Up till now, most digital companies think of brands as someone who can sponsor and monetize their site and turn it into a real business (Twitter, Foursquare, etc. included). In fact, they think of brands as less intelligent and even as “prey”. Because most of these online companies have given away their product in trade for mass users, they still needed to find a way to support their “habit”. As time has gone by, many brands and marketers have educated themselves and can even rival some digital companies in their insights and prowess in adapting to the online world. Some key points for the digital community:
• Do not treat brands as a monetization strategy – The funny thing is that many digital companies seem to “put down” large brands who are not solely online or don’t give everything away for free, but they turn around and expect these same brands to sponsor their sites and give them money. It doesn’t work this way anymore. Brands now want true experience integration into your world. Just a banner ad or sponsor link isn’t good enough anymore. Marketers want their brands to have a key role in the overall experience of the digital property. Just looking at brands as money is like looking at your client with money in your eyes. It’s insulting.
• Brands don’t want to be tacked on to an experience already created by someone else – Marketers are getting smarter and more bold. Online properties can no longer just create an experience and ask a brand to pony up for sponsor money. Brands are now demanding to be a major part of the creative process. This ensures marketers that they are not just an add on to an experience that they had no input on. Brands now get a seat at the creative table and act like start-ups or entrepreneurs along side their online development counterparts.
• Brands have the ability to leverage both online and offline – Instead of criticizing brands for not going completely online and forsaking the physical world and distribution, online companies should realize the power of having a physical distribution presence. Think of it this way, every bottle, can, and cup of Coke that is in the world can turn into a digital touchpoint in the consumer experience. This is where the experience starts. QR codes and bonus codes and links on the packaging are just a couple of ways that physical distribution starts a digital experience. This is something online companies can’t participate in. They have a harder time “extending the story”. Amazon still needs Best Buys to exist. Without the physical world where we can try out the newest digital camera, most of us would be hesitant to buy online, sight unseen. There are many products we still need to touch, feel, and play with before we make a purchase. You can bet the amounts of returned product to online stores would dramatically increase if there were not physical stores for people to experience the brands and products.
Digital and online companies need to see marketers and brands as equal partners, not just prey. If they don’t adjust their view points, you can bet that brands will create their own digital experiences and keep the monetization to themselves. Then, where will the digital ecosystem turn to for money?