Canadian consumers expect to connect, engage and converse in the two-way digital world. Yet most brands are still marketing from a podium. Why the lag? Intimidation is one reason. Meet six brands that are not intimidated by digital, and are using it to build unprecedented audience connection and brand redefinition.

Written by
Fab Dolan
May 2014


Delivering on digital: Six creative breakthroughs

Nothing should push marketers in new directions with greater urgency than the changing expectations of consumers.

But in consumer marketing there's an uncomfortable lag between what consumers expect and what brands are delivering.

Today, consumer expectations have changed dramatically. Most of us now carry high-definition video in our pockets or purses. We select what we want to watch and ignore what we don't. And because we are immersed in cleverly engineered apps, video games and highly entertaining video clips, our standards are getting higher and higher. We want a good story, one-to-one connection and the satisfying two-way conversations of social media. We want to be involved.

Nothing should push marketers in new directions with greater urgency than the changing expectations of consumers.

Yet most marketing still doesn't meet these pervasive desires. TV for all its magnificent power will always be a broadcast medium. It chooses what to push toward its audiences. It interrupts entertainment with commercial messages in rapid succession. And those messages must be squeezed into 30-second frames, messaging hoping for attention.

That traditional canvas is no longer enough for an audience that expects more. All brands need to elevate their storytelling to meet the digital zeitgeist.

So what's getting in the way?

Discomfort, to begin with. Perhaps even intimidation.

The key is relevance. And that's not new. As famed '60s adman Howard Gossage said, long before the browser, "The real fact of the matter is that nobody reads ads. People read what interests them and sometimes it's an ad." Search is successful because its core purpose is managing relevance.

At Google, we hear frequently from brand managers and creative directors who tell us digital requires code, and code means some kind of geek magic they just don't understand.

And it's just not true. Some of the most magnetic digital marketing today is being done in what we call Google's off-the-shelf "stack"—€”standard tools any agency team can apply fairly easily.

A growing number of marketers are using those tools to tremendous advantage. Below are six leaders who are elevating their game and redefining their brands with out-of-the-box digital creativity.

MiO: Collaborative storytelling

The stubborn analogue problem: Dead-end storytelling. Just when you get someone interested in your print ad or TV ad, there's nowhere to go, except away.

The creative digital solution: Audience collaboration. Kraft's MiO brand sport beverage mix needed to appeal to millennial males in a declining category. The creative team leveraged YouTube's annotation technology by layering six quirky, humorous, hidden videos within each other that users had to find and click to view. And click they did. MiO on YouTube has been viewed and shared millions of times. By late 2013, the brand had delivered 111% growth and captured 77% share of market (Nielsen MarketTrack). Lesson: No dead ends. Six paths to purchase.

Snickers: Audience of one

The stubborn analogue problem: Mass marketing.

The creative digital solution: Personalization. The Snickers "You are Not You When You're Hungry" campaign in the U.K. in 2013 included a Google AdWords strategy. Snickers' agency researched more than 25,000 commonly misspelled words. Anyone typing one of the misspellings in a Google search triggered a sympathetic acknowledgement from Snickers. (We aren't our best when hungry.) The promotion ran for a mere three days. Snickers achieved a whopping 558,589 ad impressions, drove 5,874 visitors to a branded website and created major media buzz. Lessons: Unexpected. Delightful. Personal.

Molson Canadian: Connected objects

The stubborn analogue problem: No strings attached. Conventional commercials appear then disappear.

The creative digital solution: Connect objects to the digital universe with a story so good it has a million legs. In early 2013, Molson Canadian's agency placed red beer fridges on the street in several European capitals, then filmed the reaction when people were told the fridges could only be opened with a Canadian passport, using a built-in scanner. By April 2014, the resulting 90-second YouTube video of heroic Canadians opening the fridges had garnered more than 2,532,000 views. Molson installed more of the fridges in the athletes village at the Sochi Olympics. Media outlets worldwide shared the story as did millions on social media. "Well played, Canada. Well played," tweeted ABC News producer Meredith Frost. Lesson: The stories of interesting objects will be shared.

McDonald's: Leveraged data

The stubborn analogue problem: Zero interaction.

The creative digital solution: Link phones and QR codes to brand-enhancing data. In Australia last year, McDonald's invited customers to use the "TrackMyMacca's" app on their smartphones by scanning a QR code printed on the packaging of the Big Mac, McChicken burger, Filet-O-Fish and Chicken McNuggets. The data revealed where the ingredients of the food came from, right down to the farm that supplied the burger meat. Ingeniously, the app told a brand-boosting backstory, while customers ate their favourite fast food. Lesson: Data opens digital doors.

Charmin: Useful content

The stubborn analogue problem: No gift, just a pitch. So whom can you trust?

The creative digital solution: Offer free, useful content that makes life better, thus building trust and earning permission to deepen the connection. There are many examples of great content marketing sweeping the digital universe. Especially memorable is the Procter & Gamble Charmin brand mobile app "SitOrSquat." Launched in 2009 and still gathering thousands of fans every week, the app is designed to help people on-the-go find the cleanest public restrooms around the world. Charmin's avowed goal: Make "going" more enjoyable. The lesson: How can we not be grateful?

Burberry: Immersive experience

The stubborn analogue problem: You simply cannot get involved with a print ad or a 30-second TV spot.

The creative digital solution: Technology with heart and soul. In 2013, Burberry worked with Google to create "Burberry Kisses," a mobile app that literally seals your message with a kiss. An abstract image of the user's lips was captured with their smartphone camera and imprinted on a digital postcard (in one of Burberry's five lipstick shades.) On a web browser, users could catch a glimpse of their kiss-sealed message as it flew across Google Maps to the precise location, anywhere in the world, of the person being "kissed." Lessons: Creative. Immersive. Experiential. And a good story. Brought to everyone by a brand.

It's the creative not the code.

None of the highly effective digital techniques used to create these iconic campaigns are expensive or code-intensive. They are within the reach of any marketing agency or significant brand.

What does it take?

A cultural shift mandated from the top that turns the marketing organization toward digital literacy.

A commitment to test and iterate continually in this exciting and evolving environment, on your way to creating what you surely will-amazing digital customer engagement.

A willingness to redefine your brand in the more connecting and satisfying ways consumers now expect because the clock is ticking.

And, before anything else, the courage to step into the digital light.