Platforms vs. Campaigns
Agencies would build individual campaigns that usually result in the creation of a campaign microsite and the deployment of online media to drive traffic to that site.
However, this form of individual campaign experience requires constant traffic driving and has no long-term benefit. Campaigns are short-lived and usually extend the delivery of the brand promise to the digital space and ends after a certain period of time. They follow an up and down cycle. As soon as the campaign has finished and the online media has run its course, the audience dissipates.
What the evolving digital landscape now allows us to do is create a brand platform experience. This arises from the fact that digital creates many unexpected connections between people, technology, and brands and has the power to go beyond the category and shape conversations in society.
Platforms are revolutionising the way brands market to their customers. They are built to last and grow over time; while campaigns are short-lived, platforms are evergreen.
A digital platform is based on utility and provides something that the consumer and audience will feel like using again and again. The best and most pervasive platforms become part of the audience’s lives. Even after the media spend ends, the money and energy invested in campaigns pay off in ongoing participation with that platform.
A great example of a platform is Nike+. Nike+ stems from the Nike+iPod sports kit that is embedded into your shoe, which communicates with your iPod or iPhone device and is able to store information about your runs such as distance, pace, and calories burned.
On the digital front, this is centered on an online platform (nikeplus.com) that gives users the ability to analyse their running data, set goals, track their progress, connect with fellow runners, and participate in group challenges.
Think about it, Nike+ has literally reinvented running – from a traditionally solitary activity to something both fun and social. Digital platforms have the ability to not just change customer perceptions and get them to engage with the brand; it can even compel them to change their behaviours and get them to start running and staying healthy.
Platforms are digital destinations that encourage ongoing engagement. They are more like services and tools vs. your usual information-driven campaign microsite.
Platforms + Campaigns
Even a platform rich with information is no good unless people know it’s there. That’s where campaigns come in.
Nike has showed with its activation campaigns the power and synergies of platforms and campaigns when you run them together.
Platform-centric campaigns such as the Nike Human Race, Men vs. Women, and Nike City10K Singapore vs. Kuala Lumpur all feed and build equity on the Nike+ platform, allowing the audience to participate in social challenges that help them get fit.
These campaigns don’t just drive brand awareness; they activate the existing platform community and provide new value to them. Additionally, they drive new membership and as they develop reach and frequency over time, create long-term value for the brand in the form of an owned media channel of customers and advocates.
Building a destination that gives people a reason to return and creating seasonal messages to remind them to do so is what creates great synergy between platforms and campaigns.
How Do We Create Platforms?
In this day and age, good digital planning revolves around platform ideas and not just (digital) channel tactics. Great platform ideas have the ability to change audience behaviours. This then becomes an own-able behaviour that brands can have, and with such branded behaviour, the audience literally becomes your ads.
Instead of looking at insights and then trying to plan a campaign around customer behaviours, platform ideas allow brands to decide how they want to shape that behaviour.
Platforms are rooted in communities and communities succeed if they solve a need, share an interest/passion, and connect people with those they care about.
The platform has to create value for its audience and this can be in the form of information, entertainment, or a utility. The platform should offer multiple levels of involvement, from creating and commenting to consuming content. In addition, the content provided should be curated by both the brand and its members so that the audience has new ways of discovering content.
In turn, a platform should provide brands with:
- A marketing/owned media channel
- Relevant content (via co-creation and crowdsourcing) that attracts people within the category
- A place for applications and services to be built on
- A place for consumers to talk to each other and to the brand
Platform ideas often do not fit into the client mould because of the long-term commitments. They are difficult to build and require a large commitment in terms of resources and budgets.
A key challenge for agencies to be able to deliver platform ideas is to have a connection with clients in top management. As we all know, many great ideas have been killed at a junior level before it even reaches upper management. This is especially important for platform ideas because it often requires a paradigm shift and will need the influence and buy-in of the company CEO.
The output of advertising has to change along with the changing digital landscape.
With platforms, a brand can reach its customers through meaningful personal experiences, two-way communication, and innovative technology.
Digital platforms unfold as they go, with the ability to build long-term communities over an indefinite period of time. When executed correctly, they provide scalable growth and the basis for long-term relationships and an in-depth interaction and connection between the consumer and the brand.