When the lines blur: What convergence really means to PepsiCo and how we can all learn from them

In the space of 2 weeks, PepsiCo (USA) has integrated social media sharing with vending machines (gift your friend drink via the machine) and social media tagging with television commercials.

Innovative thoughts, designed to enhance engagement and social experiences of their customers with their products as well as their ads. The thing I love about this is all that sharing and tagging will bring about a host of new data points and data types; How many people saw the TVC? How many people saw and interacted with the TVC? Who buys their Pepsi from which vending machine, at what times? Who’re their friends?

Wouldn’t have expected anything less given that Shiv Singh has been leading the charge as PepsiCo’s Head of Digital (he was formerly VP and Global Social Media Lead at Razorfish).

He talks about these 2 campaigns here and why you’ll see more of this coming from PepsiCo. He’s a believer that the integration and convergence of social and traditional advertising is very much on the horizon and experimentation is key. This puts him and PepsiCo ahead of the curve.

In his post he lists 6 thought starters that he believes will influence you, as a marketer, creative or media planner, over the next decade. Here’s a snapshot of some of them, which are my favourites:

1. Television advertising is dead as television advertising. 

The fundamentals of television advertising are changing dramatically. No more can you think about it in isolation. Rather your television advertisement is the trailer for deeper online engagement … Creatives need to think about TV through a different lens – through the lens of it being one touchpoint in a broader consumer engagement strategy. Never start with a TV campaign.

The TV screen is no longer an ‘unconnected’ device that exists in isolation of other devices (like your PC). Mr Singh makes this point also and you, as a marketer/creative/media planner should be well aware of this.

Think about the way you consume content today. Think about the way you, for example, might engage with a “tv show”; from watching it, to recording it, to reading cast blogs and getting behind the scenes material from the website. Great TV shows today create continuity in experience between these platforms and make you feel like you’re in the show’s world (eg Fringe & Entourage comes to mind… and even Mad Men with Mad Men Unbuttoned as a devoted fan critic/review website for the 60s period in relation to culture, societal themes and politics).

Content in one ‘platform’ no longer exists in isolation of its other variants on other platforms (well it can, but it shouldn’t). In our age of connectivity, the starting point for all content should be that it is platform agnostic; a key principle that currently underlines Fairfax’s content strategy.

As of the 18th of April 2011, content from Stuff.co.nz became available (in native formats) for all current PC and mobile devices; IE, Firefox, Chrome, Safari, iOS apps and Android apps (v1.6 onwards). We’ve even redesigned our mobile site so that it auto-optimises for our user’s handset capabilities, and yes this includes iPhone and Android users, who now have the luxury of choice in deciding whether to use an app or their mobile browser. Their luxury is in fact a necessity for us now going forwards; in that we make the content available regardless of the user’s choice of access.

Another example is the launch of our Rugby Heaven Super Rugby App, which extends RugbyHeaven’s content for the Super Rugby league to the iOS platform with additional features and functionalities.

We’re not stopping here. No way. The good old days of treating each audience segment is being exclusive to a platform or channel is long gone. If you don’t acknowledge that their lines of technology has blurred, then you’re already behind. If you don’t make yourself accessible and available from all their touchpoints (not yours, theirs), then you’re already lost.

So what about you? From a marketer, creative or media planning perspective; how do you view the interaction and continuity in experience for your customers with your brand or campaigns? Is each channel still planned and talked about in segments? Do you create a TVC which is then just ‘adapted’ onto a pre-roll with some banners as an afterthought?

Or do you start planning from your customers first. Figure out what the whole “experience” is going to be and then figure out how each device, each platform and each touchpoint is going come together and make that experience unforgettable?

2. Digital Innovation is table stakes for any brand that desires relevance.

Everyday we’re researching and testing. The benefit – we get to learn quickly what works and what our consumers care about. That maks a big difference. However, betting on the right horses is hard. Success isn’t just about experimenting a lot, it is also about placing strategic bets otherwise you dilute your brand’s equity. Betting on the right horses will get harder. If tagging TV commercials doesn’t take off, we may look stupid a year or two from now…

It’s often easier to talk about experiementation than it is to build business cases for it, much less getting them approved. But more often than not, you still hear from leading engineers and marketers alike that anywhere between 10-20% of your “budget” should be used for “experimentation”.

Let’s take Android in developing smartphone markets (like ours) as an example. How many Android handsets do you think are available and activated in New Zealand. 100,000? 200,000?

What’s that compared to iPhones and Blackberrys and non-smartphone devices?

