A first-mover advantage means nothing if your strategy goes nowhere. Hear how these industry leaders leveraged meaningful innovations to achieve their marketing objectives.
In the realm of digital marketing innovation, there are often more questions than answers. What do new interactive television technologies mean for traditional narratives? How can brands tap into the emerging realm of augmented reality? When does the reward of being a first mover outweigh the risks?
Although every advertiser must uncover the answers to these questions with their own brands in mind, they can take lessons from the companies that have gone before them. On Monday, at the iMedia Breakthrough Summit in Coconut Point, Fla., attendees heard tales of digital marketing innovation from some of the top minds in the interactive industry.
A recommendation engine for the B2B world
On the consumer side, we've become all too familiar with recommendation engines. "If you like this, you might also like... " These tools, employed by the likes of Amazon and other top online properties, make our lives easier by sifting through the myriad options out there and making informed suggestions. As Stacey Schulman, SVP, ad sales research, for Turner Entertainment puts it, these tools help us cope with the paradox of choice. "More choice isn't necessarily better or optimal," she said. "Sometimes it creates a lot of stress."
With this in mind, Turner Entertainment set about creating a recommendation engine for its digital businesses. The resulting platform, "The Nexus," uses thousands of audience data points to make intelligent suggestions regarding the programming that advertisers might want to consider for reaching their target audiences. And it takes another lesson from the consumer side as well: transparency. By disclosing the reasoning behind suggestions to its brand-side users, The Nexus empowers advertisers to make informed choices, without having to weed through an overwhelming number of options.
The new innovation challenge
In the past, marketers have been faced with technological, physical, and industrial innovation challenges. Can we do it? How can we do it? And how can we scale it? But according to Renny Gleeson, global digital strategies director at Wieden + Kennedy, the latest challenges of innovation stem from institutional questions. Where does innovation live and how does it get funded?
In seeking to address such dilemmas, Gleeson applies three principles:
- Collaborate fast
- Network, network, network
- Fail cheap, and scale to win
In other words, the best ideas are not always going to come from within your organization. You must embrace the stories that other people are telling through your brand. After all, neither Diet Coke nor Mentos were the ones who decided to combine their products into a spectacular online viral video craze -- but their brands were a part of that story all the same. Reaching out to the innovators beyond your organization will give you access to new, compelling ideas, and partnering to fund promising platforms at the inception stage will accelerate the pace of innovation in your marketing efforts.
Cracking the augmented reality code
Augmented reality: What is it good for? As digital marketers struggle with this increasingly pressing question, it's likely that each brand will come up with its own unique answer.
Take Cisco, for example. According to Adam Broitman, partner and ring leader at Circ.us, the company decided to leverage AR as a lead-generation tool. The company created an engaging AR-driven game to promote its Borderless Networks to IT professionals. The campaign overcame many of the typical obstacles associated with AR campaigns by delivering all the needed elements, including a webcam and the visuals needed to trigger the AR interface, to IT professionals in "mystery boxes." The result? Conversion and engagement levels that remarkably exceeded those of a standard direct mail campaign.
The first-mover advantage
When it comes to marketing, being the first brand to reach consumers on a given platform or via a new tactic has many advantages, says Jeff Minsky, director emerging media at OMD Ignition Factory. Campaign "firsts" establish a brand as an industry leader and progressive marketer, generate value through PR and word of mouth, and can give brands a long-term competitive advantage.
However, don't be first just for the sake of being first, Minsky advises. "Don't do it just for the sake of buzz," he said. "Do it because it's in line with your objectives and strategies."
Take Dockers, for example. The brand was challenged by its reputation as an old brand -- decidedly not hip. So it reenergized itself by being the first brand to introduce a shakeable iPhone app, in which movement of the phone caused a Dockers model to dance about on the screen -- thereby demonstrating the comfort and movement of the clothing while establishing the brand as a marketing innovator.
The future of TV
Contrary to what some digital marketers will have you believe, the future of advertising is not all about interactivity, says Seth Haberman, founder and CEO of Visible World. In fact, brands that try to force consumers to interact with traditional narrative content are likely to see their efforts fall flat. Just because TVs are evolving into connected, interactive platforms does not mean people want the stories they consume to be interrupted by prompts for engagement. On the contrary, savvy marketers must recognize the situations in which interactivity is appropriate.
Why do people cry during movies and not during video games? Haberman says it's because video games are based on the player's choices. Meanwhile, traditional narratives in the form of TV shows and movies are not based on choice -- and interjecting choice into them destroys the illusion.
Thus, Haberman says, marketers must focus their interactive television efforts on content that is interactive in nature. Games, sports -- these are places where viewers anticipate a level of interactivity. Meanwhile, keep your Twitter feeds out of your audience's beloved narratives.
Digital meets physical
Digital out-of-home (DOOH) provides advertisers with the means to extend their online, mobile, video, and social efforts into the real world, says Rob Gorrie, president and founder of ADCENTRICITY. So it's time to start getting creative in how brands tap into this fast-growing medium.
Evian, for example, brought one of its online viral video sensations to the point of purchase, using DOOH to project its message at the point where it is likely to have the most influence -- at the grocery store checkout. But it's not just about encouraging purchases -- sometimes it's just the opposite. Consider, for example, another innovative use of DOOH: An anti-smoking organization tailored its campaign so that its message only played in retail settings when a customer purchased a pack of cigarettes.
Virtual goods jump into the third dimension
"Social endorsement is one of the most powerful ways to get consumers to talk about your brand," says Paul Martecchini, VP of marketing for AdNectar. And in this sense, virtual goods present a compelling and scalable way to spark these sorts of recommendations in the social sphere.
For example, he said, Nestle Toll House saw a 17 percent lift in purchase intent when it enabled Facebook users to send virtual cookies to their friends. Similarly, Malibu Rum saw a 9 percent increase in brand favorability after it gave consumers the ability to send virtual drinks to members of their networks.
And now, virtual goods are being taken into a whole new dimension. Brands like Miley Cyrus and Hot Pockets are integrating themselves into virtual worlds, where users can dress their 3-dimensional avatars in branded clothing and even eat branded food. On average, such campaigns generate about half a million brand engagements during their run, Martecchini said.
Engagement through new TV platforms
With so much video-on-demand content available today, it can be hard for content providers to reach the consumers that matter most to them. To overcome this challenge, health video company HealthiNation -- with the help of Rovi Corp. -- turned to the TV Guide.
By running an interactive banner shortcut on the TV Guide channel, HealthiNation saw a 15-fold increase in the amount of traffic being driven to its video content, said John Piccone, SVP of sales and business development for HealthiNation. This case study also illustrated several lessons for other advertisers, said Tom Wolfe, senior director of advanced advertising at Rovi. Advertisers must ensure their messages are strategically placed, easy to act upon, and well-suited to the medium.
Lori Luechtefeld is editor of iMedia Connection.
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