Big Brands Prepare To Disrupt Or Be Disrupted

Interesting, as ever, to be at the Adobe Summit in London this week to hear the undertones of a pretty stark warning. It's wasn't spelled out in the terms that I will use, but the message is pretty clear: if you don't know how digital is going to transform your business, the game is over.

There has been the usual talk of how digital changes everything and nobody wants to be the next Kodak, but this year there have been some revealing talks from big brands on how they are taking on digital transformation to avoid redundancy.

BMW was at the top of the pile for me. The company firmly accepts that it is not just a car-selling company anymore. It is now a mobility company that stands on the cusp of great change as apps empower users to hail a ride or hire a car on a short-term basis. In addition, the German car manufacturer is already preparing for the day when it may be operating through an app that allows a BMW autonomous vehicle to be summoned. No car will be owned -- just a button pressed for a car to drive by your side and take you home before going off on its next mission.

A top BMW exec was on stage to admit that even right now, not everyone needs to own a car, and so that is something the brand has to learn to deal with. At the moment the official line is that it probably needs to devise a ride-hailing app for urbanites who can't afford a parking space in their capital of choice. Soon enough, when autonomous cars are the norm, car manufacturers will need to move from car sellers to mobility suppliers.

More in the here and now, T-Mobile took to the stage to say how stupid it is to be a mobile network that expects people to call in and listen to soft jazz while they wait for a person to eventually talk back to them. Instead, texting and messaging or using a Facebook chatbot make so much more sense for today's digital customer. 

It is this approach through which it claims it will gain a major advantage in today's digital landscape. Not allowing customers to deal with it through the very digital devices it sells would be just plain stupid. Having a single tariff where data, voice and texts are unlimited also makes sense because nobody wants to plough through a dozen tariff options only to find they are effectively fined for streaming too many Netflix shows. 

And that was pretty much the focus of the day. The message is pretty clear: if you don't know how digital is going to transform your business, someone will show you and it won't be a welcome event. Delegates were left to figure out a simple conundrum. If you were a start-up with all today's digital technology, what would you do to dismantle the industry you currently reign supreme in?

Those who see this as an opportunity will do well, and those who do not will only have to pray their name does not become synonymous with Kodak.

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