Magnani President Justin Daab Speaks About Business Transformation

Justin Daab, the President at Magnani, joined our Q&A session regarding digital transformation although he doesn’t prefer to use the word “digital”.

In the Q&A below, he shares the words he suggests using instead of digital, how Magnani is managing transformation through their Narrative-Based Innovation methodology, and more.

Q1. Digital transformation for companies and brands has become almost mandatory in a very short time. As a digital agency, how are you handling this process? Can you please share some concrete examples elaborating your digital transformation process?

Digital transformation seems to be the catchphrase of the moment. But if you’re tasked with leading your company’s digital transformation, we’ve found three seemingly counterintuitive tips could dramatically improve your chances of success:

  1. Stop using the word digital. The phrase digital transformation implies something separate from the normal business of the company. Try to substitute more meaningful words in place of digital—like, business, or customer journey. Reframing like this increases lateral thinking and prompts more substantive conversations. In other words, you stop focusing on how you can improve systems within the business and start asking how you can improve the business.
  2. Try writing the first draft of your transformation plan without mentioning specific technology. Writing your plan—objectives, strategies, goals, KPIs, timing, expected returns, customer experience benefits, etc.—without listing specific technology implementations forces you to examine and evaluate the business implications on their own merits.
  3. Try to disrupt your own business. Disruption, especially in the midst of a black swan event, is imminent. Technology is lowering barriers to entry in every industry. People under stress have little tolerance for cumbersome experiences. They expect and demand better. Ultimately, you should presume success will boil down to two main choices: disrupt or be disrupted. We advocate, unreservedly, for the former.


At Magnani, all of this is encompassed in our Narrative-Based Innovation methodology. We start by creating a vision for an unsurpassed customer experience, then back into the technology. We explore and document the expected qualitative and quantitative outcomes of a successful transformation. We create a story about motivations and expectations, not hardware or software. We have found that once you build consensus around what that experience should feel like and deliver, the story can serve, throughout the process, as a touchstone for evaluating and prioritizing proposed technology implementations.

Q2. Can you share some precautions you have taken to continue business as usual during the COVID-19 outbreak?

Obviously, we’ve adopted (and adapted to) the mandatory shelter-in-place orders and switched to online video meetings. But we have more daily, scheduled check in meetings to both make up for missing out on the more impromptu connections that would happen naturally in the office, but also to help people feel a more normal passing of time.


Q3. What industries are your clients mainly focused on? How has COVID-19 affected these industries?

We have clients across many industries, but the common thread recently has been that they are leaning heavily into research. There seems to be a pervasive realization that even in previously steady markets, that once again, we increasingly don’t know what we don’t know.

Q4. What are your insights into digital transformation within different industries? How do you think they will evolve?

We do quite a bit of work in the hospitality industry and obviously that sector has been really pummeled by the impacts of social distancing and lockdowns. They will also likely be one of the first to adopt entirely new ways of delivering high-touch service in a no-touch environment. These new constraints will demand an acceleration of trends we already saw emerging, like mobile check-in and keyless entry.

The elevator should know you by your mobile and, by proxy, your most likely expected destination so you don’t you need to touch a button. And I wouldn’t be surprised if we quickly saw the complimentary breakfast buffet supplanted by something more akin to placing your breakfast order via your mobile and “kitchen side pick up” of your breakfast, ordered from your mobile.

Q5. Companies are now investing more on various digital channels. Based on your know-how in digital marketing, which sectors should focus on investing in which digital channels?

I’d say there are only digital channels these days. But regardless of channel, what people seek in times like these is certainty. And different types of transactions require different levels and types of assurance.

If we’re talking about a complex, long-tail, B2B transaction, the sale is rational and quantifiable. I would say invest in content marketing. The more information the better.

If we’re talking about overcoming consumers fears of cruise ships, you’d want to address concerns by showing them social proof of how safe it is again. That would lead me to more a PR or influencer strategy. If you sell a commodity, like beer, 6-second pre-roll is probably right on the money.

Q6. After the COVID-19 crisis, it is expected that the need for digital agencies will increase. Companies will invest in digital more than ever. In this case, why do you think they should partner with your digital agency?

At Magnani, our best clients are those who are looking for a partner who can help them really explore how the business creates emotional connections with customers. Through our Narrative-Based Innovation methodology, we take a human-centered approach to helping our clients gain a better understanding of their markets and their customers, imagine new ways to serve those customers, and craft more emotionally engaging customer and brand experiences.

Q7. Are there any practices that you have adjusted during COVID-19 that you would like to continue after this crisis ends? (e.g. remote working)

We’ve always been a fairly nimble group, so we adjusted pretty quickly to remote work. Anyone has had the option of remote working whenever they felt the need. That being said, we’ll go back to having remote work be the exception and return to sharing physical office space as soon as it’s safe. What I hope we can continue is the weekly happy hour or at least some carved-out time to gather together and discuss anything but work.


Q8. How does being a DAN member contribute to your agency’s success?

DAN really is becoming the go-to for a lot of our new business prospects as they’re identifying and vetting potential new partners. The format is really a great way to present our firm succinctly with impact. It drives a lot of conversations for us. And every great client relationship begins with a conversation.

About Magnani

Magnani is an experience design and strategy firm. Crafting digital experiences and brands people love at the intersection of human-centered design and business strategy.

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