At Ad:tech New York, there was a common refrain: brands must get away from thinking about reach and frequency and embrace a concept of when, where and how they’re needed in a “post-advertising era.” That was the sentiment shared by Catharine Findiesen Hays, founding executive director of The Future of Advertising Program at The Wharton School and host of this year’s event, which came to a close last week.
“Think about an orchestration of all interactions with a brand,” Findiesen Hays said during the keynote presentation at The Metropolitan Pavilion. “All the experiences that people have. If you think about it from a people-centric standpoint, this is what they see. They don’t just make a distinction between your advertisements and your product and customer service—it’s the sum total of all of these interactions.”
Hays outlined forces of change, which include exponential advances in technology so we can understand ourselves better than ever. Emotion is ultimately what drives people, and technology lets them act on it. There’s also an “explosion and redefinition of the media landscape,” which is transforming communication between brands and people through devices and word-of-mouth. At the heart of it is the notion of empowering a skeptical consumer, who has the power to skip, ignore or block messages.
“Companies can no longer think of themselves as separate from what’s going on in the world,” said Findiesen Hays. “The barriers between what their role is in the world and nations and communities are changing, and there are a lot of issues and challenges to take care of.”
As science, data and creativity come together, new alliances are being formed across the entire C-suite. The biggest impediments brands face to change are entrenched mindsets, she said.
“The listening, learning and delivery is there for real-time customer activations and enabling,” said Findiesen Hays. “That is in conjunction in a longer-term building of platforms and branding away from campaigns, which have a start and a finish, to more of an investment mentality.”
Here’s how brands are tackling the challenge of integrating listening, creating and sharing:
NHL Takes Brand Digital For Deeper Fan Engagement
The National Hockey League is a 100-year-old brand, and like all sports leagues, it faces the challenge of remaining relevant in the digital age. That’s why Heidi Browning, EVP and chief marketing officer for the NHL, was tasked with crafting the experience that will define the next century.
Browning did not come into the league as a hardcore hockey fan, which is something commissioner Gary Bettman liked. The mission was to grow the sport through connecting with casual sports fans and younger generations by helping make the hardcore community more approachable.
The first step in transitioning the brand to digital was using data, which include 31 different feeds from both real world and digital touchpoints. The data covers where consumers buy tickets, merchandise and food along with when they visit NHL.com, download the app and participate in contests and polls. The information builds a fan profile to deepen relationships.
“A big part of our transformation is how we harness of all this information down to a single place—single-fan identification—then look for opportunities to help our fans get personalized plans for ticketing and messaging,” said Browning. “We’re also looking for opportunities to promote more events and merchandising opportunities and increase the fan base through the use of our data.”
Browning said that it’s important to both rights holders and advertising partners that the NHL be able to tell a story about who the fans are.
“We have the youngest fans, with the highest income who are the most educated out of all the leagues, but there’s so much more a story that we can tell about them,” she said. “The notion of harnessing the fan data into a single ID so that we can activate it is really exciting.”
The second most important aspect is social media, which Person said makes up the fabric of millennial and Gen Z’s lives. At the same time, they’re disrupting sports, since younger audiences interact with the games they watch more than older generations. For example, younger audiences don’t need to watch full games, as they’re satisfied with highlights across multiple screens.
Other trends include how younger fans are looking more to engage with individual players rather than teams, which runs counter to the NHL’s mentality of putting the team first and not be self-promoting. Browning said that the NHL is working with its players to help them feel more comfortable about connecting with fans and sharing their contributions to the community.
“I think we’re seeing the birth of a new type—or definition—of fan,” said Browning. “For us to be able to understand what it is that makes people consider themselves fans and how they want to interact with our product—live, digitally or on TV—is critical, and social media is that connective tissue.”
Browning highlighted how ongoing commitment to community service was paramount to the digital strategy. The NHL has a corporate social responsibility platform that’s dedicated to giving back to others—covering the environment and people fighting cancer while celebrating how hockey is for everyone.
November is Hockey Fights Cancer month, and the entire league is celebrating by wearing lavender; every team has its own featured day. Channeling the spirit of Movember, the NHL is also doing a huge mustache push this month.
“We realize that it’s not just about doing a good deed and giving back,” Browning said. “Our fans expect to have shared values because this truly is a family and the connectedness that we have within the fan base when kids start playing and grow up into fans. This is about making sure our shared values are out there, both for our fans and brand marketing partners.”
Using Tech To Deliver On Brand Promise
Jack in the Box has been around since 1951, and it regards itself as a constant innovator that’s committed to its brand promise of making life easier for customers. It prides itself on being the first restaurant to use a two-way intercom in its drive-through lanes, removing much of the friction from the take-out dining experience. Fast-forward to today, third-party delivery services like DoorDash and Uber are being used as another way for consumers to experience the brand.
Jack in the Box CMO Iwona Alter explained that for 2017, it hasn’t been about having different dining experiences, but it’s about how the brand talks to its guests and while making their lives easier.
“Word-of-mouth, being the most fundamental marketing technique, is alive and well right now,” said Alter. “All these different ways we communicate with each other are just enabling us to share through word-of-mouth. It’s a traditional principle used in a modern way.”
To engage with a new generation of diners, the brand has relied heavily on its mascot Jack. Before he was part of Project Moon Hat, which used the solar eclipse to promote the chain’s philanthropic efforts, he was the central figure of the “brunchfast” campaign. Last year, restaurants emphasized how it served breakfast all day. Jack in the Box offers a breakfast menu 24/7, so it changed the conversation away from breakfast by leaning into the more relevant term—brunch.
The story was that Jack’s pregnant wife was experiencing late-night cravings for brunch-like food, which tapped into an opportunity that was relevant to younger diners who wanted to have Sunday brunch every other day of the week. In doing so, Jack tapped into a new audience that doesn’t normally eat fast food.
The brunchfast campaign kicked off with a virtual reality music video featuring Bart Baker, Josh Elkin and Daym Drops. Jack partnered with Funny or Die to create a cravings chat show on Facebook Live along with a chatbot on Messenger. This was in addition to a series of Snapchat stories showing Jack on a quest for brunch in the middle of the night and a multisensory brunchfast experience at the inaugural ComplexCon.
Alter said the campaign resulted in over five million impressions, with the VR music video getting a 90 percent completion rate, and Jack’s social mentions went up by 408 percent. Jack in the Box sales increased by five-to-eight percent in the first five weeks following the launch of Brunchfast.
Jack in the Box also discovered that there are indirect and non-intrusive ways to interact with consumers. One prime example is the Crave Van, which was featured across a number of TV spots. Alter explained that it began as a way to showcase the menu, but then it was taken in a new direction.
The brand discovered that its audience loved video games, but it also realized that the last thing gamers want to see is brands trying to sell them something.
Demonstrating an understanding of its audience, Jack in the Box created Crave Van mods that could be used the immensely popular driving games Grand Theft Auto V and Rocket League as playable vehicles. They were seeded using Reddit and influencers so that the branded content wasn’t forced onto audiences, and gamers loved it.