What brands need to do to become more meaningful in the digital world
Ciarán O’Reilly offers some advice to clients on how to get to grips with the new media world that their brands now live in. This article was written for the November 2010 issue of Irish Marketing Journal – the leading marketing industry magazine in Ireland.
In his recent blog post, “The Anti-Social Network”, Tom Fishbourne, a regular commentator on Brands, wrote a revealing critique on the way in which brands are using digital channels.
Fishbourne comments: “Brands are flocking to Facebook in greater herds than ever before. Facebook has become an integral tick box on just about every marketing plan.
Yet setting up a Facebook page alone won’t suddenly make a brand more social. The question for a brand to ask is not whether to use social media. The question to ask is how to make your brand more engaging. An antisocial brand using social media is still an antisocial brand.”
The beauty of digital is that it opens up a very different kind of media world to brands. Rather than simply placing ads in static, one-directional paid media positions; it reveals newer, more interactive ways for brands to communicate. So, instead of this outmoded paid media model, digital strategy needs to look to exploit media under three distinct headings – Paid, Owned and Earned Media.
Traditional Media Model vs Digital Media Model
So how should brands adopt to this changing marketing environment?
The start point has to be to create senior positions in their organisation for dedicated Digital Champions. By making digital a central function, brands can become a meaningful part of the consumer conversation.
A dedicated digital resource will also help define what elements they need to take responsibility for internally versus what external digital agencies should look after.
Sean Chaney of Accuqoute wrote a very interesting article for iMedia Connection on what elements of the Digital marketing workload are too important to outsource and identifies 5 functions brand managers should retain control over.
1. Build it (yourself), and they will come
Chaney argues that if you’re going to build the relationship with your existing customers (via email for example), you should take ownership of the content. Nobody cares about your customers more than you do.
In 2005, I worked on the launch strategy for the hugely successful online-only Bank, RaboDirect. On one occasion, an IT error led to a promotional email meant for the Bank’s New Zealand customer base ending up going to the Irish database.
The content of the email was to offer savings at an interest rate over double that available in Ireland! As you might imagine, customers jammed the website for this incredible offer.
The natural inclination might be to pull a Crisis Management team together. The client rightly asked us what we would do. Our answer was to stay true to the brand’s essence. The brand positioning is “The Straight Talking Online Bank”. So, instead of asking the agency to carefully craft some PR prose, they responded by admitting their error. The key however, was that they wrote the email themselves. The response was phenomenal. Numerous posts appeared in forums and chat rooms about how this brand was truly living up to its ‘straight talking’ name.
2. Don’t take a chaperone to a bar
Chaney also argues that social media needs to be controlled internally. “What would be going through your head if you were at a bar and a good-looking guy or gal wanted to have a conversation using his or her mother to relay messages back and forth?
When it comes to social media, get help from agencies to build platforms and the listening and engaging framework, but when it comes down to actually managing the content and conversation, that domain falls with the brand.”
In a recent pitch at Refresh, we were asked by the client whether we could look after curating their social media. We advised against relinquishing this critical role. Social media requires a genuine and speedy response as befits the medium. We argued that instead of enhancing their online reputation, outsourcing their direct interaction with consumers to a third party would fail the brand on both counts. We won the business.
3. Would you ask your toddler to steer your car?
Another area Mr Chaney argues is a client rather than agency role is writing and owning the strategy. He writes “When you were a kid and you went on a road trip, did your parents ask you to map the route and steer the car while they put their foot on the gas and took a nap? Of course not. So why would you ask your agency to go beyond its area of expertise and map out your entire business strategy?” He contends that what clients should do is clearly define your business objectives to your agencies, and let them know how you see them fitting into the puzzle. Then ask them to come to the table with their plans.
4. It’s your data
Another area to retain control or at least a solid understanding of is data.
“Since most brands don’t share their back-end data with their agencies, the brand should own its data analysis. However as a brand in an ever-growing ocean of data, there are areas where you can leverage your agencies for analytics.”
He gives some examples such as media agencies looking at front-end performance data such as media delivery, ad server reports, or conversion rates.
5. I don’t bathe in your toilet, don’t pee in my pool
Your agencies are there to excel and help you achieve specific business objectives. Don’t expect them to perform the functions your team should be doing. When it comes to presenting plans internally, use your agencies to feed you the tactics, marketing plans, and research to build your presentation.”
I don’t necessarily agree that you shouldn’t expect your agencies to make your internal presentations. The best agency-client relationships that I have been involved in are collaborative. The re-assurance of highly skilled and knowledgeable agency staff can be a hugely beneficial resource in helping ‘sell-in’ ideas.
So, how do brand managers approach establishing a strong digital strategy? At a top level, we need to look at what a brand is and what a brand does in this much changed digital landscape.
David Ogilvy defined a brand as “The intangible sum of a product’s attributes: its name, packaging, and price, its history, its reputation, and the way it’s advertised”. However, to the Facebook Generation, a brand is now “what I tell someone else it is”.
I believe brands have two roles now: To become ‘open platforms’ and to be useful. Becoming an open platform means becoming a ‘place’ to engage consumers – allowing them to collaborate with and shape the brand. In order to do this, marketers need to make sure brands have something meaningful to say. The social web means the conversation about your brand is now continuous and ever-changing. If you choose not to take part, the conversation will still take place without you and you may simply get left behind.
Tom Fishbourne picks up on this: “Many brands use social media to talk at consumers the same way they talk at consumers everywhere. They blab about their benefits, products, and services. Yet there is no captive audience in media nowadays, particularly online.”
Crucially, consumers talking about you makes financial sense. Aaccording to Bain & Co., the most recommended companies in a category grow 2.5 times faster than the category average.
It is based on the idea of measuring a brand’s ‘Net Promoter Score’ – a metric that holds companies and employees accountable for how they treat customers.
NPS is based on the idea of asking one simple question — How likely is it that you would recommend [Company X] to a friend or colleague? — you can track these groups and get a clear measure of your company’s performance through its customers’ eyes.
Customers respond on a 0-to-10 point rating scale and are categorized as follows:
Promoters (score 9-10) Loyal enthusiasts who will keep buying and refer others, fuelling growth.
Passives (score 7-8) Satisfied but unenthusiastic customers, vulnerable to competitive offerings.
Detractors (score 0-6) Unhappy customers who can damage your brand and impede growth through negative word-of-mouth.
To calculate your company’s Net Promoter Score (NPS), take the percentage of customers who are Promoters and subtract the percentage who are Detractors.
By combining a better understanding of the new rules of engagement all measured on an ongoing basis with these dynamic measurement techniques, you should be fully equipped to start building a meaningful digital role for your brand in the lives of your customers.
Ciaran O’Reilly is Managing Director and Head of Planning at Refresh, a digitally led, full service creative agency. He has spent the last 20 years working in advertising, strategic brand consulting and now digital advertising.Back to top