The Rapid Evolution Of Digital Advertising

Digital advertising has come a long way

With over 16 million internet users in 1995, Yahoo, one of the first famous web services providers, was the first to introduce search ads. A couple of years later, Google developed AdWords and the digital advertising boom became inevitable. Attempting to be non-intrusive and at the same time efficient, by mid-2000s social media channels were outsmarting each other by coming up with innovative ways to integrate ad content. But it was only a matter of time before digital ads became less productive and more annoying.

The evolution of digital advertising is evident on Facebook where it was introduced in the form of small display ads, and eventually evolved into very specific ads targeting users according to their interests and demographics. Over the past couple of decades, like its state on Facebook, digital advertising has been dwindling between either fewer but more tailored ads or more ads in general. Unfortunately, rarely do ads reach the right person at the right time. Because digital ads are increasingly looking to ‘get noticed’, they often come across as intrusive. In fact, Modal ads, ads that reorganize content, and autoplaying video ads are among the most disliked. It’s no wonder that ads are now deemed creepymanipulative, and misleading. Additionally, as a whole, web usability has improved over these past several years, but ad blocking has grown by 41% in just 2015.

It’s getting harder to capture the attention of audiences and engage with them using different digital advertising approaches. Several companies have already started investing in innovative advertising techniques and content-led marketing strategies. While native advertising is one of many strategies that companies are open to exploring, the future of digital advertising might just be AR and VR integrated advertising. Digital advertising is evolving faster than most companies can keep up and the industry is moving towards adopting strategies that aren’t invasive – rather immersive.

advertising

Digital advertising isn’t restricted to the traditional two-dimensional display anymore.

In the recent few years, companies have started focusing on building their brand story by providing customers with unique experiences through Augmented Reality (AR).

By integrating a virtual element to their digital advertising tactics, brand giants are not only captivating the attention of a wide range of consumers – from kids and millennials to baby boomers – but also allowing its audience to view a richer, more detailed advertisement, making it possible for customers to virtually experience products – something that was never possible before.

Bringing in experiential interactions with its customers, AR is changing the way customers engage with brands.

While we’re on the topic of immersive storytelling medium, Virtual Reality (VR) deserves more than a mention. The reason VR is a more engaging, immersive approach than AR is because it makes users feel like they’re really somewhere else. Since digital advertising is all about grabbing its target audiences’ attention, virtual reality is a winner. On the other hand, advertisers are still experimenting with this new technology. Even though a recent study revealed that 74% consumers find VR ads less intrusive than other digital ad types, it might only be a matter of time that VR turns into another unwanted digital advertising technique. Another reason for delay among advertisers to adopt VR into their digital advertising strategies is the significant investment required to create a VR campaign.

It’s true that most companies are still spending hundreds of thousands of dollars in content creation and conventional display ads – reluctant to experiment with AR and VR. There is still a lot to learn from several AR and VR integrated advertising campaigns produced by brand giants and advertisers are catching up. Very soon, digital advertising will be synonymous with immersive technology that opens up a branded world for its customers to explore and manipulate.

Why Daniel Wellington wins on Instagram

Established in 2011, Daniel Wellington is a watch company named after a British traveller. With its headquarters in Uppsala, Sweden, this brand has named its watches after different cities in England. As stated on its official website, these series of minimalistic, vintage-looking watches equipped with interchangeable NATO and leather straps mainly target young audiences. Daniel Wellington, also known as DW, although designed in Sweden, is manufactured in China with internal quartz movements from Miyota, a reliable Japanese supplier (Pulvirent, How Daniel Wellington Made a $200 Million Business Out of Cheap Watches). The founder, Filip Tysander, has been able to build a $200 million business by selling these classy-looking inexpensive timepieces almost entirely from social media promotions.

Filling the void for watch brands online, Daniel Wellington owns the current decade in terms of online popularity. Through their social media approach, DW has been able to gain over 3 million followers, leaving behind top competitors in its industry. In addition to DW’s pricing, distribution, and timing to enter the watch market, it’s communication strategy is one of its major reasons for its success (This 31-year-old built a $180 million fashion empire in 5 years – here are his secrets to success – Business Insider Nordic).

How has new media worked for Daniel Wellington?

