From ten pin bowling to pinball: Tom Bates on staying ahead of the game by keeping the ball in play

The media landscape has been transformed
and fragmented by the power of digital, mobile and social technology. It seems
increasingly difficult to work out a plan to get traction for brands. Now,
anyone can tell a story through their own channels and the democratisation of information
via the internet means the balance of power has shifted into the hands of the
consumer. All this has required a radical re-evaluation of the approach we have
had to set up as an agency.

In my opinion Rob Malcolm, a legendary
P&G stalwart, articulated it best recently when he phrased this rapid
transition to be like shifting from a game of ten pin bowling to one of pinball. Without adaptation to this new
game, our job as marketers and agencies will become redundant and we will
disempower ourselves to deliver on businesses’ objectives.

As Malcolm notes, when marketing was bowling, we had control. The game was to hit as many objectives with one bowl
as possible. The metrics for success were clear: awareness and reach, tarps and
impressions. Now, we’re facing a world of ‘up in the air’ pinball where the
outcomes are less clear, harder to control and constantly shifting.

To further this, he suggests—and we as
an agency believe—that our role in this ‘pinball’ world is more about keeping
the ball in play than trying to knock down pins with force when it’s your turn. Yes,
we are still there to deliver business solutions through consumer insight and
creativity. However, the approach of successfully doing so is infinitely more challenging
in a world where getting attention is no longer okay, and consumers are
gravitating toward brands that show more human values over those that just
shout and sell.

We are there to spark, shape and lead conversations,
provide ideas that allow for longevity (if not infinite) consumer interaction.
We aim to create loyalty that makes people confident in what they’re standing
for. The humanised brand is here to stay, and the best brands have recognised
this, adapting their whole business, not just their short term communications

The following three areas help give some
food for thought and an opportunity for marketers to stay ahead of the game in
a world that is moving faster than ever. 

1) Nail
your strategy, then be ‘always on’

With the enchanting and sound-bite friendly
pursuit of clicks, views and likes, we can get lost in superficial metrics that
don’t deliver anything to the business. The best brands have evolved from
campaign and burst approach to developing sustainable ‘participation ideas’ with meticulously planned and dynamically executed managed engagement plans.

Because of the amount of content required
in today’s environment it is more important than ever to nail down and articulate
the brand’s values and strategy among the senior leadership team. All the
technology and platforms springing up that require content will seem like
distractions unless you can tie everything back to the business goals, with
strong consumer insights and the brand values at its core. The tighter this
is, the more you can involve the consumer in your brand. If it’s loose, you
won’t know where you are going and any road will take you there. 

Telling the same story over all of these
touch points by threading your digital, mobile and social goals back to
business outcomes is absolutely essential. Burberry have nailed this with their
move to becoming a social organisation. With digital and social being their
channels of choice, a strong vision and brand identity will allow them to take
their brand into the future. 


2) Beyond viral: why service is the new social model 

To create something that will go viral normally
requires high production. It is also relatively high risk and normally has a
short lifespan. When this approach comes off it has dramatic effect for
conversation, but because of its trending nature, the lifespan is often so
short it is hard to show its attribution toward conversion. This is fine when
you are a challenger brand like Air New Zealand in the global marketplace, and
they have used this to great effect in recent times. But the best way of reducing the risk
and getting your brand shared and forming a more permanent place in your
customers’ lives is by designing something once that provides a sense of utility. 

This requires really diving into your customer’s lives, as this insight is key
in getting to a place where you can deliver something exceptional and useful.
This gives consumers the opportunity to use the technology in a way that
facilitates a much deeper connection between you and your customers than an ad
ever will. What’s more, they can share their
experiences with friends everyday. That’s a far more effective way to use
digital and social budget. Storytelling that’s not a flash in the pan viral,
but something than grows and evolves with input from your users. And no one has done this better than Nike with
their Nike+ Running application (and now into Fuelband, Kinetic and beyond).


As Ajaz Ahmed, AKQA founder, and Stefan
Olendar, head of digital from Nike, explain in their book
Velocity, almost all customer touchpoints are going digital, so every brand
needs to think about becoming a software company. With Nike + they have moved
from a product to service model, where like Apple and iTunes the purchase of
the product is only the beginning of the transaction, not the end. By driving
ongoing interaction and engagement they can drive loyalty and advocacy, and every
time someone runs, they are building a stronger connection with Nike through
the application, which is something so much more than shoes.  

3) ‘Designing gaps for participation’ 

Forbes now states that co-creation is the
most accepted form of innovation. And with sites like Kickstarter and
Crowdspring disrupting the way we fund and deliver innovation, we need to take
advantage of this trend and embrace it by identifying gaps for consumer
participation in places where agencies and marketers traditionally saw as being
off limits, such as product design or content creation.

For consumers who have helped co-create a
brand, whether that is designing or contributing to products in the NPD cycle
or creating content in a social way, they will feel intrinsically
linked to the brand and, by feeling ownership, will form an inherent loyalty.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6fu20GZ_6rIWith Stories Beat Stuff for Tourism New
Zealand, we moved from targeting 18-30 year old backpackers with retail banners
and search to a social engagement campaign that inspired them to think about
what a trip to New Zealand would be worth to them. By creating relevant content
rather than ads to spark the conversation and then asking for young people to be part
of the initiative, we moved the communications dial from a push mentality of
‘come to New Zealand’, to one where young people from all of the world were
telling all of their friends why they want to come here.

Over the next year, we then brought six groups of influential youth to New Zealand and captured this content. So now when searching
for information on New Zealand, instead of seeing generic information, global
youth see young people like them having the time of their life.   

  • Tom Bates is the social influence director/partner at Contagion. This piece originally appeared on the Contagion blog

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