With digital technology moving at the speed of light, brands all have one common goal: being innovative--fast. But innovation needs to be fostered internally. You can’t fake it. It needs to be part of a company’s culture, almost like standard operating procedure. That’s a challenge.
Enter the “digital marketing environment.” These are business units and programs that are created for the sole purpose of spurring innovation. They are meant to push employees to collaborate, while at the same time arming them with the resources to turn ideas into innovation.
“I applaud those who are doing this, even if they are gimmicky,” Jeff Hayzlett, former CMO of Eastman Kodak, told CMO.com. “For those who haven’t set up any such digital environments, they need to do something or they’ll die. Adapt, change, or die is the philosophy to live by, and if you are not growing, you are dead already.”
Social Media Command Centers
One company that certainly has embraced this idea of fostering innovation through digital marketing environments is MasterCard. The company’s Conversation Suite, a social media command center, at its Purchase, N.Y., headquarters, has a team of four people who sit and listen to what’s being said about the brand online. The company then creates reports for business units, such as PR, customer service, and marketing. The units can then turn this data into actionable insights.
MasterCard encourages all of its employees to visit and make use of the Conversation Suite. There’s a huge LED screen where visitors can see what’s trending and that has an impact on the type of content the company publishes. The suite fosters innovation by giving employees insights and analytics into what people are talking about, and what people want and expect from the company.
For example, MasterCard evaluated 85,000 conversations happening online and on social media having to do with mobile payments in advance of its MasterPass digital wallet launch at Mobile World Congress last year. As a result, the company found that early adopters were iffy about mobile payment technology because of the lack of customer support and frustration with point-of-sale acceptance. It used this insight to craft the announcement for MasterPass.
The Brand Center Of Excellence
MasterCard also has a center of excellence of sorts, which it calls MasterCard Labs. It was launched in 2010 as the research and development arm of the company, dedicated to bringing innovative payment solutions to market at a fast speed. According to Adam Broitman, VP of MasterCard’s global digital marketing team, the lab is key to innovation at MasterCard. The reason is simple. The sheer definition of media is changing. While 10 years ago, you’d have an agency create a media plan and send it out to the usual suspects, that won’t work in today’s digital landscape.
“We are at a point where media is not just about the content you’re aligning your brand with,” Broitman told CMO.com. “There are totally new ways of connecting with people, and they’re growing at an exponential rate. If you’re going to win, you need to be partnering with the best thinkers. It’s a whole new way of thinking about innovation, and companies need to adapt.”
Adobe (CMO.com’s parent company) also has a center of excellence of sorts, with three main units, or task forces. One is focused on social media and is headed by Maria Poveromo, director of social media at Adobe. This unit is dedicated to vetting new opportunities in social media. The second task force is dedicated to digital measurement. It’s headed by David Welch, the company’s VP of market research and operations. Lastly, Karl Isaac, Adobe’s global brand head, also leads a unit called the Creative Think Tank. All three are meant to help foster innovation by first identifying potential partners and then evaluating whether they'd be a good fit for Adobe.
Startup Incubator Programs
PepsiCo’s PepsiCo10 digital-incubator program is a good example of another way that brands are fostering innovation. Launched in 2010, the first PepsiCo10 received more than 500 submissions from up-and-coming entrepreneurs. The benefit for the startups is evident: They get to pitch a huge company. At the same time, PepsiCo gets an early look at technology trends, such as social TV, experience-based gaming, crowdsourced content creation, and pay-at-the-table digital promotion. In 2011 the momentum continued with PepsiCo10 Europe, attracting applicants from startups in 18 countries and resulting in marketing pilots with billion-dollar PepsiCo brands such as Doritos, Quaker, Walkers, and Pepsi MAX. In 2012, the company brought the program to Brazil.
Mondelez’s Mobile Futures is similar to the PepsiCo10. The company said the strategy is to collaborate with young, ambitious mobile startups to transform consumer engagement and path-to-purchase. Mondelez gets startups to submit applications explaining what they offer and why they’re unique; when it chooses the winners, it provides funding, while raising the profile of the startup by teaming it with one of its well-known brands.
In all, these centers of excellence, startup incubator programs, and social media command centers are helping brands to tell their stories in new, innovative ways. That's the key. The industry is moving beyond just selling. Brands are now tasked with telling.
“Today’s digital landscape gives marketers a more personal way to reach consumers,” MasterCard's Broitman said. “My advice to CMOs is to make sure that your company is doing something to keep your finger on the pulse. The 30-second spot is still very alive, but in the average life of someone living in 2013, you have to tell stories in different ways.”