A few things you need to know about digital marketing


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This is the presentation I gave at IdejaX conference this past weekend. I focused mostly on the overall approach characteristic to digital marketing that often gets lost when people talk about it.

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  • Temple Grandin attests that she is a primarily visual thinker, and claims that words are her second language. She attributes her success as a livestock facility designer to her ability to recall detail, which is characteristic of her visual memory. Grandin compares her memory to full-length movies in her head that can be replayed at will, allowing her to notice small details. She is also able to view her memories using slightly different contexts by changing the positions of the lighting and shadows. Her insights into the minds of cattle has thought her to value the changes in details to which animals are particularly sensitive, and to use her visualization skills to design thoughtful and humane animal-handling equipment. While I know nothing about the cows, I am able to holistically approach the client challenge, and visualize the possible solutions.\n\n
  • Visual approach works great in digital, because it makes us think about solutions to clients’ problems in terms of systems and networks. It requires coming up with a more integrated approach that focuses on connections and relationships between brand and customers, communities, digital and physical, etc. We are challenged to simultaneously think of a creative idea and its execution, and to develop & evolve creative and strategy in parallel. This of course changes the nature of our agency process to become more non-linear, integrated, and interactive, and redefines how departments work together.\n
  • The way we often talk about digital world, we talk about it in terms of abstract disruption. The problem with talking about digital in connection to disruption is that is too massive, ephemeral, and hard to relate to. We end up talking about digital changes as if they have nothing - or little - to do with us and our work. They are viewed as something to talk & wonder about - but not something that we right now need to execute by. \n
  • To me, these conversations about “digital future” are incredibly boring and repetitive.\n
  • Digital world emerged some 15 years ago, at least. That was when the disruption happened. Now we are living in the world where digital and non-digital are indistinguishable. The same way no one says “electric iron” or “electric fridge”, today digital retail is interchangeable with retail, digital sport with sport, digital tourism with tourism, digital cooking with cooking, etc. Our world is digital world.\n
  • I like talking and thinking about are specific macro-trends that are disrupting businesses and culture in very specific, tangible, and measurable ways. Only by focusing on particular inflection points and breaks in business and marketing, we can really use the insights about what/how digital world really changed the way the industries (cultural industry included) operates. If we understand dynamic of these macro-trends, we will be able to use it in our brand and marketing strategy, thus effectively keeping our brands competitive. \n\n
  • Sharing economy revolves around having access to used and/or pre-owned goods. It’s based on a mutual trust between participants in a transaction, rather than the abstract market mechanism (price). It is a flexible system, as it nimbly provides supply based on the volume of demand through renting, trading, sharing, swapping, and bartering. Economic dynamic based on access removes the burden of ownership (costs of maintenance, storage, service, etc). At the same time, the access reshapes the markets in which brands compete in: they are competing not only with other marketers producing new goods and services but also with the all existing goods and services. For example, think AirBnb: it extends the hospitality/tourism markets to include all available rooms in the area (and not only hotel rooms). AirBnB effectively disrupts tourism industry by offering a cheaper, more convenient, more accessible and more fun version of hospitality service offerings.\n
  • We leave digital traces everywhere, from the moment we open the browser. Our likes, affinities, preferences, purchase habits and communication patterns are out there for all to see (and use). Aggregates of our individual behavioral patterns tell stories about wider social & cultural trends (think sharing, cooking, driving, running, shopping, etc). Brands, in particular, are rich repositories of all this data (just think big ecommerce platforms like Target, IKEA, JCrew, BestBuy or social shopping destinations like Svpply, Fab, Pinterest, etc). They can use all this wealth of data to tell a story about their customers, a wonderful, human, relevant story that can also be used as a bonus marketing message. This “consumer-based” story is a social object that’s easy to share, identify with, relate to and compare ourselves with (and that’s more interesting than any invented ad message).\n\n\n\n
