Nowadays, medium and brand are no longer separated. They are the same and should be treated as the same, says Jochen Volkers, managing director of Pilot Agency in Hamburg, Germany, in the opening morning of programming at the INMA European Conference in Berlin.

Volkers discussed how to steer brands through the digital shift with the 200 European delegates at the Grand Hyatt Berlin Hotel.

No comparable phenomenon in the past has had such a profound and sustainable impact on the relationship between brand and customer than the digital shift, Volkers told delegates. Understanding and managing the traditional media from a brand perspective is generally understood, but the digi­tal shift completely changes the marketing agenda.

Digitalisation is not a media phenomenon. It is something happening all around us, he said. Our environment is already digital: at home, out of home marketing, telco, products we use – everything becomes digital. Digitalisation is affecting every aspect of our lives.

Volkers listed the biggest four challenges for brands and mediums:

  1. Big Data.

  2. Social media.

  3. The increasing number of communication channels.

  4. Changes in customer behaviour.

Due to the digitalisation process, it is impossible to think “brand” without “medium” anymore, Volkers said. Brands become mediums and communicate with consumers.

From a media point of view, this means two meta changes:

  • Transparency: Brands became totally transparent.

  • Interaction: In the traditional model, the brand-customer is no longer valid. Brands start to treat their consumers as people.

The growing role of customers was proven by Chris Anderson of Wired magazine, who said, “Your brand isn’t what you say it is, it’s what Google says it is.”

The environment has changed from monological positioning of brands towards dialogical management. Brands and consumers are living in the real time culture: anything, anytime, anywhere.

With the use of new media tools and platforms, consumers are synchronising their real and digital worlds, and this is what brands have to understand.

Volkers left with eight recommendations for brands:

  1. Become the brand you pretend to be. Become the medium you pretend to be. It is about living your identity as a brand, living what you stand for. The brand’s identity and values should be a guideline to your behaviour, not only in the economical market but in communication.

  2. Work on why. Brands should not communicate on what they do and how they do it. They need to focus on why they do it. Think about what makes your product special, It is your ideas, thoughts, and sentiments behind the project? Communicate this.

  3. Attitude is key. Have one and fight for it. Stop finding excuses for starting producing anything.

  4. Move from saying to doing. As Cindy Gallop, founder/CEO of IfWeRanTheWorld, said: “The future of advertising is about making stuff.” Making stuff is where interaction starts. 

  5. Remember that context is king. Context is what media sell to advertisers. Now that you represent your brand’s values and start seeing your data as real human beings, work on your context.

    Good advertising can turn anything to gold. But what about your message behind that, Volkers asked? You are the one standing up for your product. Improve it and work on quality, not quantity.

  6. Learn to listen. Digital communication is about participation. You need credible concepts to participate in the competition, something reliable for your brand, your fans, and yourself.

  7. Play with the brand, play with the medium. Think in millions of other communication activities, different forms of advertising. Classic advertising became boring. The overflow of colours, commercials, and media begs for new ideas and thinking outside the box. Look around, and if you steal, do it with pride.

  8. Change the failure culture. Don’t be afraid to fail. Everyone has the freedom to fail,and to learn from such failures. Plenty could go wrong, but that will never change. Use mistakes and failures to learn, communicate them if needed, show transparency.

    Remember: failure is human, just like your consumers and your brand itself.