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  • Writer's pictureMary Elizabeth Wieder

Marketing in 2021: What does it mean to be digital and have a social impact?

Why is creating social impact the next step in expanding your digital strategy? #socialimpact

If you ask most companies what their marketing strategy is for 2021, most will probably reply emphatically: “#digitalmarketing” or “#datadrivenmarketing”, meaning they are relying on digital tools to convey a message, or sell, to their target market. If you ask these same companies what their customers actually care about, you might get typical responses like price-quality ratio or superior service.

Again, all true and valid considering we are in the midst of the Fourth Industrial Revolution, or #DigitalTransformation. Companies are, or should be, implementing strategies that will transform their processes for the better making them more efficient and profitable, which in turn, improves their product or service offering for the customer.

This also applies to marketing. Digital technologies and the transformation towards a digital mindset has shifted marketing from an outbound, organization-driven strategy to an inbound consumer-driven strategy. As marketers, we ideally want our future customers to come to us.

However, as we talk about digital transformation and we mention processes and technologies, does it seem like something is missing from the equation? How do companies complete the transformation process without successful change management and innovative thinking?

The answer is PEOPLE and COMMUNITY.

And therefore today’s equation for success is:

SUCCESSFUL ORGANIZATIONS = Innovative Technology (Digital) + Smart Processes (Transformation) + Engaged Community (Social Impact)

One of my favorite quotes to surface in recent business literature is that of Marc Benioff (in his book Trailblazer), CEO of SalesForce, who runs of the world’s “best places to work”.

“The Fifth Industrial Revolution will demand a fundamental change to the nature of business, and our roles in it, to address the global challenges ahead and improve the state of our world”.

In other words: why do we do what we do?

In Salim Ismail’s book, “Exponential Organizations”, he calls this is the Massive Transformative Purpose (MTP), which goes beyond a mission statement and answers “why” an organization exists.

This is social impact. How does my company or organization solve a problem for the market or community through my busines or activity? It goes beyond Corporate Social Responsibility and charitable giving to ensure that an organization is leaving a positive impact in its trail – for all stakeholders.

Consumers today, in both B2B and B2C markets, regard the organizations they do business with as people they want to form relationships with. Relationship is the fundamental word. Clients want to really know a company and its mission and MTP. Over 50% of B2B companies research a company’s corporate profile and employees on LinkedIn before entering into negotiations or making a decision.

Organizations should be asking:

- Do I have a smart, social business model built for scale and growth?

- Do I have a design process for innovation?

- Does my marketing transfer into social impact? What is my social balance scorecard?


In my International Marketing class that I teach at university here in Verona, Italy, one of the first questions I ask my students to ponder is the following:

“Who has more power in today’s market: companies or consumers?”

By power I mean who is more influential in the customer buying journey. Are companies able to easily influence market demand with strategic marketing campaigns, or do consumers shape demand and new product development through online trends and influence?

I always get blank stares while I watch them search for what I think might be the right answer.

But the truth is, and I finally tell them, there is no right answer. Because I am still torn on the issue myself. On the one hand, companies have more tools and data at their disposal to analyze a consumer’s every move and define a complete customer and user journey. If you’ve read The Age of Surveillance Capitalism by Shoshana Zuboff, you know that our personal data is traced, tracked and analyzed in everything from social media profiles, to smartwatches, to voice recognition devices like Alexa and even “smart” toys our infants play with.

But on the other hand, customers are constantly pushing the market to meet their personalized demands and are less brand loyal as they are surrounded with a plethora of choices in terms of quality, price and personalization.

I believe it’s a matter of meeting in the middle. Companies will have to study consumer data and design solutions that impact whole communities to drive a sense of social inclusion (even digitally) now more than ever in a Covid world. Meanwhile consumers will continue to

-construct their buying habits around their social makeup and their own MTP.

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