  • Social information today is overlapping with price and it provides a powerful social context for consumer decision-making. We can now “calculate” the worth of a product or service based on whether it’s green, popular, worn by a celebrity, based on fair trade practices - i.e. based on everything that’s important to us. This sort of information has always been attached to products, but the thing is that we weren’t able to see it. Digital now makes all this information visible - and allows us consider all sorts of information aside of price - and It helps us make better, more informed, more social purchasing decisions.\n
  • When thinking about social influence, the best is to think of a forest fire metaphor. Whether or not the fire spreads doesn’t depend so much on the kind of the fire, but more on the density of trees in the forest, of how dry the forrest is, whether it rains or not, how close the trees are to each other, etc. The same is with social influence online: rather than investing money in a few celebrities, we are much better off if we spend that same money on the large number of “accidental influentials” (Duncan Watts’ term). Back to the forest metaphor: lighting a fire on a lot of trees makes it much more easier for the whole forest to burn, than lighting just one big tree. As Buzzfeed, The Awl, The Onion, Cheezburger Network, etc. have shown, people do like to share. The best strategy is then to aggregate a lot of people who like to share vs. a few celebrities who don’t particularly like to share, but would do it for money. Duncan calls this situation targeting “easily influenced people who influence other easily influenced people.” Those kind of individuals (professional sharers :) make content & memes spread much faster and wider than any pre-planned “viral” campaign.\n
  • This one is my favorite, because it requires doing a bit of a detective work. I stole the idea of looking for contradictions, inversions, coincidences and oddities from an innovation theorist (forgot the name). Contradictions mean simultaneous happening of two things at odds with each other, indicating a transformation of a certain trend. Oddities refer to out-of-ordinary occurrences that make us search beneath the surface or a trend or pattern. Inversions refer to unseen-before reversal in a trend’s dynamics. Coincidences are about concurrent appearance of distant and unrelated trends or patterns. Here are a few examples: Contradictions: Millenials are 40% of the car market, but they are buying cars & driving less than any previous generation. Digital gadgets replaced cars as genY identity markers. Oddities: Rapid growth of Instagram shows that this app is not only about taking photos and applying nostalgic filters. It’s about scratching some kind of storytelling itch among genY. Inversions: There’s more than 40% of households in major American cities with just one occupant. This makes us accept urban tribes as a prevalent social unit. Coincidences: Economic crisis happens simultaneously with an incredibly lively economic activity happening in peer-to-peer markets. Safe to say that the established economic logic is under a quiet but inevitable transformation.\n
  • The five macro-trends that I selected have the biggest impact on marketing: they bend its practices and create major inflection points in its processes and tools. These five trends are, more importantly, the inevitable starting point in digital marketing thinking: be it a campaign, a marketing strategy, a launch of a new product, a digital brand positioning or coming up with a brand purpose. Every single digital marketing venture should start from these macro-trends, because they define our approach to business challenges, consumer problems, competitive opportunity and/or brand positioning. Most importantly, using these trends as a starting point defines what digital marketing is: it’s not about the tools and tactics for execution - it is about detecting, understanding and tracking what’s going on because of digital and about building a brand around it. It’s this starting point that makes digital marketing unique and incredibly different from “traditional” marketing, which was obsessed, in a solipsistic manner, with using the brand, the category, and the product as its starting points. Digital marketing is not about media planning, engagement planning, communication strategy, and/or social media: it’s about the approach sensitive to macro-trends made possible by digital technology, and about devising a strategy that utilizes brands to amplify, recognize, or own these trends.\n
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  • Digital marketing focuses on things that are enabled by, facilitated, spread, grow, etc. because of digital technologies and behaviors. Ask which economic and cultural trends & currents are made possible by/permitted/emerged/amplified due to digital technologies, and then start building brand strategy around it. \n\n\n
