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When it comes to digital marketing and communication the eminently powerful guidelines are:  Engage & Involve. For all the right reasons. Consider 20th-century marketing and communication. When people wanted to buy whatever ware or service, TV commercials were in the lead to make the most visible brands in the advertisement blocks top-of-mind. Especially when the ads were humorous and/or revolved around an emphatic human touch: their overall ‘like-ability’ became key to convince people this-is-the-brand-for-me, this-is-the-brand-to-buy. It was properly schematized in the reputed AIDA-model. First: raise Awareness (A) Then: raise Interest (I). Then create Desire (D). That must culminate in the moment supreme of the buying act: Action (A). This is how advertising worked in the television age.

From one-way communication and likeability towards: Engage & Involve

Now we are living in the social media age. Of course, when it comes to selling, stimulating awareness, interest and desire, then hoping for a buy, still are the leading AIDA-principles. But the environment, from TV to social media, has changed dramatically. For instance, in TV age after consumers had done their buy, the rest was silence for a longer time. Now, after having experienced what they have bought, many flocks online to express and share their opinions. This goes for both cars and fashion gadgets, for both detergents and toothpaste. A long time ago I did focus groups for Unilever’s detergents division in Europe with participants who had shown a (slightly) compulsive interest in washing, cleaning and therefore in detergents. They represented a goldmine of intensely relevant data, though it was a challenge to find and recruit them. Now, in the social media age recruitment has become feather light. You simply go to the designated discussion platforms. It’s where experience experts, both advocates and hater, flock together and exchange insights. They speak with all-mighty voices. When brands want to build prestige and popularity, want to create likeability and loyalty: it is all happening there.

Brand-builders have to adapt to this new universe (or perish). A universe where discussions move horizontally and one-way messaging alienates. A universe where ideas and brand-appreciation spread through friends and where 24/7/365 interaction is imperative. It means both heaven and hell to brand builders. Heaven: because so much data is up for grabs. Hell: because brands must learn a new sensitivity to listen and respond – often with more humility than is in their DNA. Recently fashion brand Celine, in the wake of Black Lives Matter, stated that they are “against all forms of discrimination, oppression and racism”. Soon after Celine’s brave/opportunistic gesture Philippine fashion blogger BryanBoy showed on Instagram a feed with Celine’s leading fashion models:  all white. “Where are the people of color, Celine?” The brand was forced into humility.

The key lesson for brand builders in the online 21st century boils down to: Listen, Engage & Involve. Leave Arrogance. Or drown in irrelevancy.

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Three times the Coolest worldwide

As a professor ‘Future Forecasting & Innovation’ in corona-times I, like everybody else, made the Turn Virtual. I conducted master classes ‘Future Forecasting’ with about 250 young fresh minds from Shanghai to Sao Paulo, from New York to Nigeria, from Portugal to the Philippines – all in the age cohort 18 – 30. We asked them to ‘hunt’ for Cool Seeds of new developments in the realm of digital marketing. They wrote blogs about it, often with a local flavor, which were uploaded to our virtual workspaces. There they rated each other’s blogs. This way we constructed a hit parade of the coolest examples of digital marketing worldwide in the eyes of a cohort of smart Gen Z’ers and Millennials. Here the top three.

Three: Chipotle’s lid flip challenge (USA, Canada, Europe)

Chipotle, the American chain of fast-casual dining restaurants specialized in tacos and established in the USA, Canada and Western Europe, has been one of the first and Coolest to integrate TikTok in its highly successful lid flip challenge campaign. Actually, it didn’t start as a top-down campaign. It started on the working floor. When you order your Chipotle meal you have to flip its content from its round-shaped aluminum oven-package onto your actual dinner plate. You can do this the regular way, with some appropriate cutlery involved. You can also do it in one smartly timed, super-agile flip movement. One restaurant waiter started it, brought it to TikTok where very many followed. The challenge reached 268 million views in its first month. It’s fast and funny, playful and nonsensically skilled. It’s what good digital marketing is made of. Have a look at it below.

Two: Swiggy’s and the ‘Voice of Hunger’ (India)

India’s online food delivery market is fiercely competitive with each participant fighting for market share. Market leader Swiggy felt the heath and therefore the intense need to increase brand preference amongst its core user base. It launched the ‘Voice of Hunger’ Instagram sound-hack campaign. Hunger and its solution: eating, manifest themselves in different ways of course. The ‘Voice of Hunger’ initiative asked Swiggy users to recreate the sounds of hunger & eating in all kinds of hilariously creative shapes and sizes. Growling tummies, salivating mouths and people filming their total focus on food on the streets they are walking, are some of the uploaded outcomes. They didn’t only come from Swiggy users but from anyone who got the hunger vibe – because when a campaign goes seriously viral the brand loses control. In this case, Swiggy was happy to go with the flow. Established comedians, musicians, rappers, actors, DJs and influencers ‘spontaneously’ flocked in, while Swiggy HQ secured partnerships with popular radio stations and young other media channels.  How to reach the Millennials crowds in India? By inviting them to make creative noises and rewarding the best with one year of free home deliveries. Have a look:

One: BTS (South Korea)

South Korea is geographically clamped between two superpowers: China and Japan. On hard power the country will never win. A decade ago the country decided to focus on soft power. It succeeded. Korean soaps have conquered Asia. For the first time in history a Korean movie, Parasites, won the Oscar for best movie. Gangnam Style by Korean singer Psy was for about half a decade the most-watched video on YouTube.