In terms of marketing, Pulvirent elaborates on the company’s novel approach on social media – working in collaboration with social media influencers, bloggers, and celebrities, to promote their brand worldwide. Working with social media stars has been observed to build a positive brand image, gaining more customers thus generating further sales (Feng et al., Cross-culture study of the use of social media in Sweden and China). Based on its foundation on public influence and how ‘noncompany actors influence customers to value the brand’ (Holt, How brands become icons: The principles of cultural branding), Daniel Wellington has been able to achieve viral branding.

With the decline in responses from customers on conventional online marketing, viral branding positions customers as an important factor in creating a brand, hence giving them the power to ‘discover’ brands.




According to Holt, companies underhandedly connect with influential customers to further develop their brand’s value. Similar to this approach, to create its brand identity, Daniel Wellington has given out free watches and special promotional coupon codes to thousands of influencers (Mediakix Team, Instagram marketing case study: Daniel Wellington watches). These influencers or brand ambassadors who have hundreds of thousands of followers act like ‘social proof’ for the product, in this case, the DW watch. Since people are attracted to products that others engage with, having social media stars onboard as brand ambassadors has pushed Daniel Wellington to gain more number of customers.

Stemming from this type of influential marketing, is online word-of-mouth, also known as e-WOM.

As the campaign progresses and influencers share their review of the product, followers are lured to turn into consumers and further spread feedback – both good or bad (Armelini & Villanueva, Adding Social Media to the Marketing Mix). E-WOM has worked in favour of DW as this organic channel has helped the brand sell over a million watches (Lee, How Daniel Wellington Sold A Million Watches In A Year Via Word-of-Mouth and referral marketing blog). Additionally, Armelini and Villanueva mention how e-WOM is easier to manage since it is interactive, unlike traditional channels like advertising. Online word-of-mouth makes it possible for all customers, past or present, to come together as a brand community and share their reviews which helps future customers base their decision to choose the brand or not. Overall, Daniel Wellington’s collaboration with influencers on Instagram has helped it build brand awareness and increase its online visibility (Leibowitz, Why your new business needs to market on Instagram). In line with its marketing strategy to collaborate with top influencers, Daniel Wellington recently added top social media celebrities including the famous Kardashian half-sister Kendall Jenner (75.9 million Instagram followers), an accomplished model Lucky Blue (2.8 million followers), and the stylish Rola (4.4 million Instagram followers) to their influencer list (PR Newswire).

Although influencer marketing has been observed as a communication strategy that combines trust with casualness, it is also sometimes perceived as a ‘in-your-face’ kind of marketing

(Montesi, Do Influencers Have a Future with Instagram Marketing?)

An influencer at the Advertising week Europe 2016 spoke of the need to educate followers about the nature of contract between an influencer and a brand (Charles, Instagram influencer hits out at ‘annoying’ blogger tactic by watch brand). Additionally, Daniel Wellington has been criticized for over-branding. The brand is known to be fussy with its Instagram influencers as they choose those who have an Instagram feed aesthetically similar to that of Daniel Wellington’s brand personality (Gilliland, Four common mistakes brands make with influencer marketing). On several occasions, this has led to more focus on the brand image than the product itself. Thus, in its approach to appear sophisticated, Daniel Wellington can ‘overbrand’, losing its initial aim of focusing on marketing their products.

Daniel Wellington is known for its Instagram feed full of professional photography that brings in the ‘glamour’ look to the brand handle. DW’s photos bring a very stylish and classy feel to Instagram users, depicting a life of luxury and adventure (Vesilind, Instagram We Love: Daniel Wellington). In her article, Vesilind goes on to point out the five different kinds of photos published on the Daniel Wellington Instagram profile which contribute in making it a huge success: gorgeous outdoor scenarios, artfully arranged ‘flat lays’ referring to the organized pictures taken from above, aesthetically pleasing pictures of humans taken from a far, pictures with subtle hints of festive seasons and finally, adorable pictures of animals. In other words, Daniel Wellington’s sophisticated Instagram feed depicts tastefully arranged art, centered on the showstopper – the Daniel Wellington watch itself. This attractive Instagram feed entices users to follow and engage with the brand.