  • The job of digital marketing is, among other things, to figure out new monetization opportunities for brands in the context of dynamic, consumer-driven, collaborative consumption markets. Making a cheaper version of a product/service is an option as it opens up the market to a whole new set of people (this is described in detail by Clayton Christensen in his “Innovator’s Dilemma”). Another version of the same approach, according to Aaron Shapiro, CEO of HUGE, is to make a product/service more convenient, or easier to use, or more fun. New monetization opportunities for brands should be based on all of the above, and focused on adding value to a selected consumer behavior/habit and/or responding to some need. Sharing economy in particular opens up new monetization opportunities for brands, because it forces them to explore: a) how to extend the product lifecycle, b) what unused distribution opportunities exist our there, and c) how to solve some customer’s problem. In the example above VW found a way to create brand affinity and promote its vehicles by wrapping a collaborative consumption-based system around them. It’s a test drive for everyone - when they need it and when it really makes a difference in their lives.\n\n\n
  • Google insights for search, social listening tools, and digital ethnography tools give us insights into consumers’ habits, motivations, and expectations. They also reveal anomalies, oddities and atypical patterns that are signals that something interesting’s going on - that we should tap into. \n\n\n
  • There are a few points to be made here: a) the most successful advertising today is native to its medium, meaning that it organically fits with the site content, layout, and with audience expectations for the site in question. In this way, we are using the site to create a powerful social context for advertising consumption; b) media today are not only what’s directed at people, but what exists between people (as Ian Schafer pointed out). Brand content needs to be sensitive to this dynamics: we should always ask whether our creative is/can become a social object; c) consumers rely on each other and brands for finding and discovering the best content. Most of cultural products are chosen by a small group of people who have a better taste than anyone else. Brands have an enormous potential to become part of this taste-making dynamic, by directing consumer attention towards specific content/products/etc. Ask: how can my brand help evolve consumers’ tastes by exposing them to the best content/information/lifestyle?\n
  • There is a ton of interesting things happening outside the marketing and branding world. Those things are often way more interesting than anything a brand does. At the same time, brands can help these small, brewing currents at the edge of the culture or business achieve a mass scale and global prominence. By detecting an emerging trend at the periphery of some industry (think retail industry, in the example above), brands get to capture & own the trend and to amplify it to the level of a wider cultural conversation. Case in point: GAP combined a few brewing trends - fashion blogging, product remixing & scrapbooking, and personal fashion styling - under the umbrella of its GAP styld.by campaign, which asked fashion bloggers to remix GAP products with items from their own closet in order to express their personal style. This campaign is a win for a few reasons: Tumblr provides a natural environment for a fashion blog; GAP products live in a social context; it lends the brand legitimacy and reputation of stylists used in the campaign; it’s an easily shareable social object.\n\n\n
  • Transparency can help a brand create a powerful social context that shapes consumers’ brand and product perceptions. Disclosing information about company culture, green practices, and operations turns them into marketing (think Zappos blogs, Patagonia product tracker, or Icebreaker barcode). It also turns their marketing upside down: it diverts consumers’ attention from a beautiful print ad or an emotional TV spot toward ubiquitous, easily accessible information about how brands products/services fare against competing products; how do they perform within a specific social or taste graph, or how they compare on fair-trade scale.\n\n
  • To put these macro-trends in context of marketing, we need to understand where the “big switch” is happening.\n
  • Advertising is not enough. It’s also not effective enough in changing people’s behaviors. We need to move from making funny copy and commercial ad pieces towards approaching brands as taste-makers, editors, curators, publishers, and providers of value. To achieve this, we need to start from the context of consumers lives, and see how a brand can seamlessly insert itself into their habits, expectations, and behaviors. We need to ask: can we make a product/service cheaper? can we make it more fun? can we make it more convenient? can we become more useful and more entertaining? what problem are we solving for our customer?\n
  • Commercial art pieces can be beautiful to look at, they can be talked about, and they can win awards. What we need, as an industry, is to start thinking about creating social objects that will turn our creative solutions into memes, conversation pieces, etc. that will sky-rocket them into the domain of cultural conversation. ROI on social objects is measured in greater brand affinity, a wider exposure, more impressions, and ultimately more conversions. Social objects is how our customers communicate and relate to each other. They are things that take part or create a relationship between people - an invitation, a social gesture, a gift, a reward. People exchange social objects as a way of relating to each other - and we want our creative to become an inherent and seamless part of social relationships.\n\n
