Growth. If you work in a company listed on stock exchange you probably are familiar with this elusive mantra. Growth is an imperative. If you work in an a US-originating company or US-based company, Global Growth or Global Dominance is an imperative. Wall Street favours future over present as it makes money on bets on stock price potential between today and tomorrow. Wall Street rewards those who have Growth potential and who grow Fast. The faster you grow, the bigger your stock price.
The Seductive Promise of Digital Growth
Then we have Digital. Digital is a Growth Opportunity. Global Brands are deeply aware of this. If one looks at Digital as a Channel for Sales/Distribution (I've discussed this in another article - Brand ON Digital OR Brand through Digital), the Promise of Growth is alluring. If you're a retail brand (and in the end, most are, either via their own retail channel / stores or partners - distributors / retailers) you probably have experienced or are aware that your retail sales growth is flat or even negative. If you're very lucky you still have around 5-7-10 retail growth. However, those growth numbers are far from the Wall Street expectations and especially if you're a Global Brand. For a Global Brand, some markets you're doing better on, some markets you're losing, so your growth in one market will be offset by other markets. Overall if you count just on retail sales you're not going to get many fans on Wall Street. They know you won't be able to grow fast, and well, Wall Street is about fast money in the end.
But, Digital is a different story. If you work in a retail brand you probably had a taste of this "new thing on the street" - digital is Double Digits, even Triple Digits Growth. If you are a Global Brand, I bet your shareholders had a taste of this new 'high' and got hooked on it. As retail sales are stuck flat or single digit, e-commerce, direct-to-consumer, digital or however you want to call it, is growing 20-40%. Even more! The famous sportswear giant, in 2016 had a yearly growth of 40+% of online sales, impressive if one takes into account its size.
While the share of online sales compared to total is still small, the seductive promise of growth shines like a star. For big players in industries naturally predisposed for online growth potential (For example, Cosmetics) - and I'll take an example of L'Oreal- those numbers range around 7%
If you compound this growth promise with higher margin promise (more margin you keep to yourself as you're selling direct-to-consumers and usually lower costs of sales) you can understand the allure of and high bets being thrown in digital by Global Brands.
Growing Digital Brands means Growing Digital Pains
However, Growing Digital Brands means Growing Digital Teams. And Growing Digital Teams means Growing Digital Pains. Even though Global Brands are established companies, with developed capabilities and established processes in core / traditional fields they've dominated, like retail supply chain management and traditional brand / marketing, Digital is a new field and a new ball game. Growing on Digital requires from Global Brands to acquire, develop or incubate new core competences and capabilities. At the same time they're asked to develop new competences, they're asked to grow both today and for the future, in sales, which in marketing translates to growth in execution.
If you take into account the changed marketing environment and The Rise of Digital Brand Touchpoints, one will see that Headcount Growth with imperative of Execution Growth (doing more, faster) will translate to some serious organisational pains and most probably will prove unsustainable. You may work yourself out, muscle your way through for a quarter or two, but in the long term you will fail, your team will fail and your Digital Brand Strategy will fail.
How do you know you're in this loop? How do you know you're suffering from Growing Digital Pains? If you're a brand/marketing professional caught between deadlines, gasping for time to deliver all campaigns on time and budget, if you're daily struggling with hundreds of emails in your inbox, and end up spending all day clearing them out, while only after hours - late night get to do some actual work, and if you or your team members are having anxiety problems or getting burned out - then you're definitely feeling the Growing Digital Pains.
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