A planners approach to digital. Or a digital approach to planning.
(Digital) Planning Approach.
Digital Planning. What does that even mean? Here I’ve taken the liberty to translate it
in terms of what it means to me through my own experience. Admittedly there are so
many other processes and tools here that I haven’t gone in to and more I’d love to
learn. Hence, I’ve tried to keep it as simple as possible.
For me a Digital Planner lives and breathes in the digital space and uses digital tools
to facilitate the planning process. It’s not about ‘channels’ and ‘messages’ but more to
do with touch-points and behaviour. Essentially understanding how brands connect in
an ever more digitalised world.
We know the worlds getting rapidly digitalised, mediums are converging, culture is
becoming rapidly urbanised, consumers more inclined to optimise their personal
brand by associations and using a growing number of tools providing them the
freedom of price choice and connectivity.
Ubiquitous Internet access is a near by reality and cloud computing mean that
content is accessible from portable devices in real-time. Information is everywhere.
Communities are empowered to choose what content they want to access, enjoy and
So here is my digital planner process to mull over.
1. DIG AROUND - INSIGHTS
A structured and highly effective scavenger approach to sifting through existing data
(consumer, category, culture, company) to uncover tasty insight morsels.
(Refer to ‘Handy Digital Tools’ below).
What fresh perspective can we get from culture that helps unlock an opportunity for growth?
• Brands and consumers live in and co-create culture
• Culture is the sum total of contemporary thought and production – it’s
everything we experience
• Fringe culture can predict mainstream culture – need to understand the fringe
influencers for your category
What fresh perspective can we get from consumers that helps unlock an opportunity for growth?
• Past, and therefore future prediction of behaviour
• Conflicting needs and trade-offs
• Wider alternatives universe
• How the brand could do more to help people
What fresh perspective can we get from the category that helps unlock an opportunity for growth?
• Gaps and weaknesses in the competitive landscape
• How well do products deliver on consumer needs
• New technology opportunities
• Category momentum
What fresh perspective can we get from the brand that helps unlock an opportunity for growth?
• What equities, features, associations can be owned and leveraged
• What are the current digital properties against brand goals
• What is the brand good at…and not
• What is its history, what was is it designed for
• What was/is its purpose
• Who loves us/who hates us
From these insights we can look at foresight…
1. External Understanding of current environment, micro and macro we lead
us to define likely future environments and possibilities. Identify discontinuities
and tensions to consider.
2. Internal Understanding of current environment, issues, challenges,
opportunities to address in order to define potentially leverageable
Which will lead to potential growth drivers and growth insulators such
What markets are /should you be in?
Which consumers and customers do you /should you be serving?
Current versus future brand/product portfolio?
How do you/should you reach your customers, with what channels?
Where do your/will your margins come from?
How are you/should you be organised to take advantage of opportunities?
Ambition Exercises/Stakeholder Interviews/More digging
Work out where the company wants to be and where it should be if its not there
already. Read the companies Annual Report.
1. Where do you really make money?
Online vs. Offline/In store
2. If there were one change you could make in the business, what would it be?
Think beyond the product/service
3. If you could nuke one of your competitors, who would it be and why?
4. Who do you wish you worked for instead and why?
An example of a successful company doing what you want to do
5. If there was another market you could move into, what would it be and why?
6. What is the single best/worst thing you do as a company?
7. Who do you really think your customers are?
What does their day look like? Where do they live?
What else would they choose to spend their money on instead?
8. Which part of the business a) adds the most value and b) most under performed?
9. If your business was a celebrity/animal, who would it be and why?
Its important to be creative in this process to keep the right brain engaged.
BUSINESS WANTS – OBJECTIVES
Once you’ve distilled the above. Think about the serious objectives that will drive
growth. This insight process will have delivered a challenge, and out of that you or
your client will have laid out some objectives that need to be met.
They may be “brand” objectives like “awareness” and “reach” or they may be harder
retail driven objectives like “increasing sales” or “new customers”.
Be sure to consider what is unique about the business, where it’s positioned and its
brand vision is. If necessary consider re-establishing the value proposition before
moving on to the next step.
2. COMMUNITY - (AKA KNOWN AS ‘TARGET MARKET’)
Segment the community; who are we talking to? What do we know about them?
What are their needs? Where do they sit in the purchase path?
Once you know what the company objectives are, we then need to think further about
what the community need is (a lot may have already been uncovered in the
What groups of people are you talking to?
Think: Who are they? What do their lives look like? What do they want? What do
they aspire to? What is unmet? What do they look, smell and taste like? What is their
experience with the brand? What is their perception of the product/service/brand?
Usability? Relevance? Performance? Rational vs. Emotional vs. Promised etc.
Use Qual/Quant tools to unveil more about your customers or potential customers.
Understand what the barriers are and where they are in the “purchase pathway”.