  • Demographic targeting is a great starting point in every strategy. Today, however, it’s not nearly a sufficient one. Social media brought into picture interest graphs, taste graphs, and most recently, spend graphs. All of these tell us a deeper story about consumers preferences, tastes, and decision-making processes than any demographic targeting ever would be able to. They reveal connections between diverse demographic groups that we wouldn’t otherwise realize, and they reveal patterns of social influence and taste-making that we need to take into account in developing our strategy and engagement plans. More often than not, the fastest and most effective way to reach our target is through their networks of influence: people who influence their tastes, interests, and shopping choices. Instead of being satisfied with the neat demographic groups, we need to ask the following: what interest/taste personas are we targeting? where can we find them? what do they do there? what are they influenced by? what social/taste/interest networks do they belong to? what do they talk about? what language they use when talking about our product/brand or category? how do they interact with brands and with each other?\n
  • Too often, our marketing efforts start from a product/service that a brand offers. The best brands - digital or otherwise - think in terms of relationships. They define their brand purpose by capturing a specific behavior and/or relationship they want to own. Google’s purpose is organizing world’s information (and not search); Pepsi’s purpose is empowering communities (and not selling sugared water); Nike’s purpose revolves around running and making it better; Instagram’s purpose is to allow anyone to feel an emotional connection to photography (strangely enough, Kodak has this same purpose but it got list amid company’s rigid internal culture); Burberry’s purpose is to connect high and low culture that’s the essence of Britishness (Burberry has been worn by everyone from Queen to Sid Vicious). To succeed, brands need to ask themselves which behavior and relationship they want to build their purpose around.\n\n
  • In our industry, we are too often encouraged to think simple: to come up with a single insight, a single killer creative idea, a single course of our strategic action. Instead, we should start from the complexity of trends and patterns of consumers’ behaviors, and explore ways to amplify it them. The best way to win in today’s complex consumer markets is to recognize an emerging consumer need, a brewing trend, or an untapped distribution opportunity for our brands. Then, we should amplify it and own it. If consumers today are all about sharing, as in the car-sharing example above, we need to figure out the way how we can amplify this emerging trend and make it work for our car brand.\n
  • At the end, there are a few basic questions to help us kick-start our digital marketing effort. They can help us focus our thinking, inform our approach, and offer guidance for creating a winning marketing campaign - or at least one that is suitable for the digital world.\n
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  • A few things you need to know about digital marketing

    1. 1. Hi, I am Ana.
    2. 2. The Story. In the Fall of 2005, I was a graduate student at Columbia. I was learning about technology and innovation. And I wanted to work at AKQA. So I called Lars Bastholm. Every day. For three months.* Lars finally took the call. And here I am.*don’t worry, Lars didn’t call the cops on me. We became really good friends.
    3. 3. The Journey.Coca-Cola Maybelline CNN Burberry Citibank Toyota PUMA Ford Kashi DeBeers Nokia Target Kraft Boston Shakira Clarins Unilever Prudential Scientific Redken Hennessy Universal Music Calvin Klein Newcastle Group Pizza Hut
    4. 4. Along the way, the industry started to pay attention.
    5. 5. The thing I learned.* I stole this graph from Christoph Neimann.
    6. 6. I am a visual thinker. The woman who thinks like a cow.* Temple Grandin is a high-functioning autistic scientist who studies livestock’s behavior and who invented the hugging machine.
    7. 7. It turned out to be a good thing.Visual approach is holistic. It embraces the complexity of a situation without reducingit to a casual, simple explanation.Instead, it’s looking for intuitive solutions that seamlessly fit into people’s behaviors.It inspires thinking through associations.It encourages “what if”, not “why” and “how.”It’s non-linear and allows for the unexpected.It requires imagination and creativity.It is perfect for the digital world.
    8. 8. When we talk about digital world, we talk about disruption.
    9. 9. The disruption has already happened. A while ago :)
    10. 10. A much better idea is to talk about this stuff.Sharing Economy.Storytelling Through Data.Transparency.Networks of Influence.Cultural Micro-Tensions.
    11. 11. Sharing Economy Think access, not ownership. From clothes in our closets to finding a nearby loo, everything has become easily findable and shareable. Welcome to social consumption: consuming things in a social way. Thanks to others, we can now get whatever you need, whenever we need it.
