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Word of mouth is the orig­i­nal ‘vi­ral’: for­get about shar­ing some­thing to Face­book – if you’re mo­ti­vated enough about some­thing to tell ten other peo­ple about it in real life, that demon­strates a level of en­gage­ment and ad­vo­cacy that money can’t (nor­mally) buy. Sec­ond, word of mouth takes what might ini­tially be a mar­ket­ing mes­sage and el­e­vates it to so­cial cur­rency. In ef­fect, you want to tell some­one some­thing be­cause it re­flects well on you. That’s pretty pow­er­ful.

Ed Elias,

Third, we are hard-wired to trust peo­ple we iden­tify with, in­clud­ing our friends and col­leagues. This means we’ll lis­ten to our friend’s opin­ion about a film or res­tau­rant – even though we know they have no taste in films or food – and ig­nore the thought­ful re­view by an ex­pe­ri­enced, paid critic. Many new com­pa­nies and economies rely on met­rics of trust and rep­u­ta­tion. Ama­zon’s rat­ing sys­tem was one of the early ones, and now Uber, AirBnB, and many other com­pa­nies of the col­lab­o­ra­tion econ­omy are built on the rep­u­ta­tion of its providers – and with­out that, they fall down. Re­cent ma­jor eco­nomic, so­cial and po­lit­i­cal cat­a­clysms (such as the GFC or the Snow­den dossiers) have come at a time of more read­ily avail­able and trans­par­ent media – so there is the sense that gov­ern­ments and cor­po­ra­tions need now to earn the trust that pre­vi­ously they were given un­con­di­tion­ally. And, for those of you who have been count­ing, the fourth rea­son the mouth is might­ier than the sword? Money – or rather, the lack of it. If peo­ple are ad­vo­cat­ing on be­half of your brand, prod­uct, or cam­paign and you’re not pay­ing for it, then you know some­thing is work­ing! As Walt Dis­ney said: ‘Do what you do so well that peo­ple can’t re­sist telling oth­ers about you.’

There has been a lot of de­bate about whether pro­gram­matic soft­ware plat­forms in advertising will kill the big ad cam­paign.

The idea of an ‘ad cam­paign’ is a con­cept as old as advertising. Over the course of history, led by tele­vi­sion, brands ran ad cam­paigns over a spe­cific time pe­riod, such as a month or a quar­ter.

Post the cam­paign, the client and the media agency would as­sess whether their cre­ative and media mix was work­ing. The dom­i­nant met­ric was whether prod­uct was mov­ing off the shelf.

Mar­keters took this ap­proach out of ne­ces­sity. Tele­vi­sion buys had to be lined up weeks or months in ad­vance and get­ting back ac­cu­rate data on ef­fec­tive reach, brand lift and sales re­sults could be an ar­du­ous process.

And now, the au­to­mated ap­proach is turn­ing this model on its head.

With soft­ware, ad­ver­tis­ers can see re­sults in real time and lever­age ac­tion­able in­sights to con­stantly test and learn. Agency trad­ing desks and their plat­form part­ners are test­ing and it­er­at­ing cam­paigns quickly. There is now a greater in­tol­er­ance if some­thing doesn’t work. New-age cam­paigns fail fast but they learn quickly and op­ti­mi­sa­tions can be made from day one. Soft­ware is en­abling this new ap­proach to brand advertising.

Given this, many ad­ver­tis­ers are now em­brac­ing an ap­proach where the cam­paign never stops, al­low­ing for it­er­a­tion of cre­ative and media strat­egy based on real-time data rather than frag­mented in­sights.

A TubeMogul re­search study last year brought home the story for us. We gath­ered data across 6,000 cam­paigns and mea­sured more than 6.3 bil­lion im­pres­sions.

By adopt­ing an al­ways-on ap­proach where you are con­stantly test­ing and learn­ing, ad­ver­tis­ers achieve quan­tifi­able re­sults in terms of cost ef­fi­ciency, prod­uct aware­ness and viewa­bil­ity, and the abil­ity of the ad served to be seen by a tar­get con­sumer.

