by Kim Penstone. Digital transformation. It’s a phrase that strikes fear into the very heart and soul of anyone who isn’t a digital transformer. Or a consultant.
Personally, it conjures up an image of Optimus Prime slamming his very large robotic fist into a stereotypical open-plan ’80s office space, obliterating everything in its path, leaving a trail of mass destruction and confusion. But not so much for the crew at Fogg, who drop the phrase into conversation as casually as they talk about dropping consumers into virtual worlds. And just as casually as they dropped this unsuspecting writer on a wreck at the bottom of the Pacific Ocean to be eyeballed by a blue whale.
Although Fogg bills itself as a digitally led creative agency, it is clear that the offering has expanded as the agency has evolved, and that what it really offers — over and above the bells and whistles of augmented and virtual reality (AR and VR) experiences — are “digital solutions to marketing problems”.
Digital transformation is what happens when you provide those solutions.
“Digital transformation unnerves brands, marketers and businesses, because it challenges their status quo and function — and, in some cases, their entire business’s existence,” comments Prakash Patel, Fogg’s chief strategy officer, who also heads up the agency’s Cape Town branch. Brands that haven’t transformed run the risk of becoming redundant and obsolete, he explains. Just look at Kodak and Nokia. By contrast, brands such as Uber and AirBnB have used digital technology to single-handedly transform the centuries-old business models of hospitality and travel to become the world’s largest taxi service and hotel business — in under a decade.
The problem is that the phrase “digital transformation” is so all-encompassing, referring (in Patel’s words) to “the transformation and reshaping of an entire businesses operation, through digital technology, from the backend to front office, including business models, processes, operations, customer facing activities, marketing and customer touch points”. No wonder businesses and brands are running scared.
But Patel and the team at Fogg remain undaunted.
“I have always believed that, ultimately, all communications, connections and business will be digitally led,” says founder Shervin Pruthab.
It’s easy to spout the rhetoric; we’ve heard it all before. But, at Fogg, the team does walk the digital talk.
A case in point: the company recently placed some bets on the growth of AR and VR as a marketing tool for the not-so-distant future. In order to get to grips with the technology and expertise that this involves, Fogg has been investigating and investing in AR and VR tech since 2013, culminating in the development of its own VR game. Not for a client. Nor for payment. Just for themselves, to gain firsthand understanding of this new world, so that when it is hit with its first VR brief — and it will happen, sooner rather than later — it won’t have to use clients as guinea pigs.
“We are excited, rather than scared, by anything new,” says Fogg joint MD and head of client relations, Lara de Angeli.
But her partner and co-MD, Mqondisi Gumede, is quick to add that the agency is not interested in “every piece of shiny new tech”. “The paradox of living and working in this digitally enabled world is understanding what has changed, what needs to change, and what will never change. Technology changes and evolves all the time, but our humanness — what makes us human — doesn’t change. What technology enables us to do is to meet those human needs in faster, more-efficient, more-convenient, and more-entertaining ways,” he says.
And this is the realm in which Fogg operates: where technology and humanity meet. The agency was founded on the belief that technological innovation could unleash a new level of competitive advantage and client success — but only for those who have the courage to embrace this technology.
“Technology is changing and evolving at such a rapid pace today; we recognise that it is a very challenging time for brands: trying to unpack the future, while still staying on top of the present,” says Gumede.
“That’s why we are passionate about partnering with our clients at a strategic level, to help them understand the advantages of employing a digital strategy, and demonstrating the real-life benefits that technology can bring to their business,” adds Deangeli.
Although no one says it out aloud, it’s clear that many, many brands remain more than a little scared of digital technology.
“This is why Fogg continues to invest in tomorrow’s technology today; to ensure that — through our understanding of the tech — our clients can remain at the forefront of innovation,” says Patel.
On that note, Fogg offers a full range of marketing services from insights, strategy, design and creative development to content and music production, media and campaign implementation, even gamification, and yes, digital transformation and consultancy services. Founded in 2005 and with offices in Cape Town and Johannesburg, the company is Level 1 BBBEE, being 100% black-owned, of which 50% is black-women-owned — and 100% South African-owned.
“We live in a world of hyper-connectivity, when brands are expected to be open for business 24/7. The only way that brands can meet the increased demands of the consumer is through employing the technology that is now at our fingertips,” says Gumede.
“It’s vital to recognise that, when it comes to digital transformation or disruption, the biggest risk may in fact be doing nothing at all,” Patel concludes.
Kim Penstone is a freelance journalist, specialising in marketing, media and advertising. Over the past 15 years, she has worked for a variety of leading marketing industry publications, including Marketing Mix, Marketingweb and Brand Magazine, and in her freelance capacity contributes regularly to specialist titles, such as Brands & Branding, AdFocus and MarkLives. She has recently started a blog, www.runlikeamom.co.za, which is completely unrelated to the marketing industry.