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Too often, digital is viewed myopically as just a channel comprised of a collection of capabilities – be it display, mobile and social, or programmatic, data and addressability. Each of these is important but the sum of the parts is far greater when considered differently. Digital today must be viewed as a mindset, not a channel or a discipline. Digital poses an opportunity to use emerging technology as a catalyst for brand transformation. It should stretch across strategy and investment and go beyond media to incorporate commerce, interactivity, engineering and user experience.

We didn’t get here overnight and to consider digital as anything besides a channel a few years ago, would be premature. The fact is – the last 20 years have seen more change in consumer media than the preceding 200. In the 1990’s, we ushered in the Information Age where connected computers allowed those who controlled knowledge to dominate. This gave birth to the Interactive Age in the 2000’s where connected devices allowed those who created compelling experiences to rule. Today, it’s no longer about the flow of information or the connected experiences. Marketing is quickly moving from multi-media and multi-screens to multi-sensory and multi-dimensional. With the rise of machines, the advancements in emerging technology, the proliferation of IoT and a desire for real-life experiences – interactive marketing is becoming yesteryear.

2017 is the year to observe the death of myopic digital concepts and usher in the age of addressability combined with the adoption of intelligence. It’s time we welcome in the Immersive Age, where advancements allow those who push reality to be seen as leaders.

Shar Van Boskirk of Forrester Research characterizes immersive marketing as “a cohesive and all-encompassing experience across any channel where the customer is.” We see immersive marketing expanding beyond AR and VR to a mixed reality of all senses. Immersive marketing allows for virtual worlds to be fully experienced by all while leveraging bots and machine learning. Immersive marketing is an intelligent utility disguised with boundless entertainment. We are at a point in time where there is the new language of telling brand stories like never before, in ways never considered. It’s natural, free-flowing dialogue versus back and forth scripting.

As we prepare for 2017, marketing is at a critical juncture. Emerging technology advancements continue to surpass marketing intellect. Ten years ago, a digital marketer would stand in a room and talk about all the fantastic things we can do with digital – how we can target, we can personalize, we can do anything. The problem was that while those things were possible, they required technology that did not exist, significant budgets to try to achieve goals or just a hope and a prayer that they would work. To make matters worse, consumer expectations – and quite frankly, their adoption – of technology is constantly beyond marketers’ hopes. The best example of this might be looking at the time we spend on mobile devices versus the advertising spend on mobile devices.

So, how do we address this? We find a new perspective. We change the conversation from interacting to immersing. We look at digital as a mindset, not a channel. We consider emerging technology as a catalyst for brand transformation. How? Every marketer should adopt a Digital Agenda – be it a vision, a framework or a roadmap. Successful brand transformation is not an accident. It’s intentional.

Having purpose is the difference in achieving digitally-driven brand transformation. Viewing ‘digital as a mindset’ is separate from succeeding in delivering digital media (despite the two often getting confused as the same).

Successful Digital Agendas are:

  • True to a marketers’ organization and brand
  • Measurable (for better or for worse)
  • Long-term visions with short-to-mid term flexibility
  • Supported (agreed-to) broadly across the marketer (top down, bottom up)
  • Safe zones for a marketer to push teams
  • Not an accident: they are carefully designed and structured

As we start a new year or get enamored by what was debuted at CES, don’t forget that digital is a mindset. Reaching consumers in new immersive ways and in new emerging places are seldom achieved on just a leap of faith. Spend time this month analyzing your Digital Agenda and updating it for the new year, new gadgets, new trends and new opportunities.