The main re­sults that we tracked re­lated to three key met­rics that brand ad­ver­tis­ers should mea­sure at a min­i­mum, in al­wayson dig­i­tal video advertising: com­ple­tion rate, brand lift (prod­uct aware­ness) and the cost per view­able im­pres­sion.

Our sur­vey showed that al­ways-on cam­paigns are more than three times as ef­fec­tive at driv­ing prod­uct aware­ness, and that com­ple­tion rates for 15- and 30-sec­ond ads were higher.

Also, the power of plat­form learn­ings, op­ti­mi­sa­tion and con­stant it­er­a­tion de­liv­ered an 87.2 per­cent lower cost per view­able im­pres­sion.

It’s worth point­ing out that adopt­ing an al­ways-on ap­proach does not nec­es­sar­ily mean that ad­ver­tis­ers are spread­ing out their ad spend­ing evenly through­out the year. Sea­son­al­ity is ob­vi­ously im­por­tant to many brands, as is driv­ing up fre­quency dur­ing new prod­uct launches.

Pro­gram­matic soft­ware de­liv­ers ad­van­tages that tele­vi­sion sim­ply can­not cur­rently match. The en­tire buy­ing process—from cam­paign strat­egy and tar­get­ing, to op­ti­mi­sa­tion and brand safety—is uni­ver­sally man­aged through­out the life of the cam­paign and can be ad­justed at any time to drive the best pos­si­ble per­for­mance.

The next evo­lu­tion of advertising will in­volve brands tak­ing a truly cross-screen ap­proach, which will fo­cus on how to se­cure the best yield and per­for­mance from their over­all mar­ket­ing spend. As view­ing habits con­tinue to change and con­tent is in­creas­ingly de­liv­ered dig­i­tally, mar­keters will look at video in terms of screens—where tele­vi­sion is just another screen, along with tablets, smart­phones and desk­top com­put­ers. The fo­cus will move to tar­get­ing au­di­ences at scale, across any screen, un­der­pinned by unique ad ex­e­cu­tions for dif­fer­ent de­vices.

Be­fore that model of dig­i­tal advertising be­comes firmly es­tab­lished, brand ad­ver­tis­ers and their part­ners will experiment, tweak and in­no­vate.

In the dy­namic and fast mov­ing world of dig­i­tal en­gage­ment, cre­at­ing a model where brands never stop en­gag­ing with con­sumers makes a lot of sense. The ad cam­paign is far from dead. Its de­liv­ery, ex­e­cu­tion and tar­get­ing will be­come much smarter in terms of reach­ing the right au­di­ence.

You can easily make the mis­take of as­sum­ing that once you have solved a par­tic­u­lar prob­lem, you have the an­swer to how to solve it again and again. Sure it gives you an in­sight into po­ten­tially how you might tackle it again but be care­ful of the cookie cut­ter so­lu­tion. It can lead you up the ex­pen­sive, un­re­ward­ing or in­ef­fec­tive gar­den path.

One of the great as­pects of be­ing a de­signer is the in­sight you get into or­gan­i­sa­tions, quickly need­ing to as­sess the prob­lems they face and un­der­stand­ing how you can ap­ply your knowl­edge. Past ex­pe­ri­ence is a great frame­work for as­sess­ing a prob­lem or op­por­tu­nity but, as our ex­pe­ri­ence with city iden­ti­ties has taught us, it doesn’t in­stantly pro­vide us with the right so­lu­tion.

Over re­cent years, we’ve worked with a num­ber of lo­cal coun­cils and gov­ern­ment agen­cies to cre­ate city vis­ual iden­ti­ties, brand tool boxes and com­mu­ni­ca­tions plat­forms that fun­da­men­tally serve to en­gage in di­a­logue with lo­cal res­i­dents, in­bound tourism or in­vest­ment au­di­ences.

