Win outside your creative comfort zone: Digital Brand Strategies in 2020

Win outside your creative comfort zone: Digital Brand Strategies in 2020


By Nicole Hanratty

Are you willing to take a creative risk? Successful digital campaigns in 2020 require that you turn everything you assume to be true inside out. 

Success requires you to be a disrupter in the noisy overcrowded digital space. Success requires you to engage in a way that surprises consumers and provokes conversation.  As a result, the most essential ingredient to a digital campaign in 2020 is creativity, not just in developing campaign assets, but in the execution of the campaign as well. 

1. Define success with lofty goals.

Whether your goals are narrow or broad, define them EXPLICITLY at the outset and BE OPTIMISTIC.  

It’s vital to clearly determine the region you are targeting and the number of impressions, engagements, clicks, followers, and jump in sales that make the digital campaign worthwhile. Then remember, you will pour hours of time, resources and dollars into this campaign. Envision your final report at the outset. 

When you chart your success, which metrics on the chart do you want to see? What is the cost you want to report you spent? What is the cost per view, impression, sale, email address, or website visit that you want to achieve? Of course, we all love to underpromise and overdeliver.

If your goal is to create content that does not GO VIRAL, it won’t. To be clear, no one is suggesting you go off the deep end with spend and put all your eggs in one basket.  What I am suggesting is that you think through all of the possibilities. 

How many ways channels can you utilize to push your campaign further and expand your reach? From people to emails to sandwich board ads at local coffee shops to Craigslist, are you thinking of every possible way you can promote your campaign? 

The budget is no excuse.  There are plenty of free platforms. Become an expert in these channels and figure out the best way to push your campaign out on that platform. How can you incentivize your community to watch, click and engage?

But if you play it safe and shoot for average results, you will get exactly that. 

Start off by moving the finish line a bit further than you think you can reach and when it’s all over you can admire how you stretched yourself to win.

2. Match your goals to your campaign.

There are times when going with what is tried and true is indeed the best way forward. There are times when the ROI doesn’t warrant coming up with a new campaign.

But, if you’re faced with a challenging situation like selling hot chocolate in Arizona in the summertime, this is the time to SEIZE THE CREATIVE ZONE

If your goals are to increase online hot chocolate sales and email captures in Arizona in the summertime, you’re going to have to put the evergreen campaign away and start from scratch. A stock photo of a mug of hot chocolate will be a recipe for boredom and campaign failure. 

Playing it safe here is a sure-fire miss. This makes it a great opportunity to take a creative risk. With the assurance that the steaming hot cocoa warm fuzzies won’t sell hot chocolate in the summer in Arizona, going out on a limb is less scary and more like a must.

Any time an opportunity like this presents itself, let it inspire you. Let it excite you. Let it dare you to bring every idea to the table and ignite your “no bad ideas” brainstorm session.  When you are faced with what seems like an uphill battle in your campaign, turn the process inside out. 

Speak to your audience and break through the resistance to the obvious lack of interest in hot beverages in the summertime. You are going to have to show not tell your consumers why they want to buy your product in 120-degree heat.  

3. Go beyond the basics and brainstorm the benefits.

It is easy to rest on the laurels of a well-known brand. It’s harder to make a move to stand out from the crowd.

If you are an experienced marketer reading this then I don’t have to tell you where to start. You know you need to do your consumer research, dig through the data on what your consumer is buying in the summertime, where they are shopping and how they are spending their free time. 

And when you do all of that you are going to come back to the same conclusion–no one is buying hot chocolate in Arizona in the summer. Your consumer wants to be cooled off and refreshed. 

“Everything sounds crazy until it actually works.” Nicole Hanratty

This is the perfect time to re-introduce that crazy idea you had in the middle of the night that you woke up texting your CMO about in the middle of the winter. And while your CMO didn’t call you crazy, s/he also wanted to enjoy their winter holiday and sales were just fine given the season. There was no reason at that time to invest money in a crazy viral-potential campaign about—wait for it—FROZEN HOT CHOCOLATE BITES.

(And yes, this example is a nod to Serendipity

But now there is and you can carry the campaign all the way through to DELIVER THE BENEFITS of cooling off and refreshing your consumer with every frozen hot chocolate bite. Show them how refreshed they will feel when they bite into a delicious cold sweet smile-inducing piece of joy.

4. Invite your consumer into the campaign.

Campaigns that speak at their customers and fail to engage die on the vine. Campaigns that don’t encourage conversation or smart debates also die on arrival. When you are brainstorming your digital campaign think of all the CREATIVE ways your consumer can be invited to comment, share, and experience your brand. 

Why will they talk about your commercial at the water cooler? Why will they tell their kids about it? Why will your kids want to get into the kitchen and get involved in the frozen hot chocolate bite challenge?

Partner with your favorite movie release, studio, character and make those ice trays. Initiate an incentive so when you buy the hot chocolate you get a coupon to purchase the ice trays. 

Create videos of popular influencers making the hot chocolate and pouring it into the character ice trays.  Get CHEDDAR on board to make a 30-second instructional viral video on how easy they are to create.  

Give away prizes to people who tag you in their posts making them at home. Encourage tagging competitions for friends to challenge other friends to create frozen hot chocolate bites.

Give FROZEN HOT CHOCOLATE BITE ice trays out in Arizona. 

Get your viral buzz on.  

5. Design creative to reflect core principles.

At the core of successful digital campaigns in 2020 is creative content. The digital waves are flooded with it. 

It can be simple, static, emotional, funny or completely off the wall. But it must be disruptive. It must be eye-catching. And, above all, it MUST REFLECT YOUR BRAND’S CORE MISSION AND VOICE

Taking a creative risk doesn’t mean straying from your brand’s principles. Pretending to be something your company isn’t will be sniffed out by today’s savvy consumer.

Being willing to take a creative risk does not mean changing who you. A successful creative and disruptive digital brand strategy embraces who your company is as a brand.

When Nike created the Colin Kaepernick campaign, it worked because it never felt phony. They have been inspiring their consumers to work hard for what they believe in and Just Do It® for years. While that particular campaign may have been controversial and the angle may have been bold, it wasn’t a departure from their brand voice.

Be willing to take a creative risk.

Be willing to NOT play it safe all the time.  Bet on your creativity. 

Standing out or being the only one doing something used to be the kiss of death in high school. Remind yourself, despite the reoccurring dreams of being back in those halls unable to open your locker, you aren’t in high school anymore. 

In 2020, a digital brand strategy that stands out from the crowd wins. And as I always say, everything sounds crazy until it actually works.

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