And now more Korean pop is conquering the world with boy band BTS clearly leading the pack, bringing 3.6 billion dollars to the South Korean economy during the last six months – not only from record sales but also from tourists who desire to visit the places where the seven band members have lived or shoot their music videos. While I am writing this, BTS is number one at the Billboard Hot One Hundred with their first English recorded pop song ‘Dynamite’. On Spotify ‘Dynamite’ debuted with 7.778 million downloads in its first week. The song charted in the top ten of 25 countries worldwide. For those old enough to remember the Beatles and their ‘English Invasion’: after four decades the ‘Korean Wave’ pales them. It’s not only BTS. Second in soft power is Korean girl band BlackPink. A majority of its members have, next to their Korean roots, also roots in other parts of Asia – Thailand, Philippines, Australia. This organically intensifies their appeal in these countries: good for the Asian roll-out of Korean pop. The group has more YouTube followers than UK singer-songwriter Ed Sheeran.

The often-upbeat pop songs, combining funk, soul and bubble gum, are top of the bill. The voices are smooth and melodic and the dance moves have internationally acclaimed superiority. Above that, all group members are undisputable ‘cute’ – m/f. (The cuteness of the boys deserves another article on how BTS have managed to change Generation Z’s vision on masculine cool and sexiness. But not here.)  It all is fueled by the power of excellent digital marketing. This is how it works:

All pop groups have their followings. BTS calls them The Army. The Army is unusually fanatic. United by their deep adolescent love for BTS they are also divided over seven different regiments, one for every member. So, when RM (BTS’s leader, and IQ-genius) comes to the fore to sing his solo sentence and make his moves, his regiment shouts their lungs out. After which the regiment of V (proudly proclaiming himself as worldwide handsome) does the same. So does the regiment of Jimin, when this the intriguing androgynous guy, comes front stage. Et cetera. Their loud vocal encouragements bring an extra, next-step intense interaction to the event floor. Never seen before. The same intense interactivity is amplified in the online universe. There each and every song sentence, dance move, fashion appearance and facial expression, is discussed with a fervor impossible before fans could go virtual. It is here where the masterminds behind BTS (the company Big Hit Entertainment) reaps new insights continuously about trends and fads, about desires and what’s hot. At YouTube there is not one promotional video-clip of ‘Dynamite’ but several. While writing this article, BTS published their new Christmas version of ‘Dynamite’ on YouTube. The same content diversification on Spotify – with the acoustic version, the tropical version, the poolside remix, the EDM remix et cetera. It’s ‘right time, right place, right mood’ digital marketing with thoroughness and sophistication impossible before.

It all has led to unprecedented popularity for BTS. Which translates itself in economic power. Not only because of the 1.6 billion dollars BTS brought into the South Korean economy. But also, because when the entertainment company behind BTS, Big Hit, went public at the stock market, many of the Army bought stocks, raising the price significantly (and irresponsibly). Also, BTS scores on the soft power dimension – with its speech for the United Nations. Remember last Summer when ex-president Trump projected to hold his first election rally in corona times, and the stadium stayed decently empty? BTS fans TikTok recommended many fans to register for the event – and not showing up. In China politically-active BTS-fans, the so-called Fanquan girls – flooded the social media criticizing the Hong Kong protests. BTS and the Army are not only in music but also in politics and geographical competition.

Behind these powerful facts lies: perfect digital marketing. Though the era of digital marketing is still young and much still has to be learned, Korean BTS is paving the way. At least according to the 250 fresh young minds we did the research with.

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LESSONS:

  • AIDA (Attention, Interest, Desire, Action) is still very relevant. But must adapt to the online world. There we live and buy under the sign of: Engage & Involve.
  • Brands must find their ways in the cacophony of what experience experts, both advocates and haters, proclaim at the social media. They must learn to listen with a sincere depth that is often not in their 20th century DNA.
  • Brands must realize that their authority is constantly under dispute. Arrogance is so last century!
  • Engage & Involve: Discussions evolve horizontally, not top-down. Often, they are not led or initiated by the brand. A touch of grassroots is cool and authentic. (See especially Chipotle above).
  • Engage & Involve: A brand’s king’s road to success is often paved with some fun and a human touch. (See all three examples above).
  • Engage & Involve: When comedians, musicians, celebrities, influencers can be nudged into participating, they should be welcomed, of course. Here the brand can take the initiative, only to return to the background asap and let viral go viral as ‘spontaneously’ as possible.
  • Engage & Involve might be often raised from the people, bottom-up. But brands still can orchestrate backstage. Like the example of entertainment company Bit Hit and their digital marketing for BTS shows. But the brand always must lead behind the scenes, and go with the viral flows when these are unleashed.

This is a story of the Futurists Club

By Science of the Time

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Carl Rohde
Prof. Dr. Carl Rohde writes for DDI on the New Tech Forces and their cultural-sociological impact and meaning for contemporary and future culture and society. During the last ten years Rohde occupied professorate chairs in ‘Future Forecasting & Innovation’ in Shanghai, Barcelona and the Netherlands. Rohde also leads scienceofthetime.com a virtual network of trend spotters and market researchers worldwide.

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