Walk down a high street with a mobile in your hand and you're on the frontline for the online vs offline, real vs virtual, battle for engagement. Need a breather? Take a pause with a coffee, look out to the great shop windows and retail spaces around you while flicking through the apps on your phone. You're right in it.
It's just as important to create great 'real world' campaigns as getting ahead in the digital. They work hand in hand. Consumer-brand relationships are arguably at their strongest when they're embedded in a wider cultural context. To some extent, this is a hangover from the 'ad as preacher' days, when product benefits swiftly spread among the suburban chattering classes with natty jingles and smarmy slogans.
Things have changed, but not as dramatically as we think. A good campaign still creates the conditions for genuine conversation. Building and maintaining that conversation is still what's important, but it's achievable in many different ways - not least through social media.
Let's not be clouded by terminology or technology. Deceptively simple, but extremely important is the fact that what happens online can be made even more significant when word spreads offline. And indeed, vice versa. The reason why such a huge emphasis is placed on digital is because of its ability to accelerate.
Consider how brands continually champion ideas uniting digital and physical spaces
. What they're ultimately trying to do is find their place in the wider cultural tapestry - something that is ultimately personal, intangible and experiential. That itself presents brands with a quandary - how do they authentically engage consumers with something that is all of these things in unison: how should they manifest?
The key is to find what it is about that brand that diehard advocates love most. Brands don't sell merchandise, they stand for something. To give a client example: global shoe brand Converse cites personalisation, independence, and creativity as core values, and it understands how its customers embrace these values. The brand is then able to become a facilitator rewarding consumers for being customers.
's phenomenally successful ongoing work for Skittles
- in particular, its Update the Rainbow
campaign, for which we created a Facebook application called the Super Mega Rainbow Updater
. The app encouraged users to post their Facebook status updates to a Rainbow Call Centre, before a team member read out the status, posting a video of the update on each user's Wall and YouTube.
As an exercise in engagement, the campaign was successful for several reasons. The 'fun' element of the app resonated well with the young audience. The fact each video was personalised encouraged sharing and repeat traffic, and because the campaign worked across two online platforms, traffic from YouTube was drawn back to the Facebook page, enabling fans to comment and converse with the brand itself.
This is exactly why it's so crucial to invite consumers to engage with your brand in a number of ways - whether on TV, in print, via social media, music or through an experience. It's about creating the conditions for engagement, visibility and interactivity. In Skittle's case, the combination of digital and physical accessibility broke a barrier between brand and consumer, proving highly successful. After two weeks, 20,000 original films were posted on YouTube.
The broader and more integrated engagement is, the more powerful the impact, but let's be honest, it's a hard thing to measure. Analytics and stats
are only the tip of the iceberg. When looking to engage increasingly diverse consumer demographics, the use of multiple touchpoints can't be a bad thing. It's paramount that we acknowledge this and ensure consumers have every opportunity to to become brand advocates of their own free will. When everyone's talking digital, get physical.
Mark Chalmers is creative partner at Perfect Fools