media will it only grow in the future? You need to embrace these realities in order to be a good CDO candidate.


9.  How can project managers effectively market themselves as a superior CDO candidate? In other words: I’m a project manager submitting my resume for a CDO position. What’s your advice for me? How do I get noticed? How do I show employers that I’m the best person for the job?

Be passionate. Believe in what you want to do. Your goal is to help the organization tap into new business opportunities, become a more open organization, provide superior customer service, and eliminate costly technological and prejudiced business decisions (every company has some).

Put emphasis on: Communication, Digital, Business and Management – in this order.

Also, as an organization, if you want to hire a CDO only because your chairman read it on Forbes Magazine, you’re doing it wrong. This is a strategic business decision that will have a financial and cultural impact on your organization. Some businesses are more ready than others for this change.


10.  What didn’t I ask about that you think is important? Any final thoughts or miscellaneous remarks?

In spite of recent economic debacles, we live in extraordinary times.
There are more opportunities than ever, for business and professionals.
A great educational foundation is only the beginning. Openness, transparency, care and intelligence are qualities that we shouldn’t only expect from businesses but also from ourselves. 


Please discuss.

Hiding things

Hiding things

Here is a good Linkedin conversation about Digital Business Strategy and Digital Strategy.

My take on the issue: Digital Strategy is just a tactic of Digital Business Strategy.

Digital Business Strategy answers questions like:
Can, and how, Digital optimize the business model?
How does Digital impact different business practices (sales, marketing, hr, production, etc)?
In terms of KPIs: increase in sales, decrease of marketing and HR costs, optimized production, etc.

Digital Marketing Strategy answers questions like:
How can Digital marketing improve the business marketing function? What are the channels?
Consumer engagement models?
What digital marketing programs can be implemented?
How do they relate with current marketing programs?
How can we market the product on the Digital space? etc.
In terms of KPIs: increase in consumer reach, brand equity, sales, community size, community engagement %, etc.

Every Titanic has its iceberg

Every Titanic has her iceberg

Some notes regarding digital strategic planning, data & tactics. Will detail them in the next posts. This might seem complicated. Strategy is about asking the right questions, having the right data and setting the right priorities. Those who take shortcuts on strategy are just lousy tacticians.


  1. Determine the Business Objective
  2. Build a Business Case
  3. Identify the KPIs
  4. Identify the Necessary Programs
  5. Global Plan & Budget
  6. Strategic Creativity Alignment
  7. Determine the Tactics & Creativity Alignment
  8. Build the Conversion Funnel
  9. Specific Plan, Budget & Resources
  10. Execution, Metrics, Iterations
  11. Review


  • Program Maturity Audit
  • Media / Audience  / Touchpoint Ecosystem Audit (owned, earned, bought – analytics)
  • Competition Audit
  • Trend Analysis
  • Current Communication Portfolio
  • Social CRM
  • Conversion Funnels
  • Previous Campaigns Metrics & Lessons Learned


  • Contests
  • Email based
  • Display ads
  • SEO/ SEM
  • Blog
  • Social content
  • Microsites
  • Mobile apps / advertising
  • Social advertising
  • Facebook app
  • Point of sale (physical)
  • Event
  • Affiliate
  • PR
  • Stunt
  • Guerrilla
  • etc

Sometimes communicating is repeating. So here we go again trying to make an argument for building business cases in advertising. (You might know that I’m a big fan of P. Drucker’s down to earth and common sense business approach.)


Any business operation must be measurable. Including advertising. But I’m not talking about putting numbers on a pretty dashboard.  Those actionable KPIs must always be the result of a specific business case.

A business case is a simple walk-though justification of the business objective that generated the advertising operation.

As a digital business planner you need to learn to help your clients to derive the right KPIs from their business objective. This is why it is imperative that you start by defining the right business case. (You can see an example of a business case here.)


Some business objectives are easier to measure than others. (more on business objectives here)

For instance: increasing sales, increasing the customer satisfaction can easily be supported by very simple KPIs (e.g. from 12% to 18%, etc).

However, some advertising objectives sound as if they came from a graduate level social engineering course: e.g. Changing consumer behaviour

Whenever faced with these kinds of demands, we can always translate them into a specific business objective. Exactly how do we want to change the consumer behaviour? By how much? etc.

After analysis, you should be able to define the value to be created by the specific business objective. The business case will present a path to profitability if that business objective is attained.


Business objective: Increase from 7% to 14% the use of a smartphone while watching TV.

Reasoning for the business case: By increasing by 100% our customers’ use of smartphones while watching TV we can increase their engagement with the brand by 10% and also the download of our custom TV watching app by 200%.
The 10% engagement increase will generate $X in customer loyalty and decrease in attrition rate by 3%,  +4% social media equity and +5% in customer recommendations, etc. This will result in a cumulative revenue increase of $YM over the next 3 years.

You always need to know why you are doing a specific operation and analyze all the pertinent details.

Once the Business Objective is set up we follow the previously discussed process:

Business Objective -> Business Case -> KPIs / Metrics -> Program Maturity Model -> Prerequisite Programs -> Planning

So the conclusion to take away as an advertising planner is that you should always be able to justify your advertising initiative with a business case. And that business case has to support the business objective.

Next I’ll talk about Data and Digital Strategy.