Integrating Digital into your Brand Plan

Everyone wants to do it, yet very few know how. Or is it that they are just out of practice? Jokes aside, it’s the buzz around the marketing and advertising scene in Pakistan. Since last year, brand teams and agencies have been going around looking for ideas and solutions. People have tried various things, including banner ads, social media “campaigns” (I’m not even sure that the word campaign can be used in this context), branded games (silly attempts at giving existing games a brand makeover), and branded destination websites for various activations. Having watched most of the action, and having been involved with a few here are my distilled thoughts:

What to look for

  • Tools: brand personality
    • Of all the tools out there, the one which I believe resonates the most with the digital world, is brand personality. If attempts are made to properly define personality of the brand, and then use this as a filter to assess ideas and executions, it can work perfectly well.
  • Consumers: look for digital natives
    • One of the reasons why digital campaigns have failed to get of the ground, is that many marketers still haven’t read or understood the tipping point from Malcolm Gladwell. Rather than use the traditional media shot gun digital can identify and target specific demographics very clearly. If your product or service does not target digital natives, hold the digital campaign till you have a message for them, and then see the results.
  • Markets: Primarily Urban
    • Similarly if your product or service is not targeted to urban areas, then don’t expect huge ROI for your brand buck (unless you are integrating with some BTL activity)
  • Media: Look for integration with BTL / ATL
    • This is not simply an integration issue, ie. Its not just about finding a digital leg to your ATL campaign, its more like, finding an ATL / On the ground leg to your digital campaign. In any case, don’t underplay integration.

How to do it

  • Set up objectives that are broad enough to fit different media and outcomes
    • Agencies and Brand Managers are sly. Without going of on a rant, I’m reminded of how Steven King used to relate Brand Management to the Organisational Structure of a company. It is important to remember that good ideas are those that are not pegged to some other objectives whether media channel related or outcome related. Digital works in a funny, often uncontrollable way, and those who are not believers in the theory of unintended consequences, need not apply!
  • Come up with Media Agnostic Ideas
    • In todays fragmented market, it is almost impossible to tie in a campaign to one medium, and this is most applicable in digital media. Those who buy digital media like they are buying print or tv space are missing the point. Digital is a behavioral medium, with your target constantly switching back and forth and moving in and out of range. It’s a bit like hitting a terrorist on a hill with a bunker buster. You might get him, but it’s a terrible waste of resources. Any good asymmetric warfare expert will tell you that the old tactics of infantry deployment and heavy bombardment don’t work any more. PyschOps is the new buzz in the military and Behavioral targeting is the new buzz in Marketing. Same Same.
  • Ensure that digital ideas are incorporated into all brand strategies
    • A lot of companies who are dabbling in digital strategies are trying it in a few brands only, but not all efforts. In my opinion, top management must make digital a mandatory requirement in all brand plan templates, whether corporate, brand or tactical. I would go so far as to suggest, that senior managers refuse to sit in presentations when brand plans don’t have a digital play in them.
  • Put budgets behind digital efforts
    • Allocate cash, you don’t need a lot, but budget it in. Walk the walk, and you will be surprised.

What not to do

  • Don’t expect your agency to give you digital ideas
    • Your advertising agency is attuned to making TVCs. Your BTL agency is attuned to selling you on the ground activations, so who to go to find digital ideas? A new breed of agencies is cropping up who will give you integration ideas, but because of the tension between traditional agencies and the new breed, you, Mr Brand Manager need to take charge and ensure that its all good. And in some cases, you need to kick butt, to ensure that the agency is cooperating.
  • Don’t expect to succeed at the first go
    • Its an evolving science, and no one really knows how to do it, so be prepared to be surprised, be prepared to fail, but be ready for the unintended huge viral success also. Jump, and enjoy the drop!
  • Don’t worry about spending a lot, a decent experiment can be done on the fly.
    • Lastly, don’t panic, don’t be afraid, its not expensive, and some great ideas can be tried out at very low cost.
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