In our ex­pe­ri­ence the first ques­tion to ask is: ‘Where is the or­gan­i­sa­tion in its vis­ual iden­tity evo­lu­tion?’

Tararua Dis­trict Coun­cil was new, cre­ated through bound­ary changes. I worked with them to de­velop two iden­ti­ties that were vis­ually linked but quite in­de­pen­dent. The first was a coun­cil it­er­a­tion that res­i­dents paid rates to and iden­ti­fied ser­vices. The sec­ond was a tourism/in­vest­ment iden­tity that lever­aged off the first but was much more ex­pres­sive. This clear line al­lowed the two to talk to dis­tinctly dif­fer­ent au­di­ences and it worked re­ally well. This sec­ond iden­tity was later evolved fur­ther to in­clude a more re­gional fo­cus.

The next ex­am­ple takes us fur­ther north to Ta­maki, Auck­land, a re­gion with a long, proud history de­spite be­ing quite young in terms of its vis­ual iden­tity. The re­gion’s her­itage was cap­tured in a poem, ‘We are Ta­maki,’ which we used to form a uni­fied voice aimed at get­ting both the lo­cal com­mu­nity and gov­ern­ment to sup­port the vi­sion for Ta­maki Trans­for­ma­tion. This ob­jec­tive meant the ap­proach was quite dif­fer­ent from Tararua, although both had been at a sim­i­lar stage in their re­spec­tive cy­cles.

The next ques­tion is: ‘What eq­uity has the or­gan­i­sa­tion al­ready built?’ Al­bury City in New South Wales, Aus­tralia, was much more evolved as an iden­tity. They had es­tab­lished their logo some time ago, rep­re­sent­ing the coun­cil but also the city. What they lacked were the tools to com­mu­ni­cate un­der one iden­tity to mul­ti­ple au­di­ences. We achieved this by de­vel­op­ing a core brand story and vis­ual idea for the city that could be ex­pressed through a tool kit that could be di­alled up or down depend­ing on the au­di­ence they were speak­ing to. This gave them com­plete flex­i­bil­ity, and made it quite dif­fer­ent from Tararua or Ta­maki be­cause of the much ear­lier strate­gic de­ci­sion to rep­re­sent the city and coun­cil un­der one iden­tity.

Af­ter the 2011 earth­quake in Christchurch, the an­swer to the ques­tion of vis­ual iden­tity life cy­cle was ob­vi­ously quite dif­fer­ent. The ‘Gar­den City’ iden­tity was in quite a dif­fer­ent place. With so much eq­uity lost and sub­se­quent iden­tity ‘noise’, the ques­tion was, ‘What do lo­cal res­i­dents need?’ Part of the so­lu­tion was the de­vel­op­ment of a vi­brant, op­ti­mistic and very much in­de­pen­dent ve­hi­cle to en­gage lo­cals about what was hap­pen­ing in their city, quite dif­fer­ent from Tararua, Ta­maki or Al­bury City.

We in­her­ited a fledg­ling ‘Fu­ture Christchurch’ web­site and iden­tity. The first thing we did was to de­velop a strate­gic frame­work unique for its pur­pose, giv­ing the work that fol­lowed the foun­da­tion it needed. We took the bare essen­tials of the ex­ist­ing cre­ative and stripped these back to a point where all that was left was the core ex­ist­ing name and the idea of us­ing a broad colour pal­ette, the key at­tributes that spoke to the strate­gic in­tent.

Work­ing closely with a very pos­i­tive client, we were able to evolve the name to be more re­gion­ally in­clu­sive, and give the iden­tity gen­er­ous stretch. We con­sol­i­dated this into a prac­ti­cal de­sign sys­tem, adding a ty­po­graphic set, an in­de­pen­dent lo­go­type, new vis­ual lan­guage and dis­tinc­tive tone of voice mes­sag­ing. The new iden­tity sys­tem al­lowed for broader com­mu­ni­ca­tion and stretch across mul­ti­ple chan­nels. Pack­ag­ing it up into a set of guide­lines, with ex­am­ples of how it worked, we then shared it with the var­i­ous in­ter­nal and ex­ter­nal de­sign teams to im­ple­ment.

