The scramble for relevance

In part four of strategy's Future-Proofing series, FGL Sports' Duncan Fulton looks at the need to consolidate data and content.

For the February/March issue of strategy, guest editor Steve Mykolyn of Taxi posed the question to several industry heavy-weights: how do you future-proof the business? They came back with their thoughts on dealing with today’s world of rapid-fire change, and here we present the fifth of the series.

By Duncan Fulton

In the popular game Risk, there are two differing strategies used at different times to win the game:  consolidating your position and expanding it. If you become too thin on your front line – or find yourself too exposed in a single area – you must quickly consolidate your assets around your “core” to plan for a new round of expansion, or risk losing everything.

The obvious trick to the game is to nail the right time to expand and consolidate. That, and a little luck, is your best chance to win.

Amidst the well-documented chaotic and fast-moving digital journey of our world today, the same principle applies. Those who innovate and successfully expand at scale to create new platforms that get a foothold are rewarded as industry leaders.

Those who overextend with the wrong platform, invest in the wrong technology, fall behind the innovation curve, or fail to establish the foothold are finding themselves scrambling for relevance and watching their innovative front lines crumble in front of them.

What’s more troubling is that no one has the road map to stay digitally relevant to their stakeholders.  And whether your company is philosophically inclined to be an innovator or follower, the challenge is the same: How do I traverse these next few years without making a material digital mistake that carries with it the daunting implications on cash flow, depreciation expense, missed growth targets, lost market share and eroded customer loyalty?

I believe in the natural cycle of expansion and consolidation; we’re at the point of digital consolidation. By this, I mean companies should focus on consolidating their data and content – the DNA building blocks of every new digital innovation being developed and deployed today. Far too many companies are too exposed on too many fronts without knowing what the digital dice will roll on the next turn.

Most companies have tons of data, but few have a central way to collect it, analyze it and generate actionable insights from it. Sales data, market share data, customer usage data, quantitative and qualitative surveys all sit in different silos with different teams only cursorily understanding that it’s significant to the digital journey.

Equally, companies are generating more and more content to feed digital channels but fail to store it all in the same place or understand the importance of developing additional content to sync up with more engaging digital channels. For example, for a single bike sold at Canadian Tire, we have multiple images of the bike provided by the vendor, customer-generated images found across all social media channels, videos on YouTube of everything from families enjoying it to tips on fixing it to user reviews and ratings.

So much content for just a single product – and if it’s not consolidated in one place and not built to stretch across everything from a flyer to a shoppable YouTube video, you have no hope of staying relevant in the digital channels that are hitting the marketplace today and in the years to come.

The homework:

Data and content are the digital currency and DNA of our immediate future in digital.  We still require the bold vision to innovate and the conviction to expand, however the path to winning the digital game and future-proofing your company for the digital journey is a strong core – and consolidation – of how and where we put our data and content. That, and a little luck, will help put you on top.

Duncan Fulton is SVP, corporate affairs, Canadian Tire and CMO, FGL Sports and Mark’s. The highlight of his career (we assume) was being named a strategy Marketer of the Year in 2012.

Illustration by Gary Clement.