Instagram is notably among the top social media platforms to engage with users. Thus, making it an apt platform for Daniel Wellington to interact with its followers and encourage audience engagement. Daniel Wellington has incorporated User-Generated Content (UGC) in their communication strategy. The brand makes use of this powerful tool by encouraging their followers to post their own images of Daniel Wellington products by using their branded hashtag (#danielwellington). Every day one of their customers’ photo – wearing or focusing on a Daniel Wellington watch – is chosen and republished on their own Instagram feed using #DWPickoftheDay. This motivates customers to create their own content in the form of images or videos and publish them on Instagram in the hope to be chosen as the brand’s ‘pick of the day’ (Taylor, Daniel Wellington & Instagram). This would not only validate their work as ‘creative’ but also expose their content to DW’s millions of followers. So far, Daniel Wellington’s branded hashtag campaign, combining influencers and followers, has generated over 1.2 million Instagram photos and videos. In another article, Ojeda (How To Create A Brand That Grows On It’s Own) mentions that for brands to be successful, organic growth plays a significant role. Keeping this in mind, it’s safe to conclude that Daniel Wellington has a source of high-quality user-generated photos at their disposal, making it one of most successful brands on Instagram.

Will DW’s success with Instagram last?

To summarize Daniel Wellington’s communication strategy, the brand has been highly successful in dodging paid media as the company’s CEO never invested in traditional forms of media. The brand has established itself as one of the most viral watch brand on Instagram. Daniel Wellington started out with simple platforms as owned media like its website, and social media platforms like Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram, but today, its relies on its earned media, especially on Instagram, to communicate with its most important stakeholders – its customers.

Across all its channels, Daniel Wellington’s key messaging is consistent – engaging with customers and potential customers through its social media channels, especially Instagram, where it actively encourages quality user-generated content, using Instagram influencers for ‘natural’ product placements and generating traffic through promo codes.

Despite being one of the most used apps by millennials, Instagram is found to have substantial lacking for businesses (Latiff and Safiee, New Business Set Up for Branding Strategies on Social Media – Instagram). Even though Instagram requires another platform for a customer and seller to engage in a transaction, Daniel Wellington’s communication strategy through Instagram has seemed to work to build its brand. Daniel Wellington has been recognized as an accomplished brand, however, it has been noted that brands like Daniel Wellington are the reason for the end of the Swizz watch industry. In his article, Biggs (The Swiss watch industry is doomed) criticizes the economical pricing of Daniel Wellington and how similar brands are the reason luxury Swizz brands fail to keep up. He elaborates, stating that watches today are a mere commodity, blaming Daniel Wellington for selling ‘poorly-constructed watches’, thus providing customers a low-quality watch. With a recent study revealing Instagram as the worst social media application for young people’s mental health (Fox, Instagram worst social media app for young people’s mental health), it may be possible that Instagram might not remain as popular as it is today. In which case, brands like Daniel Wellington would have to take on other social media channels to promote their products and services.

With another study revealing the decline in the sale of smartphones (Swant, 7 Internet Trends From Mary Meeker’s 2017 Report That Marketers Should Know About), Daniel Wellington would need to consider other channels to market their product since access to all Instagram features are currently available only through its mobile application. As digital media continues to grow, Daniel Wellington can possibly find itself exploring or even experimenting with other social networks or applications to grow their customer base and retain their innovative brand identity. Even though Instagram started out as an image-sharing app, with every social network moving towards video, this platform is sure to introduce advanced features as it has with its launch of the live video platform (Burgess, Instagram’s future and where Kevin Systrom goes next).

With the fast-changing social network scenario, Daniel Wellington may be expected to add and remove elements from its marketing mix. Besides their online communication strategy, Daniel Wellington’s offline presence is noticeably grown over time. Their recent Hong Kong expansion adds to their existing 34 stores worldwide. In their attempt to make the brand identity more popular on the global scale, Daniel Wellington aims to open approximately 300 stores by the end of 2018. For now, Daniel Wellington’s communication strategy seems to be working in its favour. The steps taken by the company to spread their presence offline are also considered to be quite successful with the current times. With Daniel Wellington’s founder’s investment in a new technology fund helping Swedish start-ups make a positive social impact, it can be speculated that the billionaire has a visionary approach to social entrepreneurship as well as his products (Turula, The billionaire founders of Klarna and Daniel Wellington just announced a new ‘first of its kind’ tech fund). With time, Daniel Wellington’s communication strategy that highlights its products on social media, especially through Instagram, is bound to evolve with advancements in technology.

