Technology is not a strategy

by Tony Fannin, president, BE Branded

Too many companies and entrepreneurs today think that technology is a strategy. They say, “All I need to do is get rankings. Just create an online store and they’ll come running. What I really need is a killer app. You just have to be doing the newest twitter thing (or whatever the flavor of the week is).” Too many believe the silver bullet(s) is Facebook, Youtube, Twitter, LinkedIn, etc. Companies and entrepreneurs make e-commerce or social networking their core marketing strategy.

Here’s some insight for you – TECHNOLOGY IS NOT A MARKETING STRATEGY PLAY. It’s only an enabler. Real marketing strategy is still centered around relationships with brands. It’s still a matter of emotional connection, not technology connection. The online tools are great and allow us to do things that were once impossible or very expensive. Cool apps, social media, and web site rankings are part of the picture, but it’s not THE picture. What happens when you put all of your money and efforts into a piece of technology or new app and 6 months later something cooler, different, better comes along? Do you run to that? If you keep this up all you’ll end up doing is running in place going from one new thing to another. Now there’s nothing wrong with trying out new things, but too many just hop in without any thought of does it help us get to where we’re going? If so, how does it fit within the other strategies already in place?

Here’s an example. was supposed to put the Walgreens out of business. No more brick and mortar. Just go online, click, click, and you’re done. It was going to be the new world order overtaking the outdated concept of actual stores. Initially,’s stock soared as everyone saw this as a “can’t lose” company because their strategy was NEW technology and a NEW way to do business. But Walgreens did a strange thing. They didn’t panic. They didn’t put their next two-year marketing budget building and promoting an online store. What the executive team did do was they took a careful look at the web, its capabilities, and its advantages and compared that to what their core brand was (to be the most convenient pharmacy in America). Now, yes, an online store is convenient, but it also would erode one of their core economic drivers, the purchase of snacks, drinks, paper towels, and any other of items they sell that aren’t dugs. So how did Walgreens not only survive, but crush They utilized the new technology in how it operated their backend. By creating an internal network of linking all of their stores online, customers now can call every Walgreens store in any state their “hometown” pharmacy. Because each store can access customer information from a common data base online, a customer from Kansas City who is on vacation in Tampa can walk in and get their prescription filled right there. This supported their brand of “most convenient pharmacy in America” without eroding one of their core economic drivers. This also helped Walgreens still keep a real, human relationship with their customers by having human pharmacists interact with customers and answering any questions or fears they may have.

Side note: stock sold for $11 at their IPO. At it’s peak it was $69 in 1999 a few months after the IPO. Now it sells for $1.84 in 2009. Price for Walgreen’s stock: $30 as of June 2009.

In the end, marketing strategy is about telling a human story that communicates on an authentic level in ways that truly connect with your market. Marketing is a RELATIONSHIP PLAY that leverages technology to its advantage. If it doesn’t add or support your brand, why use it? Technology must enhance your brand and story. It shouldn’t BE the story.


About Be Branded

Tony Fannin is of President of BE Branded, an integrated marketing firm who helps clients BE Somebody to their customers. If you aren't somebody, then you are commodity.

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