What It Takes To Win In Digital


Keenan Beasley, Contributor

August 6, 2015

According to Facebook, 3 billion video views occur on its platform every day. In December 2014, Instagram reached 300M monthly active users. That same month, Snapchat launched the “discover” feature on its app, inviting more brands to join the snapping mayhem. Have you heard of Periscope? If not, it’s time to check the app store.

Needless to say, things move quickly in the digital realm. So quickly, it’s easy for brands to feel left behind.

If you feel like you’re playing catch up when it comes to effective online marketing, you’re not alone. A recent Duke University study found that despite increases in social media spending, many Chief Marketing Officers feel integrating digital efforts into a larger marketing strategy is still a major challenge. What’s worse: brands that succeed in the social sphere make it look effortless. Rest assured, it’s not.

Winning in digital marketing is difficult because consumers are overwhelmed with content. According to a 2014 Nielsen cross-platform report, American adults spend more than 11 hours a day with electronic media. We have plenty of options to choose from: television, radio, video-on-demand, social media, websites, and all of that on our phones (and now, watches). If a brand puts something online, it better be engaging and relevant to me; otherwise, I will keep scrolling, searching, or clicking until I find something that is. All too often, digital content intended to create loyal customers just gets lost in the noise.

Focus On Insight

To deliver digital content that makes people stop and interact, brands need to first focus finding a powerful insight. Insight is the ability to maintain a deep, intuitive understanding of your consumer and category. Not just what consumers do, but why they do what they do. TSC’s co-founder Dionna McPhatter is one of the industry’s leading insights experts. Over the years, she’s taught me (and countless brands) that without insight, digital content is trial and error—a glorified effort to throw a bunch of content onto the internet and see what sticks.

The only way to make your marketing resonate is to leverage the power of insight.  Sometimes it takes thorough market research to uncover an insight. Sometimes you can find it by simply asking “why?” over and over again until you get at the root of what motivates a consumer’s true behavior. Either way, the insight will drive digital success.

Take Dollar Shave Club for example. DSC is a razor subscription service turned men’s grooming line that now serves more than 1.7 million members. It’s 2012 launch video went viral, and it’s more recent video “Let’s talk about #2” hit more than 3 million views. The videos were funny — and we’ll get to humor later — but more importantly, they tapped into a psychological insight: men are frustrated by the bathroom experience.

I talked with DSC CEO Michael Dubin recently. He said by honing in on that insight, DSC activated a key digital strategy.

“When issuing new creative, we go after the most resonant ideas,” Dubin explains. “There’s no guarantee that something will go viral. We like to think of [digital video] as creating a social asset that will perpetuate a conversation about a shared experience.”

Evoke An Emotion

In addition to focusing on the insight that drives your brand strategy, it’s essential to evoke emotion when creating digital work. Did you watch the Super Bowl this year? There’s a reason so many advertisements leaned toward the sappy. “Sadvertising” can be powerful and profitable tool that humanizes a brand, but it can backfire if not properly executed. What brands like Nationwide forgot (to the detriment of the ad, and the CMO’s job) is that sadness isn’t the only emotion that can cause a chain reaction.

Of course, humor is an emotion that plays extremely well online. Humor delivers great results for brands like Old Spice and Taco Bell, who keep the witty banter alive, not only in videos, but also on social media. (Seriously, check out Old Spice’s twitter feed. It’s no wonder they have more than 200,000 followers.) Like I mentioned before, humor was a natural fit for Dollar Shave Club, not only because the brand pertains to the bathroom, but also because Dubin says, “humor breaks down barriers and encourages sharing.”

Either way, it’s important to leave an emotional impression—whatever that emotion may be. Not all brands have to be funny. For example, Airbnb consistently evokes two key emotions in its online content: a sense of adventure and the safety of home. From photos of neighborhoods you’d like to explore to images of beds you’d like to sleep in, Airbnb consistently promotes the same message through every recurring post. Not surprisingly, their YouTube channel and commercial spots follow the same thread.

Encourage Participation

One of the biggest buzzwords in digital marketing right now is UGC. UGC stands for “user-generated content” and is a fancy way of saying that people are creating content about your brand and its message every single day. Whether that means sharing a picture or singing the praises of your product online, people are constantly creating content on behalf of their favorite brands. The task for marketers is to build a campaign that encourages and incentivizes that participation.

If done properly, using UGC is a win-win. Airbnb frequently posts photos that were originally created by users around the world. That’s why their instagram account fills all of us with wanderlust, and the brand barely spent a penny to create the content. At the same time, the photographers and travel writers whose photos they use get exposure to a much wider audience. 

But like any good relationship (both offline and online), there needs to be mutual trust. Ask permission to use the photo, and always credit the photo to the person who originally created it. And stay true to who you are. If brands are true to their identity, they will attract users with similar sensibilities.

Invest, Invest, Measure!

No matter what your platform of choice, the internet is always hungry for new content. But that doesn’t mean brands should create content ad hoc. After all, the internet has a very long memory, too. The smartest brands spend the same time and focus on a digital campaign as they would planning for television.

Dollar Shave Club is active in many social media channels on a daily basis. But since launching in 2012, they’ve released only two videos and four television commercials. For a brand that’s achieved such success in that lane, you’d think they’d push harder to produce more video. But Dubin says DSC worries less about quantity and more about quality.

“It’s important not to grab the microphone too often,” he says. “We issue new creative when we have something important to say.”

With that being said, one of the most rewarding elements of a full-scale digital campaign is how quickly you can measure its success. In the past, brands would wait months or even up to a year for a report that measures campaign results, including impact on sales. Now, with customizable analytics platforms like what we create at The Strategy Collective, brands can have results in real-time, and can adjust accordingly—buying more digital ad time, or putting more effort into the channel that’s leading to the most success.

Stay On Strategy

In the end, the secret to winning in digital media isn’t non-stop content or multi-million dollar production teams. No matter what the platform, when you focus on insight, evoke strong emotions, encourage user participation, and invest and measure wisely, you’ll land on something that wins every time: strategy. And plan to measure what you create based on very specific goals. Some brands want an increased audience or following, while others need direct sales lift that can be measured in ROI. If you know the results you want at the outset, it will be that much easier to celebrate when your efforts turn into rewards.


This article was written by Keenan Beasley from Forbes and was legally licensed through the NewsCred publisher network.


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