September 25, 2018

Let’s get real about digital. For starters, stop calling it “digital.”

As marketing professionals, we like to think we’re pretty good at expressing ourselves. But I’ve noticed we all seem to cling to archaic catchall.

“Digital.”  



As in, “We need to be doing more digital campaigns” or “We want to focus on digital marketing” or “According to my digital watch, it’s 1988.” 

I’m not saying we should eradicate the word from our collective professional vocabulary. I just think it’s time we take a good honest look at what it means to be…well…you know, and see if we can’t identify a few universal truths.

TRUTH 1: STOP SAYING “DIGITAL” LIKE IT’S ONE THING.

I stream my TV from an app. I watch news on my computer. And I get my sports highlights from Instagram clips—that were most-likely recorded to a phone from broadcast TV.

See, “digital” isn’t just one thing. So, saying you want to create a digital campaign is like saying you want a communications campaign. There’s no singular digital space. It’s all been jumbled into a complex stew of media, hardware, 
distribution channels, platforms and devices.

So, if you want web banners, say it. If you want pre-roll, be clear. But don’t just lump everything under one catchall. 

More importantly, don’t get caught up on the place where your campaign lives. Focus on all the places it could go.

Which leads us to…

TRUTH 2: GREAT IDEAS EVENTUALLY MAKE THEIR WAY TO DIGITAL SPACE.

One of the most shared images on the internet last year was a regular, old poster. Located outside a tiny pub in London, the poster wasn’t clickable. It wasn’t like-able. And it definitely wasn’t digital.

But it was funny and it was smart, so it caught people’s attention. In fact, it was so clever, that a random passerby took a photo with his digital (sorry) camera and uploaded it to his social media account.

The post—and the ordinary, old poster—went viral. It was featured on blogs and news sites and photo-sharing apps, in the exact same way it would have been, had it been released on a digital platform like Facebook or Instagram.

The lesson? If your idea is good enough, people will notice.

TRUTH 3: THE BEST “DIGITAL” CAMPAIGNS WEAVE TRADITIONAL AND DIGITAL MEDIA TOGETHER.

Every platform, whether traditional or digital, has advantages and disadvantages.

Print allows an idea to be tangible. Film allows it to be emotional. Outdoor lets it go big. And social media lets an idea go out, get shared and come back completely re-mixed.

However, the best campaigns use all the different formats and platforms together to tell a brand’s story like an orchestra—each playing an important part in a delicately-woven symphony.

In this brilliant campaign from Burger King, a big promotion started with a very non-digital medium—a letter.

https://vimeo.com/182462684

But it didn’t stop at the letter. Because the letter got a response. As did the website and the film. Which got the attention of the press. Which encouraged people to post on social. Which got more attention from the press, which got more attention from the public and just like that, all of these different mediums and platforms had intertwined into a swirling, self-feeding tidal wave of publicity.

So, was it a digital campaign or a traditional one? The answer is “yes.” Because the best campaigns follow the most important truth of them all.

TRUTH 4: YOUR CAMPAIGN (WHETHER DIGITAL OR TRADITIONAL) HAS TO BE INTERESTING.

Pretend you’re at a party. You’re chatting with a friend and there’s a lull in the conversation. Suddenly, she remembers a funny new commercial, or crazy viral video, or a post on her Facebook feed, and she launches into a, “Hey did you see that thing…” speech. 

Why?

Because she found it interesting!

If you want people to talk about your brand or your product, make sure you say something worth talking about. After all, that’s the way the public is going to judge your campaign. So that’s the way you need to judge the campaign. It needs to be so interesting and so memorable, that it’s worth talking about—outside of your weekly status meeting.

You see, it doesn’t matter if it’s the latest digital platform, or a time-tested traditional medium, an idea has to make someone laugh, cry, think, feel or heck, just sit up and pay attention.

Otherwise, it’s just noise. And that’s the truth.

Are you making the right promise?

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