Winter is coming – how to survive in an ever-changing digital environment

Updated on 17 February 2016

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As the world awaits Game of Thrones to once again grace our screens. I find myself musing on the House Stark’s Banner, “Winter is Coming”.

Winter is Coming speaks to the conditions of uncertainty any business endeavour operates in.

Winter is Coming also speaks to a future in which the conditions of survival beset on any business environment are going to get tougher and from a Darwinian perspective, only the strong will survive.

With each passing day the digital environment becomes tougher to operate in as more businesses innovate to meet the ever-changing psyche of the customer. It is safe to say that the average customer has become smarter and knows what exactly they want.

The need for a personalised experience has become the guiding ethos if not the founding ethos of any strategy. The question that is at the epicentre of any strategy is, “How can we give our customers what they want in line with what our business offering is? Businesses now needs to look outside to guide what happens within them.

Listen more, talk less

Gone are the days when a business would create a communication strategy that did not take cognisance of the audience it is made for. What does this all mean when it comes to a creating strategy? It simply means listening more and talking less.

Many brands online are spraying content everywhere in the hope that by some miracle it will reach the people they need to speak to. There are a plethora of tools that are available for digital practitioners to use to listen to their audience.

“Create your own pie in order to survive”

Online reputation management (ORM) has become a prerequisite to write a successful strategy. Without knowing what our audience says, what sentiments they have, what drives them, we risk indulging in activities that speak to “fluff” and not substance that actually leads to behavioural modification that fundamentally leads to acquisition, and in essence the survival of the organism that is called the business.

Complementary communication

The anthropologist Dunbar says human beings are only capable of establishing 150 relationships. Any brand that seeks to survive needs to be in the inner circle of influence for their customer.

This means that we are no longer in the business of creating disruptive communication, rather we are now in the business of creating complimentary communication, as well as offerings.

We need to create communication as well as products that enhance our customers’ lifestyles. We now need to tap into who they are and become a part of their circle of friends.

Breaking new ground to survive

Peter Thiel in Zero to One says a fundamental truth, “All failed companies are the same: they failed to escape competition.”

To create a successful strategy you have to go beyond just listening you need to separate your message from everything else. In fact you must make it your duty to formulate strategies that seek to escape from your competition.

Competing with the competition is pointless in an environment that is always changing. If you seek to respond to a competitor when you formulate your strategy you run the risk of not expanding your own horizons, and instead becoming what they are.

Rather create strategies and offerings that open new spaces within the customer’s psyche.

The ones that will survive are the ones that look for new spaces to occupy. Unchallenged spaces that give them a unique advantage because they are not fighting off competition, rather they are serving their market in a unique way that gives value and fundamentally lead to their survival.


Winter is here, and as such, the conditions of survival have become more adverse. The only way a business can survive in this new reality is by listening to their audience to gain new insights which will lead to the creation of new experiences and offerings, thereby escaping the vicious cycle of competition. Create your own pie in order to survive. Winter has arrived.

About the author: behavioural economist with a focus on digital strategy, Tavonga Musingarabwi is currently a digital strategist at marketing and advertising agency, Aqua. He has over a decade of experience in both traditional marketing as well as new media marketing. He has worked with many brands pertaining to their Digital presence and sees a future whereby Africa can truly utilize and harness the power of technology. Musingarabwi has also successfully helped South Africa in it’s bid for the Commonwealth Games of 2022.

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