 

This communications strategy evaluation was first put together as a part of my coursework for master of marketing communications at the University of Melbourne.

New media and the rise of Instagram for businesses

It’s hard to remember a time when people didn’t have access to the internet. In the world today, almost everything is digitalized and connected to the World Wide Web. With the Internet being the fastest growing medium ever (Flew, New Media: An Introduction), it became possible for internet users to create and distribute huge amounts of digital content. Digital information in the form of data, sound, images, and texts distributed through telecommunication networks is described as digital media or new media. Another approach to define new media is the combination of the following three C’s: computing and information technology, digitised media and information content and communications networks. According to Miles, Rice, and Barr, this unique combination can be described as convergent media. In his paper ‘Commentary: Teaching media convergence and its challenges’, Bhuiyan explains how the true meaning of convergent media is ever-changing and that it is suitable to be termed as ‘adaptive media’ instead. He goes on to state that even with new media surrounding us, it doesn’t necessarily mean that ‘old media’ isn’t present anymore, giving an example of how newspapers have outlasted decades after the introduction of new media. Flew characterizes new media as digital information that can be easily modified at any stage of its creation; has an extensive network through which it can be cover any length of distance; is compressible and can be stored in a small space. By encouraging quality and quantity of participants on the internet, the concept of ‘Web 2.0’ introduced the world to the idea of social networking.

Originally created as a personal tool to share information, social media has been adopted by businesses of all sizes to reach out to their stakeholders. A recent report reveals that there are almost 3 billion active social media users worldwide, out of which 2.6 billion social media users access the internet via mobiles (Kemp, The global state of the internet in April 2017). Therefore, the importance of social media platforms like Facebook, Twitter and Instagram cannot be overlooked (Anderson, Getting acquainted with social networks and apps: picking up the Slack in communication and collaboration). Armelini and Villanueva (Adding Social Media to the Marketing Mix) mention the possibility of social media marketing overpowering the effects of traditional advertising since companies have started adding social media to their marketing mix. With limited marketing budget as one of the major driving factors, companies are viewing social media as an economical option when compared to alternatives like traditional advertising. In addition to these factors, the shift towards social media is due to internet users’ disinterest in using conventional online marketing like banner and email marketing (source: Gilin, as cited in Latiff and Safiee’s New Business Set Up for Branding Strategies on Social Media – Instagram).

The rise of Instagram as a marketing channel

Instagram is one of the most successful social media platforms with more than 600 million monthly active users from all over the globe (Wiltbank, Small Businesses: If You’re Not On Instagram, You’re Behind). While this social media platform may have elements similar with other social giants like Twitter and SnapChat, it has surpassed both these networks in terms of number of users. Besides its photo-sharing feature where users can add hashtags to be more discoverable (much like Twitter), Instagram users can also share minute-long videos and upload ‘stories’ that highlight their favourite ‘moments’ (similar to SnapChat) (Montenegro, Why Instagram Is Social Media’s Rising Star For Business). In her article, Wiltbank mentions how this social channel recently introduced simplified analytics, thus making it easier for brands to use it as an advertising platform. With over 150 million users every day (Constine, Instagram Stories hits 150M daily users, launches skippable ads), Instagram is, no doubt, an attractive marketing tool for businesses. When comparing it with online advertising, a Nielsen study reveals that ad recall from paid posts on Instagram is more than 2 times higher (when compared to other platforms) (Chaykowski, Instagram, The $50 Billion Grand Slam Driving Facebook’s Future: The Forbes Cover Story). This study involved over 700 campaigns on Instagram.