I can imagine how difficult it must be to justify investment into developing an Android app for the NZ market right now, during the early stages of its introduction into this market. The same goes for justifying marketing spends on rich mobile executions, or on iOS apps even. The benefits, as it is right now, can be difficult to lock down or express in terms of ROI or tangible numbers.

But what is the cost of NOT experimenting though? Say if the Android app only had 50,000 activated units in New Zealand and say, half of them used to read news on their mobile back when they were using their Nokia’s or Sony Ericsson’s. Do their needs change on an Android? Not necessarily. So from Fairfax’s perspective, the “cost” to non-experimentation or action, is that we risk losing our connection with these consumers.

Sure, they can always view Stuff.co.nz on their in-phone browser and that might suffice. But that’s a long way from being ahead of the curve, isn’t it? That’s like telling our customers… “oh, sorry you’re one of 50,000 that happens to be using Android, we don’t really see it as an upcoming platform so we don’t really care if you can’t get to us in the way you want on your chosen platform.”

That’s probably OK if you’re happy with being an average brand with average experiences. But it’s not OK when you’re #1 in the market and you expect to stay there, and you actually want to thank your customers for choosing you no matter what platform or device their using.

So how about you? Reckon you can push the boundaries? Can you really start to be an evangelist, for your product, brand or client? Or are you just going to wait until somebody does it, somebody succeeds in it, and somebody makes it easier for you to to get it across the budget lines?

3. Metrics need to be much more sophisticated. 

The technological and cultural changes we are experiences far outpaces evolutions in marketing measurement. We need to learn so much more about what drives behavior, how the dynamics of influence work and what marketing activities (technological or otherwise) truly influence sales. Currently, those metrics are relatively simplistic and the organizations that invest in measurement in proprietary ways will get ahead.

This is absolutely key. Having data is not the same as having data.

You know what annoys me nowdays? All this talk about how the industry needs to resign CTR as a dead, unmeaningful metric… most of the time from people who think their ahead of their time and are grabbing at straws to make themselves sound like a digital marketing guru.

It’s not that CTR is great, far from it. The problem I have with a lot of these arguments are that they simply assign CTR to being absolutely useless, which isn’t the case at all. For some campaigns and objectives, it still makes sense for CTR to be the lead metric or indicator of success. Furthermore, different suppliers within the media and advertising supply chain also have different metrics that are more relevant to them than others.

Let’s use an example for the launch of a new credit card. Let’s consider the different phases and objectives and then the relevant metrics:

  • Launch phase, high impact and awareness building: Audience reach, frequency of message delivered (impressions per UB)
  • Attract to launch website, provide more information on credit criteria etc: CTRs, time spent on page, page scrolling %
  • Expressions of interest form: Success event, conversion

Now all these metrics are arguably important if you really want to ascertain the campaign’s success and also understand which parts of the funnel you need to optimise. But as you can see, different metrics play different roles in different phases, depending on the objectives.

Also, I’ve bolded the points for which responsibility of the metric’s success arguable lies more  with the destination site than it does with the channel that provided the introduction. This of course this can depend on the type of product or action you’re trying to “convert”, and the strength of the initial messaging. Again, it’s not an absolute.

What these examples show is that context and interpretation is as important as the acquisition, quality and reporting of data.

What we tend to have more often than not, is people suggesting one metric over another or proclaiming the death of one metric over another. Another good example besides CTR is the championing of “average time spent” or “average duration” by some quarters as the sole indicator of website success and leadership. If that was the case, then we’d all just simply prolong our loading times to a factor of 100 and reduce our audience to 1, since an average of 1 gives you the total duration anyway.

These types of arguments are corrupted. This ever ongoing search for the perfect success metric will blind you to the true search for meaningful insights, which should be formed out of a collection of data that you’ve tested and validated as being important to the different phases, elements and objectives of your business.

And that is another point that Mr Singh talks about in his post. That experimentation is equally important in terms of measurement and testing as it is in the execution itself. When an experiment fails, the failure isn’t so much in the experiement itself as it is with what you do with the results of the experiment.

In short.

So, experimentation is key. Courage is key. The ability to interpret, understand and act on any data returned from such experimentation is invaluable.

But all of these need to come from a starting point, which really comes from the customer. Put yourself in their shoes and design your campaign around them. Then look at all the touchpoints, all the elements and all your objectives and figure out what you need to know in order to improve their experience (not yours). That is the kind of data that will make you better to them.

The thing is that in our age of digital innovation, no one has got it right yet, which means that the prizes are still there for those that do.

Follow me on Twitter (@feibiangoh)

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