09 Aug, 2012 – 19 comments
more than a few words on digital marketing
A couple weeks back, the digital leadership team at Deutsch LA held a week-long 101 course on digital marketing for the entire company. The goal of the program was to set a common literacy of digital marketing across the agency and to create a sense of shared purpose across departments. I ran two sessions. The first was “Thinking Digital” and the objective was to share a series of perspectives on digital technologies as they’re related to marketing communications. Here are the basics of what was covered:
DIGITAL IS A LAYER.
Digital is not a channel in the same terms as print, television, or radio. As long as someone has a laptop or mobile nearby, anything can be digital (whether you’re ready for it or not). Device multi-tasking is no longer a niche behavior. Digital is also not just something that lives within the confines of a PC or mobile; more and more of the objects we interact with are becoming digital themselves.
DIGITAL IS A BRIDGE.
The greatest inventions of mankind are as follows: language, fire, the wheel, the printing press, anti-biotics, Haribo gummy bears, and the hyperlink. We may not have jetpacks or pneumatic tube stations in this future, but we have the means to transport someone from one experience to another via the hyperlink. Yet, advertisers continue to create dead ends. With everything we do, we should be engineering the best path to the next experience.
DIGITAL IS A FEEDBACK LOOP.
Every single action we take as consumers, and every single interaction we design as marketers, causes data to spew in all directions. Success on the web is dependent on our ability to harness data to make intelligent choices. And because of that …
DIGITAL IS ITERATIVE.
Digital is the ultimate etch-a-sketch. And if you’re not treating it as such, you’re doing it wrong. Agencies should aspire to be more like Zynga, which advocates for “ghetto testing” new features in real-time and learning from those experiments. Ultimately, analytics must move from being a department in your building to become an integral part of your organization’s culture.
DIGITAL IS PARTICIPATORY.
… whether you like it or not. The web has led to the rise of a more participatory consumer, each a media outlet in their own right, and she/he isn’t waiting for instructions from your brand. Moreover, brands now have to cope with networks of consumers that can synchronize their views quickly thanks to the web, which means consumer protests can coalesce faster than ever before. One of the most important lessons that ad folk can remember is that sharing is NOT an unconscious act. All sharing is conscious, some is just less so. When people choose to share your brand with their friends, they are negotiating the social value of your brand in relation to their social bonds, collective identity, and personal status. The more you can appeal to those interests, the more likely someone is to share your brand.
DIGITAL IS MAINSTREAM CULTURE.
I used to say that digital was moving into mainstream culture, but really, whatever is left of mainstream culture has fully adopted the artifacts of web culture. Memes are now something your mother sends you. And what is a meme? I humbly submit this definition: “an idea which is re-contextualized as it is shared, appropriated, and sustained by people.” For ad folk, the lesson here is two-fold. One, people do the sharing, not the content itself (videos aren’t viral). Two, simply imitating or layering past successes won’t make your meme-laced spot spread, you have to consider how to re-contextualize the original idea for distinct groups of people based on their shared interests.
DIGITAL IS SELF SELECTED.
Your experience on the web is unique from my experience on the web because of the choices we make and the choices our friends make for us. As advertisers, if we want to reach large crowds online, we have to surrender control of attention, context, and participation in those environments. Often, faced with that reality, we instead choose to build experiences where we feel we have control, and then funnel traffic to those destinations that lie outside anyone’s normal browsing behavior. More often than not, a smart media partnership is a better investment than the brand’s dot-com or a stand alone micro-site. Most critically, because experiences are self selected, we are reliant on people choosing to include us in their day-to-day experience, which means we have to create experiences that are both marketing that works AND marketing people want.
DIGITAL IS SMALL GROUPS.
The number of votes it takes to reach the homepage of Reddit is a tiny fraction of the number of people that buy your products (for most of our clients). The number of people it takes to spark an online backlash is a tiny fraction of the number of people that buy your products. On the web, passionate small communities inform and influence the passive majority. The brand that can court, foster, and mobilize more small groups wins.
DIGITAL IS STOCHASTIC.
… which is a fancy way to say unpredictable. Digital environments are shaped by passionate small groups, which means that control of those environments is dispersed among the individuals of those groups. In other words, there is no magic “go viral” lever for the web. When clients come to us and say, “We don’t have much left in the budget,” and we say, “Well, then we should just do one thing really well,” we are setting our clients up for failure. Instead, we should be designing swarms of small executions (aligned around a shared behavior or belief) that can either be scaled up or killed depending on how small groups interact with them.
DIGITAL IS SHAPING EXPECTATIONS.
Brand experiences should strive to be as immediate, endless, transparent, responsive, and free as the best parts of the web. As marketers, we should also be paying close attention to experiences at the fringes, experiences driven by new technologies and new paradigms – because when people are exposed to those new experiences, they begin demanding elements of those experiences in other contexts.
DIGITAL IS FRIENDS WITH BENEFITS.
In traditional advertising, we buy media to assemble the same audience over and over again. In digital, we have the ability to create relationships with members of that audience so we can reach them at a lower cost in the future. If you add a social layer to that, you gain the opportunity for your communications to be consumed by individuals in full view of their friends. That’s the underlying proposition of a Facebook Fan Page – collect relationships with members of your target AND their friends. To be honest, Facebook Fan Pages are quite possibly the worst CRM tool imaginable, but the prospect of having access to the social graph is attractive. For too many brands, this is where strategy ends and an endless stream of innocuous Facebook Status Updates begins. Instead, this is an opportunity to begin testing various ways to generate value from your fans and for your fans.