From the high street to the boardroom, smart mobile devices that connect consumers to content, communities, businesses and brands are everywhere. Half of new mobiles sold in Western Europe in 2011 are forecast to be smartphones — the implications of the ‘mobilisation’of everyday life matter profoundly to anyone involved in the business of marketing and communications.
How many brands are taking advantage of mobile as a channel to engage directly with audiences 24/7 wherever they may be? Are marketing teams aware of the potential that mobile holds for personalised andinteractive communications? Do marketers and communications leaders know when a mobile strategy isappropriate, and are they aware of the pitfalls and how to avoid them?
Spent yesterday at Henley Business School in a workshop about how the internet (and digital technology in general) has radically changed communications channels. Led by David James it was not only a chance to talk about digital trends and their implications for marketeers but also to work through real-life challenges faced by fellow delegates. From financial services suppliers to helicopter makers, from B2B to B2C, it certainly made for a thought provoking day and a different take on the work we’re already doing.
Mass customisation In an ideal world we’d be personalising all our messages and engagement activities. Clearly this is not always going to be practical, hence the idea of mass customisation which is about creating a perception of personalisation. We went on to talk about how behavioural targeting is the key to achieving this: segmenting the market and figuring out what people best respond to. The Amazon ‘you might also like’ is one example, as are iTunes recommendations. This is something we here at WS work really hard on and it reinforces the idea of using market insights to inform and direct strategy.
Brand engagement Using American Idol as a case study, we worked up a brand engagement model thinking about acquisition, participation, engagement and sharing. We then used pensions as an example of figuring out how to get people to engage; let’s face it, pensions are a topic many (if not most) people find pretty dry. Creating engagement is such a fundamental part of digital communications — it’s helpful, from a strategic point of view, to consider levels of engagement and how we can layer these as touchpoints during the course of a campaign.
Personal brands With audiences now so fragmented, how do you target messages? Using strong personal brands was one tactic we discussed by creating “celebrities” within micro-communities. The concept of having a spokesperson is hardly new but replicating this online means having someone who can genuinely contribute to the relevant niche community. Clearly the personal brand also has to work within its (corporate) setting and with its partners.
Corporate terrorists David floated an interesting (albeit intentionally controversial/attention grabbing) idea that businesses can learn a lot about improving their performance from terrorists. By this he meant that terrorists are dynamic, quick to change, have a lean management structure and are empowered to act rather than referring everything up the chain of command. He likened various internet-based challenger brands to terrorists because of the way they rethink the traditional way of doing business in order to beat the incumbent/market leader at their game. He also noted the way terrorists use technology to communicate and distribute their message. He suggeseted deploying “corporate commandos” as a response, small groups of specialist empowered to make big changes and rethink the rules.
Food for thought
So what did I get out of it? I think at the heart of these discussions is the business. The digital age is killing business model 1.0 Companies either adapt to the internet age or lose business, get left behind by the competition or, at the worst, die. A digital communications programme is going to work much better (or may well only work) if a business commits to it. That means updating the blog regularly, tweeting in real time rather than two days later, listening as much as talking, committing to the community, etc
A digital programme needs to be part of the business strategy, directly linked with the objectives and ambitions, ingrained within the corporate structure. It comes from the top, middle and bottom and runs through the arteries and veins of the business. It engages the customers and is relevant to the product/brand. It’s a daily measurable part of life. The challenge for businesses wanting to embrace all things digital is to look internally as well as externally.
Videos of cats, pictures of cats, text about cats… it’s never ending out there on the internet and millions upon millions of us human are lapping up cat content. (Of the digital kind, not eating Whiskas.)
Thing is, the internet brings together niche communities in a way that’s logistically difficult if not impossible offline. Surely if you’re trying to reach people as part of a campaign with cat-related elements then digital has to be the way forward because there’s a ready-made community to engage. Extrapolate this and the internet is going to offer you a community (or the chance to build a community) around every niche imaginable.
Miss digital and you risk missing-out on engaging a passionate, ready-made, like-minded audience who are already sharing catty content.
Congratulations, cats, on your award!
[Disclaimer: I like cats and am trying to persuade my wife to let me get one]