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Can you speak digital?

I know a reasonable amount about the language of brands, but I’ve had to learn a whole new digital language in the last couple of years.

Haven’t we all? It’s a language riddled with three letter acronyms (TLAs) and a host of almost meaningless mumbo jumbo that eventually makes sense when someone explains what’s going on – SEO, UCD, MMR, content aggregation, social advocacy… and, my favourite – ‘User Journey’. Yes, user and journey are both English words and yes, the couplet makes sense to me now in the context of digital delivery. But it didn’t for a while.

‘User journey’ didn’t make sense to me, for example, when everyone was jacking off to the sound of their own voices proclaiming themselves to be the latest ‘guru’ of the ‘social landscape’. User journey meant very little to me when I watched Twitter users with nothing to say attract thousands of followers. And user journey meant absolutely nothing as I sifted case studies and articles of meaningless bollocks in the vain hope of enlightenment. And while I persevered with this alien new language, ‘user journey’ meant the sum total of naff-all until I heard from a user who had, perhaps unsurprisingly, taken a journey… 

Initially, I simply received a website enquiry form. So far, so good. A prospective client outlined his need for a new brand strategy and supporting website. A Request for Proposal document was about to be signed-off and the prospect was enquiring whether I would like to submit a response to the RFP. 

I said, “no”. I didn’t say, “no, stick your RFP up your ass”, which is my usual response to large corporates expecting small agencies to have the speculative resources of large corporates. In fact I offered an uncharacteristically polite ‘no’ because the company simply didn’t have the budget available to engage our services. So I declined the RFP, explained the typical entry-level budgets required and thanked the enquirer for considering us. That, ordinarily, would be that. And then I received this email:

“Hi Scot,

Many thanks for the reply. I was unsure of exactly where the budget may fit with you and was slightly worried that it may be light. I appreciate you clarifying the guide costs. Hopefully in the future we will be able to work together on creative campaigns.

For your own info I thought you may like to understand my Birddog journey;

  1. Introduced to your brand by a colleague.
  2. Regular visits to your website.
  3. Discovering your blog.
  4. Following you on Twitter.
  5. Twitter led directly to more consumption and laughing with your blog.
  6. Twitter then directly led to me buying your book. You said something like, “if you want more buy the book,” and, like a sheep, I did.
  7. Now I have changed jobs and have a bit of a budget you received a direct enquiry.”
  8. Well. Hold me down and feed me whipped pudding till I scream. This is a ‘user journey’ across traditional, digital AND social media that clearly took several years. I was suitably impressed and I said so. Actually, what I said was, “Holy shit, that’s amazing!”, and was then delighted to find that the journey wasn’t over yet… 
  9. “Hi Scot,

I should tell you that my girlfriend has also read yourAMAZING book and loves it. She mentioned it to her boss and in particular the comment about, ‘I want to lick an iphone’ or words to that effect. You have another reader based on that one comment alone. It’s  doing the rounds now.”

User journeys aren’t about a single website visit. And they’re not about understanding a new digital language. They’re about the years of travel up to the point of contact, they’re about the experience the visitor will have in the years that follow and they’re about how the experience will be communicated to a wider audience on and off line. In other words, user journeys are about… brands. The journey continues.