We’ve man­aged this col­lab­o­ra­tive brand roll­out process with a few clients, find­ing the best way is open di­a­logue, work­ing out strengths and weak­nesses early on and be­ing hon­est about them.

It’s one of the most pos­i­tive ex­pe­ri­ences con­tribut­ing to a city that is grap­pling with how to vis­ually rep­re­sent and ex­press it­self to its au­di­ences. It’s very tan­gi­ble and real.

You get to walk around and see your work in ac­tion. A uniquely spe­cial city re­quired a unique so­lu­tion that was right for them. Ob­vi­ously hav­ing that back­ground knowl­edge to city iden­ti­ties re­ally helped us of­fer up, not a cookie cut­ter so­lu­tion, but an ap­proach right for Christchurch at their stage of the iden­tity life cy­cle.

Dig­i­tal mar­ket­ing, es­pe­cially on so­cial net­works like Face­book, con­tin­ues to be driven by mo­bile, vis­ual sto­ry­telling and video.

En­tries in the re­cent Face­book Awards show that mar­keters and agen­cies are em­brac­ing the cre­ative pos­si­bil­i­ties of these trends for brand build­ing.

The Face­book Awards celebrate the best cre­ative work on Face­book, as cho­sen by top global cre­atives. En­tries come from ev­ery cor­ner of the world. Twice the num­ber of coun­tries were rep­re­sented this year, with en­tries from non-OECD coun­tries mak­ing up 17 per­cent of the to­tal. Emerg­ing and Asian mar­kets sub­mit­ted the high­est num­ber of en­tries, even more than the USA.

Much of this growth in global cre­ative work is due to the in­creased use of mo­bile phones and mo­bile mar­ket­ing. In many de­vel­op­ing mar­kets, mo­biles are the num­ber one de­vice for ac­cess­ing the in­ter­net. In New Zealand, this may soon be the case too.

We are see­ing a shift to vis­ual lan­guage on Face­book, with peo­ple up­load­ing more than 350 mil­lion photos ev­ery day and judg­ing by the Face­book Award en­tries, brands are go­ing vis­ual too.

One brand-build­ing ex­am­ple from this year’s sub­mis­sions was Adobe’s ‘Pho­to­shop Hal­loween Mur­der Mys­tery’ cam­paign, which chal­lenged de­sign­ers to use their skills to solve a mur­der mys­tery. The cam­paign suc­cess­fully moved the dial on per­cep­tion of Adobe’s Cre­ative Cloud, with an in­crease in pos­i­tive sen­ti­ment from 15 to 76 per­cent.

On In­sta­gram, peo­ple have al­ways com­mu­ni­cated vis­ually, post­ing more than 70 mil­lion photos and videos each day.

In the new Awards ‘Craft’ cat­e­gory, ‘Build a Mercedes GLA on In­sta­gram’ by Ra­zor­fish brought to life build­ing your own cus­tomised car. Users browsed through photos of the Mercedes’ com­po­nents, even­tu­ally fol­low­ing a path to im­ages of their very own cus­tomised car. It drove brand reap­praisal for Mercedes and pur­chase con­sid­er­a­tion among con­sumers.

Video has also emerged this year as the dom­i­nant medium on Face­book. In just one year, the num­ber of video posts per per­son on Face­book has in­creased 75 per­cent glob­ally and 94 per­cent in the US. And, with the growth of 3G and 4G data, the ma­jor­ity of video view­ing is now on mo­bile de­vices.

As peo­ple watched bil­lions of World Cup and ALS Ice Bucket Chal­lenge videos in 2014, the na­ture of news­feeds lit­er­ally evolved be­fore our eyes. This was re­flected in the cre­ative in the Face­book Award en­tries, with 70 per­cent of en­tries be­ing video based.