What makes almost 50% of brands worldwide market themselves on Instagram is more than just a new online space to advertise

(Curtin, 21 Important Facts About Instagram)

According to Wiltbank, rich media-sharing and direct response delivery are major factors that drive brands to use this social media giant to gain more users. Instagram has access to the right target audience with its technologically advanced analytics tool helping brands choose from different demographics, behaviours, and psychographics (Bandar, Is Instagram marketing still valuable for brands?). Two-third of marketers admit that rich visuals are vital for a brand to communicate with its consumers, thus brands are using Instagram to increase their conversion rates by 64%. Since half of Instagram users follow at least one brand, this platform proves to be an efficient channel for brands to launch campaigns and generate immediate sales.

How have brands successfully created their identity and increase their following on Instagram?

  1. Creating engagement with their audience through competitions,
  2. Connecting with influencers to spread the brand name and
  3. Sharing User-Generated Content (UGC) (The Guardian, ‘Reviews, tweets, Instagram posts: why customers are the new marketers; With 70% of consumers trusting reviews over sales spiel, user-generated content is a powerful tool. Sophie Turton explains how it can build your brand’)

The following factors play a big role in creating brand loyalty on social media channels:

  1. Fast customer service,
  2. Quick response time to negative customer feedback, and
  3. Establishing a friendly relationship with customers (Latiff and Safiee, New Business Set Up for Branding Strategies on Social Media – Instagram)

While some claim that the future of Instagram looks rather meek due to the overloading of users and brands (Lucey, The future of Instagram is spam), a research has revealed that this popular social network may be ‘the art gallery of the future’ (Millington, Is Instagram ‘the art gallery of the future’?).

 

This communications strategy evaluation was first put together as a part of my coursework for master of marketing communications at the University of Melbourne.

Start-ups & Public Relations – It’s not that complicated

I’ve come across far too many articles in the recent past contemplating whether start-ups need PR at all. Questions like: Should start-ups spend on PR? Does your start-up really need help with PR?

This is an attempt to share my understanding of PR in the start-up world. Yes, start-ups have it tough because they’re new but that doesn’t necessarily make them insecure because of their lack of visibility. Don’t judge a book by its cover. There are plenty of start-ups that have their priorities right. They focus on operations, following through their business blueprint, and are constantly moulding with their evolving business model.

It is often portrayed that once a company gets funding, the upper management can’t handle the publicity and starts spending heaps on “PR”.

PR is very different from advertising.

Among other things, PR focuses on brand-building and reputation while advertising (whether online or offline) essentially highlights products/services to primarily increase sales. More often than not, start-ups that look for ‘quick fame’ end up confusing the two and get frustrated when, despite their investment, the PR company they’ve hired hasn’t been able to get them mentioned in a leading publication. Anyone who understands the world of corporate communications or has preliminary knowledge on media relations, understands that throwing money at the problem is not a solution when it comes to brand-building.

Creating a memorable brand takes time. A bit of research on brands will show you that it has taken years for brand giants to become recognisable, trustworthy and ultimately, THE go-to brand for consumers. PR helps start-ups establish their brand identity, personality, and approachability in terms of consumers. This comment by GG Benitez, CEO of GG Benitez and Associates Public Relations, Inc., helps make my case:

“Too many companies are focused only on the dollars ROI. While PR ‘hits’ are never guaranteed, when they do happen, they spur brand affinity. That results in an ROI that’s outside just the traditional dollar for dollar measurement.”

Start-ups can, however, risk throwing money at advertising. Since we live in a time of multiple online and offline platforms – advertising, to an extent, is truly experimental. For example, there are several different ways you can advertise on Facebook. Companies can choose from ‘where’ and to ‘whom’ they can advertise to. The list of preferences goes on. While one combination may work for a product/service, the same is not guaranteed to work for another.  Hence, experimental.

While advertising is measurable, PR may not be.

When talking about Return-On-Investment in advertising, there is a simple way to measure it.

(Sales Growth – Marketing Cost) / Marketing Cost = ROI: “It is a good idea to calculate ROI on a regular basis throughout any campaign because the results do take time to build.”

Having worked in a start-up for over two years, I understand strict marketing budgets. These concerns can lead start-ups to take charge of their own PR, which isn’t necessarily the best advice and can end up eventually harming the company’s image. Instead, start-ups should find the right PR consultant or agency to assist them in building their brand.

Today, a majority of start-ups are offering products/services that can help make the consumer’s life easier. The right amount of PR and advertising will only help them leverage their brand in the industry.