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6 Digital Strategy Considerations

Posted by Daniel Flamberg on February 8th, 2010 at 12:00 am

The Society of Digital Agencies (SODA) put out a 2010 "Digital Marketing Outlook" report that is full of stimulating and provocative ideas from practical people working in the advertising and marketing business who are not self-proclaimed gurus or habitual self-promoters  

Here's a sampler with my interpretive riffs: 

Digital messaging should provide a service or a utility rather than simply interrupt. The notion that branded content and branded utilities, especially as web surfing goes increasing mobile, can be much more effective, than a disruptive interaction, for building brand awareness, loyalty and preference comes from Ken Martin and Ivan Todorov of Blitz in LA.   

These guys argue that if you can integrate a useful tool into people's lives and into consumers' web interaction patterns, something that turns habitual quickly, you have a much better shot of selling things and building brand loyalty. It's a dramatically different approach but it feels right, given what we are learning about usage habits and consumer sensibilities. 

But these utilities have to be simple and intuitive to understand, easy to use and provide immediate value. Forrester reports that 2/3rd of online consumers say their opinion of a brand is directly related to their ability to accomplish tasks on their website. Every bell and whistle is a double-edged sword. 

Ivan Askwith of Big Spaceship presents a corollary. Brands should stop fantasizing about creating a viral message that takes over the world but instead should imagine themselves creating gifts that consumers can share with each other. The subtle shift in mindset, from stimulating a viral bug to creating valuable and desirable content, is significant because "unless consumers have a strong, personal motivation to share with each other, nothing gets passed along to anyone." 

He argues persuasively that " People share things for their own reasons … we need to focus on understanding and supporting their motives rather than pretending consumers can be convinced to do something for our benefit." 

The Web is becoming your life in your pocket. Brands will have the option of being part of the evolution of smart phones into the digital "Swiss Army" knife for 21st Century living. According to Andrew Howlett of Rain, very soon we'll all be carrying around a full fledged computer in our pockets so information will have to be inter-operable, platform agnostic and fully integrated with databases. Olivier Marchand, of Soleil Noir in Seattle, predicts "everything [will be] simplified, accessible, transparent and on the network. 

Everyone and every device will be rich with apps. Most of us will store our data in the "cloud" and access it anywhere from a broad range of devices. The trick will be to create value for customers and apps that are used not just talked about. 

User Generated Content is Becoming Media.  Among digital natives, the idea of creating content, comments, images, videos and sharing them across a network is second nature according to Pete Cahan at Mekanism.  18-35-year olds are essentially walking, talking content publishers who are setting the bar high for the kind of messages they consume online.  Brands have to consider how they can organically enter this information stream and meet the criteria for creating and distributing "ridiculously funny, surprising, inspiring, relevant and timely content." 

Gaming Will Impact Content Creation. Humans love games. Games give us valuable clues about how customers think, act, solve problems, process data and assess value. Some claim that games are a fingerprint of our culture.  According to Matt Griswold of Soap Creative, " Marketers will increasingly need to draw upon the principles of gaming in order to understand, enable and communicate with a population that relishes a game in any form." 

Games are a vital component of learning and of our culture.  Almost everyone plays some form of online games. Gaming is the number one online activity regardless of demographic. Gaming culture has a keen influence on customer segments and our popular aesthetic. "Consumers today expect … the freedom to pause, restart, and find alternative paths to the same goal, be rewarded, succeed within (or many timnes against) a community and rank up along the way." 

The challenge, says Matt " is to find a way, without masquerading, to play along." Gamers need the flexibility to attack the problem their way. This has profound UI-UX implications and it validates the need to create a smorgasbord of content that consumers can access and taste according to their preferences and timetables. 

Websites Are Home Plate in a Brand's Ecosystem. As content is distributed, accessed and used in countless ways, the new mission for a branded website recognizes that "the central role of the dot.com in a brand ecosystem, " according to Tony Quinn of IQ Interactive.  This requires changes in technical infrastructure to over the limitations of sites designed for an earlier era as well as a change in design and control to account for the " complex stew of many disciplines that require a shift in how brands think about their commitment to the web."

It used to be about having a robust site. Now it's about intercepting your clients and prospects in the course of their self-directed web surfing and providing them with a useful, relevant or fun experience. Syndication trumps destination as the website moves from a position as the be-all and end-all to a position at the center of the wheel as the repository for the mother lode of branded content. 

Matt Farrar and Rob Noble of Manchester (UK) based Great Fridays add, " A digital strategy [must] provide a decoupled channel experience with the ability to deliver the right type of content to the right channel whether it be to a browser, a desktop, a console or a hand-held device. The key is that content creators unlock and turn on digital content channels as needed … so that the brand knows what you want, when you want it and it's always available wherever you are." 

Banners Are Toast. Easily ignored, banner ads, favored by unsophisticated or lazy clients draw 0.05% in terns of clicks versus exposure. That's down from a 5% CTR ten years ago. 

This dismal result comes in spite of widespread experimentation with size, shape, color, placement, animation, rich media and re-marketing. Banners, as expensive and ineffective as they are, are invading mobile media probably because clients and their agencies lack the imagination to create something more compelling.

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