We’ve seen agen­cies quickly adapt from solely im­age posts to video-based cam­paigns. And dur­ing this process, In­sta­gram has be­come a cen­tral hub of brand cre­ativ­ity in both static im­ages and video.

Lowe’s Home Im­prove­ment’s ‘Hyper­made’ cam­paign, cre­ated by BBDO New York, em­braced In­sta­gram’s Hyper­lapse app. Lowe’s has long used so­cial media to help peo­ple dis­cover new ways to im­prove their homes, and leapt on the chance to pro­vide a richer cus­tomer ex­pe­ri­ence of­fered by Hyper­lapse. There was now an easy way to cap­ture high­qual­ity time-lapse video in 15 sec­onds, which BBDO used to show the mo­ments when a con­sumer has fin­ished their home pro­ject and is ap­pre­ci­at­ing the re­sults of their work. To-date, Hyper­Made is the best per­form­ing so­cial media con­tent ever pub­lished by Lowe’s.

This rise of mo­bile is al­low­ing brands from all parts of the world to tell their sto­ries in new and cre­ative ways and we can’t wait to see what’s next.

Most cus­tomers don’t want to be wowed or de­lighted. They sim­ply want you to fix prob­lems when they oc­cur, so they can get back to do­ing what­ever it was they were do­ing be­fore the is­sue with your prod­uct or ser­vice in­ter­rupted them.

That is the find­ing of re­cent re­search by the Cor­po­rate Ex­ec­u­tive Board (CEB), which af­ter analysing re­sponses from 97,000 peo­ple around the globe found that the com­mer­cial ben­e­fits of ex­ceed­ing cus­tomer ex­pec­ta­tions in the ser­vice chan­nel are vir­tu­ally in­dis­tin­guish­able from sim­ply meet­ing them.

Their con­tention, backed by facts, is that the most eco­nom­i­cally valu­able thing you can do is en­sure you are sim­ply meet­ing the ex­pec­ta­tions of the ma­jor­ity of your cus­tomers.

Think about that for a mo­ment. It’s not about wow­ing, in­spir­ing or de­light­ing them. You just need to meet their ex­pec­ta­tions by mak­ing the ex­pe­ri­ence that al­lows them to achieve their de­sired out­come with you as easy as pos­si­ble.

Don Pep­pers re­cently posted on a sim­i­lar theme, call­ing for what he refers to as a fric­tion­less ex­pe­ri­ence: “For the vast ma­jor­ity of busi­nesses, the ideal cus­tomer ex­pe­ri­ence is not so much de­light­ful or sur­pris­ing as it is fric­tion­less. That is, an ex­pe­ri­ence that re­quires no ex­tra time or ef­fort and im­poses the least pos­si­ble bur­den on the cus­tomer.”

The need for an ef­fort­less ex­pe­ri­ence is par­tic­u­larly true when you are talk­ing about re­ac­tive ex­pe­ri­ences, i.e. when a cus­tomer is mak­ing con­tact with you be­cause they need some­thing.

A re­cent per­sonal ex­am­ple again il­lus­trated this to me quite clearly. Dur­ing the school hol­i­days, my house­hold cracked our broad­band data cap. Ac­tu­ally, smashed it would be a more ac­cu­rate de­scrip­tion. The kids were play­ing Minecraft, watch­ing videos (about Minecraft) and gen­er­ally spend­ing far too much time on screens. We’d also been avail­ing our­selves of the en­ter­tain­ment riches avail­able via stream­ing ser­vices. Now our cap was burnt. And with no no­ti­fi­ca­tion from our provider, it was left to me to work out why Spo­tify was sud­denly cut­ting out at spo­radic in­ter­vals.

