A quick interview

I have been asked a few questions by a Croatian online publication focused on digital media, Netokracija. Below are my answers, and you can read them here before they are translated into Croatian and lost forever ☺

How did you become such a successful and passionate digital guru? Tell us your secret.

This sounds quite flattering. Thank you. I am very passionate about what I do, but I wouldn’t describe myself as a guru. Make no mistake, though: this isn’t modesty. Gurus have earned themselves a strong negative connotation, mostly because they are perceived as talkers, not doers. I like to think of myself as a doer and a thinker. I have managed to mix thinking and doing through a career path that combines years I spent in academia (I have Ph.D. in Sociology and M.A. in Media Studies) and years I spent working in digital (and traditional) marketing agencies. There is no secret, I’m afraid: I just do what I am interested in and passionate about. When I get bored, I move on.

You are one of the editors of the upcoming marketing book Hacker, Maker, Teacher, Thief: Advertising’s Next Generation. What prompted you to join the creation of this highly interesting book?

I have known Daniele for a while now and have been part of his Creative Social global network. Daniele asked me to contribute to this book; I volunteered myself as one of its editors. It all worked out fantastically. It was great to work with Daniele and Gareth Key, who was the third editor. They were lucky to have me, as I gave the book its final title. ☺ I love projects like this, where a lot of top marketing professionals around the world come together and share their thoughts and ideas. I would love that there were more books like this, or at least some quarterly compilation of everyone’s throughs. It’s healthy for the industry.

There are many professionals in the book who nurture, grow and live “disruption” to its fullest. How will this book disrupt everything we used to know about marketing and advertising?

I don’t think this book will necessarily be disruptive. It’s purpose is to show different ideas and diverse ways of solving problems. I hope it will inspire people who read it to think differently or at least to try something new. In a sense, the book is less about disruption and more about getting out of your comfort zone and exploring new ways to approach marketing and branding challenges today.

I came across two interesting advices by you: Nurture relationships with innovators who are disturbing business and connect the agency with the wider digital ecosystem. Can you share a little bit more about this to our readers?

There is this approach in the organizational studies that talks about the “edges” — of an organization, of a market, or of an industry. The “edge” here refers to things that happen outside the established structure and set of relationships. For example, new organizational behaviors, or new forms of value exchange in a market, or new players in an industry are thought to come from the “periphery” or “edge” because they don’t play by the rules of an organization, market or industry they are disrupting and because they are responding to needs of those who may have been neglected or not served sufficiently well by a certain market or industry. AirBnB didn’t come from the hospitality industry, but from technology, and it is disrupting it from the edge. It doesn’t play by the rules of the hospitality industry and it is attracting those consumers whose needs haven’t been fulfilled by traditional hospitality. Uber is a similar example and so is Netflix. By staying close to these innovators, we as marketers can understand where the future of an industry or a market is going, and be able to devise strategic and creative solutions for our clients so they don’t get to be surprised when the next AirBnB shows up at their doorstep. The same principle applies to connecting your agency to a wider digital ecosystem made out of startups, consumers and their digital needs and behaviors, digital publications, and all those new things that are made on the Internet every day.

I also read that you said that digital technology can turn industries upside down seemingly overnight and that the Internet business is “Fear Factor”. We would like to know more about this from you. Can you share an example of an upside down change in the digital world (good or bad example)?

The obvious example is the music industry, and more recently the entertainment content industry. Netflix has started creating and producing its own shows, like “House of Cards” and “Orange is the New Black,” which turned out to be insanely successful. They won Emmy Awards, which actually are awards for achievement in television. Netflix is thus part of the TV industry, but at the same time, it is not, because it operates based on a completely different infrastructure, business model and value chain than the TV industry.

You strongly believe that the digital disruption can change business and adapt them to become stronger. I love your quote: “To do so, big companies need to think like disrupters, rather than simply play defense.” What is the basis of disruptive thinking? Does it come with personality or can it be learnt? Is there a big difference between business disruptive thinking and individual disruptive thinking?

There is such thing as an organizational culture and organizational learning. If organizational leaders are nurturing culture of diverse thinking and if they are willing to learn things they are not familiar with or even scared of, then they are going to create a robust, adaptive, open organizational setting that is very responsive to its environment. In my quote, I pointed out that by mimicking those who are disrupting the industry — let’s stick with the example of Netflix — “traditional” entertainment content producers can actually stay competitive. Faced with high quality content competition from Netflix, HBO upped their content game as did other channels. There is a difference between disruptive thinking in business and individual disruptive thinking. If an individual who is an innovative problem solver isn’t in the organization or system that is supporting them, they won’t be able to achieve much. Similarly, disruptive business thinking requires an organization built for distruption.

You’ve recently written about the importance of brands paying attention to collaborative consumption. Can you tell us how important the collaborative economy is? Are collaborative economy startups facing growth and success?

Collaborative consumption is important because it combines economic value with social values; it creates business models based on sharing and collaboration; and it promotes redistribution of resources. All these things make it very different from the current economic system based on individual ownership, restricted resources and competition.

You started your own blog I [love] marketing. I read somewhere that you created it to provoke people to think differently. I think that’s great! Can you share more about your overall idea of thinking differently?

I actually migrated my blog I [love] marketing to a new web destination,https://andjelic.squarespace.com/, where I aggregated everything that I am thinking about and doing these days and where all my conference presentations, interviews, videos and publications are. You should check it out! The thing that remained the same is that I still want to provoke people to think differently. I think that key for being creative is being open to new ideas and perspectives. I try to provide people with these new perspectives and ideas.

Can agencies become value brokers in the digital world? We would love to hear your opinion and advice about this.

Value broker is someone who comfortably resides in two (or more) worlds. Agencies as value brokers can reside in the world of traditional economy, organizations and industries and simultaneously in the world of startups, collaborative economy and innovative business models. True value resides in combining the two.

You say agencies use strategies in a limited way. Why is it like that? And how can it be changed?

I believe that marketing strategy can become a lot more about value brokerage than it is today. I’d like to see strategy being more about creating services and systems that improve consumers lives in some way, rather than about creating better marketing gimmicks.

What are the most important things to consider while creating a great digital strategy?

It’s human behavior. Our behavior the key starting point in any good strategy. Improve consumer behavior, and you win.

What is your upcoming project (personal or in Spring Studios)?

At Spring Studios, we work with a ton of great retail, luxury and beauty brands that have fantastic challenges. Whatever comes next is deemed to be fun and challenging!

Please, feel free to share an interesting digital strategy or campaign you worked on. Don’t bother with details, just a short insight of the campaign as well as a few words on its results.

To me, best campaigns are those that build upon an already existing behaviors and/or value exchanges between consumers or, between consumers and a brand are always the best ones. Those campaigns make consumer behaviors more informed, efficient or entertaining. They also make brands more essential in consumers’ lives. Best campaigns create a marketplace for a coveted value exchange; they directly improve consumers’ lives; or, they create a new value that didn’t exist before.