While anxiously awaiting the next episode of Mad Men on Sunday, I decided to catch up on previous episodes to satisfy my craving. I caught the episode on AMC, "Babylon," that triggered a thought in me about how companies are searching for that digital utopia for their brands. In the episode, there was a scene where Don Draper (the main character) is attempting to learn more about the land of Israel for a tourism pitch. During the scene, he is educated on the term of utopia, which is where a light bulb went off in my head.
The term utopia originated from the Greek term, "eutopos," meaning a "good place," but they also had a word very similar to this, "utopos," which means, "no place." It is funny that one little mistake in translation or lack of focus can mean something total different and opposite that what was intended. For companies, finding that euphoric place for their brand using digital media is a process that, if done correctly, can lead to the promised land of engagement, however, if overlooked, could lead to, well, no where.
The digital landscape is so vast that it can seem very overwhelming to a brand that doesn't understand it. Like Don Draper, you can do all the research and reading you want, but the at the end of the day, you sometimes need a little support and help from experts. Advertising agencies like "Sterling Cooper" are in the hunt to attract a new type of person to help them and their clients with mobile, social and digital advertising efforts. However, one thing that agencies and brands must remember is that this isn't rocket science. The principles that we use for direct marketing efforts and traditional marketing strategies are still the building blocks for effective and engaging digital campaigns. There are some things you should consider though when looking at a digital agency for assistance. To keep in the spirit of Mad Men, I've simplified it so you don't end up in utopos; just remember MAD MEN.
Mobile - According to eMarketer, 65% of brands said "Spending will Increase" in mobile for 2012. The amount of money spent in the US by advertisers will double by the end of this year. It is the fastest growing digital spending segment out there. Make sure they have a solid SMS platform/relationship and ask to see how it works. You may be one of those people who doesn't like to see how the sausage is made but it will benefit you to know in this case.
Advertising - Digital agencies and technology companies are great at showing you what is cool but the ability to incorporate and integrate tasteful advertising is key. It is also imperative that the solutions and strategies are not in a silo, isolated from the traditional marketing elements available. In September, 2011, Nielsen was able to show that leveraging PC, mobile and tablet with a :15 premium automotive sports sedan ad increased the recall of the brand by 50%. The challenge is to use the digital to advertise to people without them being aware they were just advertised to.
Developmental Plan - If you aren't getting better, you're getting worse. Ask the agency about their developmental plan and how they view their future product offerings and where the field is going. Are they reactive or proactive? Are they resting on their current laurels or excited about the future?
Money - This may be obvious but to digital agencies, they usually measure and tout what they can do by engagement or follows or likes. At the end of the day, do they know how to take that and turn it into money? Do they have a sense for how to not only engage with people digitally but proven how it can convert into revenue for your company. Also, do they understand how your assets can make you money outside of your core business? Sponsorships, advertising units or premium products are available for ANY business.
Education - The most important piece to bringing on board a digital agency or company is that they provide you and your team members with the education they need to understand the space. In our meetings, we always tell our clients that, aside from making money, it is our job to make you the smartest person in the room when selling digital products and offerings. Furthermore, if a digital strategy is going to work, EVERYONE in the company needs to be on board. From the CEO to the Admin, everyone needs to know the importance of the digital strategy and how they have a role in that strategy. Make sure they know and can implement a digital strategy that includes a social strategy for you company and every individual on your team.
New Ideas - You thought QR codes were cool? Wireless devices are doing more and more stuff that blows brands away. From augmented reality to location based advertising/messaging, there are new elements being developed each day. Make sure the digital company you are using is aware and can implement elements such as this. Your customers and clients may not be ready for it, but they will appreciate you bringing this to their attention, increasing your credentials with them about the digital space.
Understand that you might not know everything about the digital space and it is OK. There are plenty of companies out there that can help and bring help you and your brand find the utopia you hope for. The question is whether you are going to be like Don Draper and ask for help or try to do it on your own. The answer may be the difference between ending up where you want to take your company or no place at all.