Let’s get phygital


Droga5’s campaign to promote Jay-Z’s ‘Decoded’ memoir prior to publication epitomised the coming together of the physical and digital worlds

When physical meets digital, you get phygital and it is in this phygital world that the future of marketing lies, says Gavin Downes.

As an ever-increasing amount of marketing planning focuses on building integrated campaigns that exist seamlessly in experiences between the physical and digital worlds, a new ‘phygital’ paradigm has emerged. It’s a term that was coined by McCann-owned agency Momemtum around two years ago. The growth of the phygital world has been clearly evident since then and marketing folk across the world are starting to take notice.

Some game-changing case studies exist from around the globe, with brands such as Microsoft, Coca-Cola, T-Mobile, IBM, Nike, O2 and Heineken all playing their part in leading a charge into the phygital future. These case studies illustrate the impact, results and ROI delivered through embracing new ways of brand planning and management of ongoing marketing communications.

Whether consumer recruitment, awareness, volume driving or brand loyalty-based, some campaigns are now delivering in a way that could never have been achieved in the previous millennium. Significantly, the results seen, speed of change and new marketing structures emerging within some of the biggest global brands have cast a huge doubt over the relevance of traditional marketing models.

Look who’s still talking

Both consumers and brands seem to have found a comfortable equilibrium that had been missing in the past. This new marketing paradigm allows for two-way dialogue in both worlds, eliciting an altogether different response from consumers; namely, the realisation that brands actually want to listen to consumers and communicate on their terms, or at least try to.

Clearly, there are benefits in the short and long-term for both brands and consumers. One of the single biggest factors that has driven these new models is the growing attention the marketing world is paying to the customer service ethos. In general, marketers are moving away from trying to deliver the ‘big idea’ or award-winning campaigns that will make both agency and client happy, and are instead looking straight to the consumer and trying to identify what the brand can offer and how this can be delivered.

The new standard for communications is around consistently delivering over and above what consumers want, not telling them what we want them to think they want, and applying that to every single brand touch-point. And in the physical and digital worlds, we can now engage, track, measure, manage and affect consumer behavior at each of these in a way that traditional below the line channels never could.

As the likes of Google, Facebook and Microsoft have taught us, establishing relationships with consumers will be key to growth in the future of not only the marketing function, but also the wider business organisation.

Embrace this future, as it’s here

There’s no doubt that the rapid expansion of digital communication channels, recessionary times, growth of experiential marketing, and fewer vertical agency/client structures, have all helped to bring us far closer to the consumer than ever before.

And there’s a huge overlap between the digital and real worlds. All conceivable physical areas – from live music venues to sporting arenas, retail stores and shopping centres, music festivals, food and fun fairs, transport networks, restaurants, libraries, gyms, cinemas and even public spaces – are all now territories where real and digital worlds live seamlessly together.

While the digital world has continued to rapidly evolve in terms of brand communications through Google, Facebook, Twitter and YouTube, for example, so too has there been an increasing attention to live consumer engagements in the physical space, with emotional connection through experience.

Those brands quickest to change their approach to consumer communications and to focus on both the digital and physical worlds are not only surviving, but also really thriving.

Jay-Z building bridges

“The future of advertising will be played on bridges – real and virtual – that exist between the online world and the real world we all live in.” This is a quote taken directly from the blog of experiential marketing guru Max Lenderman, in response to the new Jay-Z and Bing collaboration developed by Droga5 to promote the New York hip hop star’s memoir prior to its publication.

The ‘Decoded’ campaign physically placed entire pages of the book at locations they refer to in a range of cities including New York, London and Los Angeles. Clues as to where the pages were hidden were revealed on Jay-Z’s Facebook and Twitter pages and on a Bing website. The pages appeared in shop windows, on buildings, on pool tables, in bars, swimming pools, mobile media and park benches.

As the traditional integrated viewpoint exists, this is not integrated. It is different to anything we have seen before, creating a deeper engagement with the story, the brand, the consumer, the music and the world as a canvas for communication. While the lessons to be learnt from the consumer response remain to be seen, there are some fundamental lessons to be learnt from the approach to communicating with consumers. The biggest lesson of all it seems is to be open to creating new marketing models, new channels and unique communication platforms in exciting ways that will be sure to engage the public.

RFID tracking consumers in the real world

At this year’s Coachella and Lalapalooza festivals in the United States, RFID (radio-frequency identification) technology was trialled for the first time on a significant scale. RFID could be one of the most interesting developments in consumer engagement over recent years. If used right, it has huge ramifications for how we develop marketing plans in the real world and how we can then use the information generated in the digital world and in CRM communications with consumers.

In addition to the US music festival trials, Coca-Cola is a perfect example of a brand that has realised the power of harmonising digital and the live experience through RFID. At a recent brand project in Israel, the Coca-Cola Village 2010 saw over 1,000 teenagers spending a three-day weekend together, engaged in games, sport, music and social events.

While everyone attending could interact in the physical world, they could also go onto Facebook and see exactly what their friends liked about the village in real time. This was made possible by giving every village guest an RFID wristband that would track them across the digital village map, as result of their ‘likes’.

If they liked a feature, location, person, game, music, food or anything else, they could scan the RFID to ‘like’ on Facebook as well. They could also tag photos instantly from various locations in the village and these would all appear on their Facebook pages. It’s a great example of a seamless brand experience in the digital and physical worlds and illustrates the potential for using this or, quite interestingly, more interactive mobile technologies.

Crossing between the real and virtual worlds

These days, great campaigns have to traverse the divide between real and virtual worlds. Prime examples are the groundbreaking T-Mobile campaigns over the past couple of years, from karaoke with thousands and Pink in Trafalgar Square, to hundreds of copycats of the Liverpool Station dance performance, and the overwhelming response to the recent ‘Welcome Back’ at Heathrow airport, which has had over 2.7m views on YouTube in under three weeks.

The ‘Life’s for sharing’ brand message has been so well captured, shared and amplified across word of mouth, social networks, digital communications and as commercial spots.

Looking closer to home, some great work exists in the Irish market as well, with some smaller agencies pushing the boundaries of consumer engagement, while embracing the powers of social media and the digital world.

The O2 ‘Be the Difference’ campaign took user-generated content to a new level this year by offering consumers the opportunity to give a ‘team talk’ on camera (via their own laptop or through a number of live experiences) as if they were actually in the dressing room with the Irish rugby team. People could vote for their favourites and the best talks were shown to the Irish team, with the eventual winners actually featured in Croke Park on the big screen. A whole array of digital and physical channels were used in the marketing campaign, and well over 2,000 team talks were generated, captured and shared.

Using and choosing the right technologies

As marketers, we’ll always aspire to be creative, plan well, analyse data, measure results and track success. But we need to start learning more about technology to properly connect between real and virtual worlds. And apart from just learning about the technologies it may be even more important to realise the uses of them. We can’t rely just on mobile, social networks and internet software, or simply think in terms of digital channels that can add to the live experience. ��   In order to embrace the phygital future, we need to continue to trial, measure and track the performance of the new technologies that will continue to drive real results for both brand and consumer. It is this type of approach, along with a desire to innovate, that will help shift us into the new marketing paradigm where so much more is possible in far less time. That is a marketing future that I hope we all would like to be a part of.

This article first appeared in Marketing Age magazine

Gavin Downes is senior strategic planner at Modern Green.