Six Pixels of Separation - The Blog
November 11, 2008 5:27 PM

Digital Is The Great Disrupter

Whenever an industry shifts from physical products to digital ones, that's when the real trouble for the traditional players starts.

Think about the music industry, the film industry (both camera and movies), the publishing industry and the list goes on. Whenever the final products shifts from its physical form to a digital one, all hell breaks loose.

Industries respond in the stupidest ways because their gut instinct is to charge the same price they charged for their physical products (sometimes they even try to charge more). After all, it's the consumers' choice if they want a physical CD or twelve MP3 tracks, but it's all worth the same amount, right? 


And, the problem with it being wrong is that no one really knows what the right answer is. That being said, we do know - with one hundred percent certainty - that the answer is definitely not, "charge them the same amount." That was the main inspiration behind yesterday's Six Pixels of Separation Blog post titled, New Business Models. It also speaks to something that most of us know, but don't like to talk about: change.

We all love quotes about how change is good, it's the only things that is inevitable (along with death and taxes) and, "if you don't like change, you're going to live irrelevance even less" (General Eric Shinseki, US Army), but no industry can handle or deal with dramatic change - like when a product goes from physical to digital. On a recent trip to a speaking event, the driver was pointing out the ocean and how that specific part of the world was once a great industrial port where ships came to load and unload their stock and fill the whole north-eastern part of North America with goods. He went on to talk about how the shipping has slowed down to the point where that port was now empty, and what a shame it is. We're still shipping, it's just bits and bytes now... not crates and barrels.

Here's the marketing challenge: this is all so new, that most companies would rather hold on to what they know with everything they have than dip some toes into the blue ocean strategy that is partly the present, but mostly the future. Marketers can shape that future. As stewards of the brands, we get an exclusive glimpse into our consumers and what makes them buy and click. We need to be better at looking at our analytics and our trends to help shape not just our companies, but the industries they serve.

It's a tall order. It's one that I don't think the sales, financial, operations and technology departments of a company are focusing on. It's a marketing issue in the purest definition of the Marketing Four Ps. Particularly the "product" one.

Think about your company and the industry you're in, how well would you be able to cope, change and evolve if the very product you sold changed entirely overnight?

By Mitch Joel