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Friday, 20 September 2013

Digital Strategy and the role of the Big Idea

Everyone in advertising and marketing is familiar with the role of the Big Idea. The idea which inspires the creative, draws the attention of the consumer, hopefully wins awards, and becomes part of the brand folklore. We look for the big idea every time we create a new brand positioning, when we brief creative, and whenever we want to refresh our category.

What's the Big Idea when it comes to your digital strategy? 

First of all, the big idea in digital need not be the one you developed for your offline campaign. Digital may become the medium to carry the idea (as in, you put the ad on YouTube). But chances are, your idea needs to be adapted or extended to work online.

Mere presence cannot be a big idea. Yes, you have launched a popular product, or made a popular ad, and this leads to a lot of Facebook Likes, or more visits to your YouTube channel or website. That's still not the same.

Instagram was a big idea in digital. So was Vine. Petigram, a social network for pets and their owners. Endomondo, the running and fitness app. Prevent, the online 16-week diabetes prevention coaching program which uses peer motivation to inspire healthier habits and weight loss.

Are you thinking 'Wait, these are not brands, these are pretty much online companies, whose core business is digital? What's this got to do with a brand idea?'

That's pretty much the point. In the interactive and hugely fragmented digital space. A big idea needs to start with your user, his usage context, his devices, purpose and interest. And then it needs to link back to the brand. We may be sticking our neck out here, but if you want a measurable return from the digital space, you cannot do it through mere presence. You cannot do it by re-apportioning some spend to digital media in your budget. You need to do it through investment. We do not mean by becoming an online business, or an app development company. But definitely, the starting point has to be the role of digital in your category and in your consumer's life. If you don't see the relevance, then maybe digital presence is enough (or you can even save on that expenditure).

Instagram could have come from Kodak. Prevent could have come from any healthcare company (incidentally, it's also user-paid, so it's a viable business model). And a fitness app could have come from any diet/ fitness brand. Nike tied it up well with the Fuel Band, but there's always scope for more options. I am surprised that no one is making watches controlled by a smartphone app. 

A big idea in digital comes from a user need. It needs to be focussed, and it may be tied to a specific channel, device or function where it works best. You might need to be prepared for it to become a new business opportunity, or at least, a new brand property. To create such an idea, you need partners with an understanding of technology, User experience and you need a strong measurement mechanism to aid actionability. And it also needs a willingness to explore, and make course changes (which do not cost a lot - a digital strategy need not become a costly mistake like TVCs sometimes do).

The starting point comes from understanding our target audience and their interaction with the digital space. Coming up with ideas and then marrying them back to our category and brand. The closest parallel I can think of is a 'Jobs to be Done' approach. It can definitely lead to more meaningful and differentiated interaction with users. Maybe we should think about it, if we want to be more than just another Facebook page.