    12. 12. Storytelling Through Data Digital traces are everywhere. The moment we open a browser we start leaving behind an enormous amount of data about our likes, affinities, purchase habits, and communication patterns. And brands can benefit, by turning our data trends into a story. This story is a shared communication object, something our audience can compare themselves to and identify with.
    13. 13. Transparency Money is not the only currency around. Physical world is already overlaid with all sorts of social data (think Facebook Likes, reviews, check-ins, tips). This is something that consumers definitely are taking into account when making their purchasing decisions: how popular is this item? what have other consumers said about it? who else has bought it? Social currency adds a layer over price.
    14. 14. Networks of Influence Influence is a network. The network structure decides whether something spreads or not. Which is why accidental influentials are so important. Accidental influentials are easily influenced people who influence other easily influenced people.
    15. 15. Cultural Micro-Tensions Look for contradictions, inversions, coincidences and oddities. They are brewing currents in our world that are not yet big enough to be considered culture, but that bend trends in a powerful way. Contradictions: Millennials are 40% of the car market, but they driving less than any previous generation. Oddities: Instagram’s rise to a power player in just 7 months. Inversions: More than 40% of Americans in the major US cities live alone. Coincidences: Economic crisis simultaneously happening with the lively economic activity in P2P markets.
    16. 16. Okay, what does all of this have to do with marketing? Well, everything.
    17. 17. The New Marketing Book.
    18. 18. The core premise of the new marketing book: Understand what is happening because of digital, and build a brand around it.
    19. 19. Sharing economy makes us think about new monetizationopportunities for brands. Everyone working in marketing is challenged by the new economic logic of sharing economy. Car industry, service industry, hotel industry and retail industry (among others) have already felt it. The first thing to do is to think about is the value that brands can add to consumers lives, like VW Quicar did.
    20. 20. Storytelling through data lets us create & own the socialcontexts for consumption. “Discoveries are made when you notice something out of ordinary”* Patterns of consumers’ shopping/sharing/ cooking/entertainment behavior are everywhere for us to see and learn from. They act as a story about ourselves. These stories provide a powerful consumption context - and a bonus marketing message. *Judy Scotchmoor
    21. 21. Networks of influence give us opportunity for taste-basedtargeting. Instead of a handful of “influencers”, our social media strategy should incorporate the interest- and taste- based groups of “accidental influentials” and their social graphs. Brand affinity is higher if people stumbled upon brand content via their friends. In our social media strategy, we want to create many opportunities for this “stumbling upon” to happen.
    22. 22. Cultural micro-tensions directs our brands to own anemerging behavior or a relationship. All the brewing micro-tensions give brands the unique opportunity to elevate themto the topic of cultural conversation. They force us to search beyond the current boundaries of a brand’s business & explore the periphery of its industry. Like amplifiers, brands can put the emerging tension at the center of their brand strategy.
    23. 23. Transparency forces us to manage the social informationlayer over brands’ products and services. Adding social information to price creates a powerful context for consumers’ purchasing decisions. It also creates a lot of conundrum for brands, as their messages now compete with the ubiquitous, reliable, real-time consumer information.
    24. 24. The Big Switch.
    25. 25. From: To: Advertising. Brands as platforms for adding value.“Advertising is a business of words” How does a brand add value to customers’ lives? Does it help them do something in a better, easier, more fun way?
    26. 26. From: To:Making a commercial art piece. Making a social object.“I regard a great ad as the most beautiful thing in the world”
    27. 27. From: To:Demographic Targeting. Taste-based targeting.
    28. 28. From: To:Product-focused. Behavior & Relationship-focused.
    29. 29. From: To:Simplification. Amplification.
    30. 30. Ask:How are macro-trends impacting my client’s business?Do I see any contradictions, oddities, inversions or coincidences in themarket? How can I use them to further my client’s business and brand?How are micro-trends impacting behavior of my customers?What kind of consumer taste am I targeting? How does this taste form,spread, and how does it influence culture? What social objects can Idevelop to participate in it?How can I use social currency to amplify value of my client’s brand?How do I measure all of this?
    31. 31. I like deer, too.