With ten days un­til it re­set, con­tin­u­ing to be throt­tled was not an op­tion so I headed online to up­grade our plan. Af­ter mess­ing about with pass­words and search­ing about to find where on the self-ser­vice por­tal to ac­tu­ally do the up­grade, I dis­cov­ered the pric­ing in­for­ma­tion pre­sented was out of date. I fi­nally sorted it out with a real hu­man be­ing via chat but by that stage I was frus­trated and more than a lit­tle dis­grun­tled. Here I am will­ing to give them more of my money. How hard are they mak­ing it?

With a bit of fore­thought all this could have been avoided. Some­thing as sim­ple as a proac­tive text let­ting me know I’m about to break the cap and of­fer­ing to up­grade my plan if I re­spond ‘Yes’ would have been suf­fi­cient.

CEB found in these re­ac­tive sit­u­a­tions that any cus­tomer ser­vice in­ter­ac­tion is four times more likely to drive dis­loy­alty— and this echoes find­ings from other stud­ies: a 2011 Ac­cen­ture study into the energy sec­tor found that the more time peo­ple spent in­ter­act­ing with ser­vice rep­re­sen­ta­tives of their elec­tric­ity provider over the past 12 months, the more their lev­els of sat­is­fac­tion and en­gage­ment de­creased.

This makes sense if you con­sider that a cus­tomer is most likely to con­tact their provider when they have an is­sue. In this re­ac­tive con­text the brand starts the in­ter­ac­tion in deficit. Any in­ter­ac­tion with the cus­tomer there­fore needs to be de­signed to get the cus­tomer back to where they were be­fore the prob­lem, with as lit­tle ef­fort on their part as pos­si­ble.

Ap­proach­ing ex­pe­ri­ence de­sign this way also makes ab­so­lute sense if you are try­ing to get a cus­tomer to buy from you. The job in this con­text is to make peo­ple’s de­ci­sions as sim­ple as pos­si­ble and help­ing them buy.

In our work with clients, we of­ten find when we map the pur­chase path­way that the ex­pe­ri­ence is poorly de­signed and leaves the po­ten­tial cus­tomer frus­trated and un­der­whelmed. Mar­keters fo­cus on what they want to say rather than un­der­stand­ing cus­tomer needs at dif­fer­ent stages of the pur­chase jour­ney and pro­vid­ing con­tent that meets the need and helps the cus­tomer to move closer to their pur­chase goal.

Si­los within or­gan­i­sa­tions can also mean that com­mu­ni­ca­tions and the ac­tual con­ver­sion jour­ney are the re­spon­si­bil­i­ties of dif­fer­ent de­part­ments and aren’t de­signed as a seam­less, end-to-end ex­pe­ri­ence. The prospec­tive cus­tomer is left to do the work. In to­day’s data rich, hy­per-con­nected, highly track­able mar­ket­ing en­vi­ron­ment there is sim­ply no ex­cuse for this.

All of which doesn’t mean that there are no sit­u­a­tions where in­vest­ing in an ex­pe­ri­ence that ex­ceeds ex­pec­ta­tions is the right thing to do. If you have the op­por­tu­nity to be proac­tive on the cus­tomer’s be­half then sur­pris­ing and de­light­ing is a great strat­egy, but you should think of mar­ket­ing as a ser­vice and de­velop ex­pe­ri­ences that build trust.

An ex­am­ple of this might be a telco proac­tively right-plan­ning cus­tomers, par­tic­u­larly when it will save them money. It works in this con­text be­cause the cus­tomer starts the in­ter­ac­tion with no ex­pec­ta­tion. The trick is still mak­ing the ex­pe­ri­ence as ef­fort­less as pos­si­ble for the cus­tomer.

The test of true cus­tomer cen­tric­ity isn’t whether you are will­ing to in­vest in a cus­tomer ex­pe­ri­ence team, have a chief cus­tomer of­fi­cer or a cus­tomer char­ter; it’s the will­ing­ness to do the hard work to un­der­stand what cus­tomers re­ally want— and then mak­ing it as easy as pos­si­ble for them to get it. Ideally with­out ask­ing.

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