Now that you understand your targets needs, analyse their behaviour in their
What does their day look like? Where do they go? What do they spend on? What
brands do they associate with and why? You need to map out and understand the
nuances of these as they will become launch pads for conversations.
What specific needs will people have when they connect with the brand? What will
their motivations be?
People: Who are the consumers (current, potential, lapsed) within the market?
Needs: What are the needs and motivations of the market? What do people purchase
within this market? What do they want that does or does currently exist?
Place: Where do people purchase and / or consume within the category
Time: When do people purchase and / or consume within the category
What: What brands are there? What are their relative strengths and weaknesses?
Think about what behaviour is desired to achieve the business objectives
& why this will benefit.
Some handy digital tools: Desk Research e.g. Forrester, eMarketer and any industry
publications, Roy Morgan, RMR Young Aust Survey, Australia & Youth Scan, Nielsen
Netratings, Hitwise, Social Media Monitoring, Alexa/Technorati, Google Trends, Google
Zeitgeist, Google Analytics, RSS, Survey Monkey, Online Quantitative Surveys and
Qualitative Forums, Mobile/PDA Surveys, Eyetracker Technology.
Content is story time. Activity is behaviour. Both communicate and enable what the
brand is about.
Here you start to look at the structures of communication that will bridge the gaps you
have identified in the earlier steps. What can you do to emotionally engage and
entertain? What role does digital play to achieve the objectives? Using the segment
information map out:
1. What is the mindset?
2. Attitude towards brand/product?
3. Desired behaviour?
5. Role for digital?
e.g. Engage, Support ATL, connect & enable community, Entertain, Streamline process, Create
response, Provide information, Encourage switching, Reinforce choice.
Get a Qual/Quant reaction to ideas. Consult producers. Speak to developers. Look at
what you learned last time.
4. SIMPLIFY. GET. TO. BY.
It’s been a journey and while there are many learning’s along the way, it’s important
to ensure that everything is easily distilled in to a simplified community centric
A great way to narrow this down is to use a simplified brand action plan: Get, To, By.
GET: TARGET AUDIENCE
TO: DESIRED BEHAVIOUR/EXPERIENCE
e.g. GET: MODERN DAY CITY WOMEN TO: BE A PART OF THE BELLE-ESQUE
COMMUNITY BY: DELIVERING AWARENESS OF THE BRAND & REWARDING
(EARLY ADOPTER) ENGAGEMENT
(I’ve kept this top-line. In reality the campaign process will involve more logistics like
creative/media alignment etc.)
1. BUSINESS OBJECTIVES & VALUE PROP
3. COMMUNITY & USP
4. GET TO BY
5. BUDGETING & MEDIA ROLES – if necessary
6. TIMING/INTEGRATION & MEDIA PLAN – if necessary
7. METRICS OF SUCCESS
5. FABULOUSLY EXECUTE
This is the point where we bring the strategy to life. Whether the brand behaves or
creates (for Digital within the remit of its role), the key is that regardless of touch point
the value proposition is consistent and the community experience is uber fabulous.
Consider the media architecture/digital ecosystem. Flesh out a success measurement
Remember digital is a two-way conversation so continue to listen and respond.
Amplify. Make sure that the content or behaviour is one that tells a story that the
community can tell too. Remember the virtue of social kudos how it’s earned, created
and spent, accumulated and shared. Communities want brands to help nourish their
own status, to create a culture and a movement somewhere new. To enable them to
enable you. In the words of Jerry Maguire’s “Help me, help you”.
Think about the rules of engagement? How do we start the conversation? Should we
announce or do we embrace? How do all the touch points connect to one another?
Map the user experience behaviour? Tailor action/behaviour to the community
Then… MAKE IT HAPPEN.
6. TRACK, LEARN & MAKE IT BETTER
Measurement isn’t difficult. Of course digital channels offer a wealth of metrics but
once we’ve put in the hard work of aligning business objectives and strategic
approach, much of this falls in to place. Just be sure to maximise learning’s along the
way against the success metrics and any other learnings.
Don’t just measure against your key objective. Keep measuring. Go through each step
again and dig deeper. Find out what/who influenced your brand the most. What did
the community do? How did they respond? What were the conversations? Where did
they go? Keep learning and sharing at each step of the way to optimise and ensure
that everyone gets better with you.
Make your brand better. Make your customer experience more profound. Change
things, test things keep improving (e.g. Multivariate & A/B testing).
Refine, substantiate and evolve.
For me, this is what digital strategy is all about – understanding how people want to
connect and knowing how to use the tools to get you there. It's an information junkie.
A futurist. A geek. Someone who doesn’t jump off the boat at execution but is there
every step of the way. Its not about channels its about opportunities and knowing how
people behave with technology in their every day lives to yield positive results for
them and subsequently for business.