A Love Letter from Brand Marketers to Silicon Valley (republished from Ad Age)


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For too long, the digital industry has looked at brands like Pepsi simply as a monetization strategy. What's worse is that sometimes our digital friends view us as being uninformed members of the digital ecosystem - something akin to prey. Not only is that perception misinformed, its going to start impacting the bottom-line of many companies in the digital ecosystem.

On the brand side, marketers cannot afford to play that role anymore. We need to show a much stronger return on all our marketing investments just as we recognize that traditional forms of marketing (ie banner ads) aren't as effective as they once were. We also understand technology better than we're often given credit for. If you treat us as your monetization strategy, you probably won't get much attention from us.

So how do we think about our roles in the digital ecosystem? I like to think of it as four key points:

The role of brands extends beyond simple advertising and is evolving towards meaningful sponsorships, content curation and creation. The way Pepsi is partnering with the X-Factor across retail, in show and online (check outPepsi Sound Off and Pepsi Pulse) is an example of this. The same applies with our Call of Duty Mountain Dew partnership. Specially marked Mountain Dew packaging will feature codes that give double XP time to players in the multi-mode of Modern Warfare 3 when the game launches in November. This isn't traditional marketing.

This piece by me was first published in Ad Age.

The future of marketing for brands means not just playing the traditional role of sponsoring experiences created by someone else. Instead marketers need to act like startups, media companies, technology companies and of course still as brands all at once. Whether it be through our PepsiCo Beverages Digital Labs initiatives or in how we partnered with Fashion Week around the Diet Pepsi Skinny can launch acting as a mini media organization, we are already playing these roles.

Having physical products with huge distribution (we're practically in every neighborhood of America) gives us digital scale for consumer engagement. Frankly, this is scale we've had all along but that we've never really had the tools to leverage before. Suddenly, everyday, physical products have become highly leveragable assets in the digital ecosystem. Whether it's our cups in food-service partner outlets with QR codes or the ability to photograph our logos and get access to exclusive content, we can now use our unique scale in the real world for digital.

The data that we are gathering now when linked to offline data gives us a view into consumers that we never had before. Last summer we ran the largest Foursquare check-in program with people around the country being able to check in at fun summer locations to get a Pepsi Summer badge. Think about the location data we've been able to capture there and how valuable it is when we co-relate it to sales data per location.

It is time for the technology industry to think more about how to work with us to build things, rather than attempt to sell us a finished product we don't need and never asked for. Indeed, perhaps its time for tech to learn a thing or two from marketers. As brands, we need to engage our consumers more deeply and more meaningfully in ways that enrich their lives and drive fierce loyalty to our brands. Traditional advertising is no longer enough to do that.

As a result, we need new kinds of partnerships where brands and technology companies co-create experiences for consumers that benefit everyone. If we are brought into the picture right at the end in a simplistic fashion, we will struggle to extract decent business value from those relationships. How will you partner with us in the future?

Note: This piece was first published in Ad Age.


Follow me on Twitter (@shivsingh) for more insights on digital strategy and social media.

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