Digital Planning in 2012: 3 Resolutions To Keep

There are many definitions of what digital planning entails and even today, there’s still a lot of debate around what a digital planner actually does. A “2012 Digital Planning Guide” was featured on recently to help guide brands in developing their digital strategy.

Beyond digital “media” planning, my definition of digital planning as a function within a creative agency is the use of a structured and disciplined approach to help brands leverage on technology trends, culture, lifestyles, and insights to create engaging and immersive experiences that changes the way the consumer thinks, feels, and acts.

Instead of diving straight into digital executions (i.e. banners, microsites, Facebook app, etc), let’s all resolve to take a step back to consider the bigger picture in 2012. Using some great case studies from the past year, here are three digital planning resolutions to consider:

1. Social and Contextual Relevance

Increasingly, consumers are not differentiating their interactions within the real and virtual world and consequently marketers should not do the same. Communications planning has always been about connecting brands to people and technology essentially allows us to leverage on a rich layer of contextual data to connect with them at the right place, right time with the right messaging both online and offline. The way to do this is to look at the customer journey, examining the consumer’s activities, motivations, and state of mind and then delivering the most contextually relevant messages to them.

Mobile devices are one of the main conduits of this. An always-on device that is carried everywhere you go. It is the true bridge between the real and virtual world and one that allows marketers to pinpoint your location, track your activities and deliver communication customized to you on the fly. With data driving consumer insights, brands can then engage (and not disrupt) consumers with meaningful experiences during their everyday lives. Tesco Homeplus Virtual Subway store is one great example.

In addition, with the proliferation of the social graph across multiple social networks, this means that marketers can now leverage on a multitude of data within a social context to create better, more customized experiences to bring their brands closer and make them more relevant to consumers. One recent example is Kleenex Feel Good.

In short, brands need to leverage on consumer insights and data to create a 360 approach with the consumer at the center. Digital encompasses not just the web but anywhere brands can develop a meaningful interaction with the consumer across the purchase funnel. This requires brands to create (and not just fill) media spaces and interaction points that will drive customer engagement and activation.

2. Tell the Brand Story to a Wider Audience The main role of advertising has always been about telling the brand story, in an emotional and relevant way to consumers. Simon Sinek, in this amazing TEDx video talks about how people buy not what you (the brand) do but what you say. Rather than trying to be what your consumers what you to be, brands instead should have a genuine belief in their reason for being and communicate this in a genuine and authentic way to gain consumer trust and ultimately a share of their wallets.

A great brand story is one that immerses the viewer completely and brings them into the story emotionally and Coca-Cola is one brand that has done this really well. One single-minded brand purpose, one single message. Happiness. The Happiness that a drink of Coke provides. Happiness that is timeless and that always resonates with people. Whatever happiness is, means, or looks like may change, but the emotion always remains relevant.

Coke manifests this in many ways; The most recent with the highly emotional Coke Happiness OFW Project, where Coke created true happiness for a few of the 11 million Filipinos working overseas by bringing them home to their families for the holidays.

Another great example is this video by TC Bank in Taiwan. Not your typical bank advertising, this video was created around the bank’s belief that ordinary people can have extraordinary dreams and it encapsulates this point of view nicely by creating a highly emotional experience about why people live their lives.

By communicating their belief system to like-minded audiences, brands are able to bring their message through a more emotional and inspirational territory and the digital space provides the best catalyst for consumers who share that same belief system to socialize and amplify this across their social circles.

3. Add Value, Not Distraction

Some brands use technology for the sake of using it. Truth be told, in an economy where attention is the most scarce commodity, consumers can smell advertising and gimmicks from a mile away. Brands that look beyond commercial gain and focus on changing behaviors and making lives better are the ones that win big.

These are the brands that dig deep into consumer insights and leverage on technology to create unique opportunities to engage with consumers and add value to their lives.

Nike + has famously done that with running. Leveraging on the insight that runners love tracking and analyzing their runs, Nike has turned a traditionally solitary sport into a social one, adding gamification into the platform to drive and encourage more people to run and stay healthy. Recently, it launched Nike + Fuelband, a wristband that measures physical activity in the form of “Nike Fuel”. The universal measurement allows Nike to ladder this across all sports categories and socialize it with challenges, experiences and campaigns across a gamified platform.

Within the financial services space, Westpac NZ launched the Impulse Saver mobile app to help New Zealanders combat their impulse purchase habits. By creating a utility that made saving so much easier, Westpac was able to reinforce the behavior of saving money and provide a conduit for its customers to actively participate in it.

Like Steve Jobs famously said – Don’t move product, instead enrich lives. Once the consumer buys into the behavior, everything else will follow.

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Overhead view of a row of four business people interviewing a young male applicant.