Fall'13 Breakthrough

October 20-23, 2013 | Austin, Texas

How to build your brand's digital value ecosystem


Innovation isn't about the technology. It's about how you apply it. Here's why brands need to think more holistically about providing value.

Last year, there was a lot of talk about it being "the year of mobile." What about this year? Because of the exponential growth in the technology field, we are closer to customers than ever before. So why not "the year of the consumer"? Or better yet, "the year of the people"? Now more than ever, brands have to prove their value to potential customers. They must go above and beyond their usual products or services -- and their usual marketing -- to provide something even deeper.

In his opening keynote presentation at the iMedia Breakthrough Summit in Austin, Texas, summit host Adam Broitman, VP of global digital marketing at MasterCard, discussed the importance of creating what he calls a "digital value ecosystem." According to Broitman, this is the ultimate way for brands to stay relevant in a quickly changing landscape.

What is innovation?

Often it is not the invention, but what comes next, that triggers true innovation. For example, the printing press itself was an impressive technology, but what made it revolutionary was the end result. Because of its application, a vast percentage of the population could read. So what does innovation truly mean? For Broitman, it's "creativity with a job to do." Many today are focused on what Google Glass actually is, but it is in the aftermath of an invention that people truly start to innovate. The four stages in the cycle of innovation are invention, disruption, post-disruption, and -- finally -- innovation. The post-disruption stage is, in a sense, the most crucial, Broitman said.

Brands need to be thinking digital, not just in terms of marketing, but in terms of value and innovation. Broitman shared many of the new ways MasterCard is rising to the occasion to innovate with technology, with projects like QkR, MasterPass, and an open API initiative.

Every company should now be a technology company, and Nike is the famous example that demonstrates the best way to do just that, Broitman noted. Nike created a value ecosystem leveraging both community and cutting-edge technology through applications like Nike+ and Nike Fuelband. It has also extended its network through its partnership with TechStars, an incubator that helps early-stage startups and now co-creates Nike products.

Products with marketing baked in

Ideally, marketing value is baked into the product itself. Broitman claimed marketers today relate less and less to Don Draper. "He fabricates stories around and above products, but he doesn't affect the product itself." He says marketers now relate more to Steve Jobs, who built marketing stories into the products themselves. Broitman showed attendees a thought-provoking image of a girl intently using her iPhone, standing just in front of an ad displaying the iPhone 5C. In Apple's ads, the product is the story.

Providing secondary value

Broitman highlighted the importance of "secondary areas of value." Brand should be taking advantage of the resources available to them. In other words, if you are in a position to provide value in particular areas, don't wait for another brand to seize the opportunity. Time Warner's "Intelligent Home" allows people to use their devices to control temperature, lights, and more. Again, the marketing is baked in, so the TV spot need only show what the product can do. The experience serves as the advertisement.

The importance of user experience

The user experience designer, according to Broitman, is going to become increasingly important to brands and marketers. He recommends keeping a copy of Donald Norman's "The Design of Everyday Things" close at hand. "The user experience designer doesn't look at what it is, but rather imagines what it can be," Broitman said. This is the person who ties together product and marketing.

Taking a stand

There are three essentials to remember when creating a complete ecosystem of value.

  1. Every company is a technology company.
  2. Brands must be publishers.
  3. Every brand must have values.

For MasterCard, it was vital to illustrate that last point, so the brand decided to have a presence at a New York Pride event, inviting participants to share what #AcceptanceMatters meant to them. This was an industry-leading move on the part of the brand. Broitman said that brands need to have an "active voice" in the world. After all, we're talking about connecting with real people, and real people want to share their stances -- now more than ever. The only way to keep up is to get involved.

Chloe Della Costa is an associate editor at iMedia Connection.

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