How Can Brands Encourage Engagement Through Digital Means

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Over the last 10 weeks, we’ve seen great examples of consumers leveraging social media to cope with the impacts of Covid-19. Feeding on this creativity, brands have been experimenting in how they use technology and digital to enhance experiences of those stranded at homes. The seamless integration of offline and online, virtual reality and online get togethers are still in beta. However, the coronavirus outbreak has truly impacted innovation of leading brands.

Covid-19 accelerated digital transformations for many businesses. Responding to commercial limitations posed by the virus but also capitalising on the behavioural shifts enforced by the quarantine, the digitisation of everything is well on the way. From brand communications to customer support, supply chains and shopping platforms, the adoption of digital is cost-effective, time-saving and, crucially, aligned with customer expectations.

Engagement and interaction with the audience might be challenging when traditional methods of gathering feedback and boosting participations are simply impossible... Identifying needs, meeting requirements and delivering experiences likely to build trust in an entirely digital environment is new but not as challenging as some think. Let’s take a look at recent activations and the success factors applicable to consumer brands around the world.

Leave your comfort zone. Cross-category inspirations attract audiences open to experiment and try new things

Venturing outside of a brand’s comfort zone and launching initiatives which incorporate more than one vertical generate higher engagement. A lot has been said about Fortnite’s mind blowing Travis Scott concert. Over 12m watched the show, many of which aren’t even players. Whilst many assume Fortnite is a video game, the product is so much more - it’s a connection device, a communication tool. Epic Games realized quickly that the world is changing and with it, consumer demands. Fortnite is a purpose-driven offer, there to make consumers feel better, less alone, stimulated and entertained. The event premiered Travis Scott’s music video, generating not only awareness but also revenue for the artist, and Epic Games. A win-win collaboration.

Fortnite’s Astronomical might be the most successful and talked about initiative, but there are plenty more that successfully merge genres and mediums. From sports & fashion to luxury, there are brands who see gaming as a way to reach not only existing customers but also audiences outside of their traditional target group. This innovative thinking enables organisations to uncover new consumer profiles, impossible to activate with traditional techniques. Big labels, including Gucci and LVMH collaborate with gaming giants like Animal Crossing, inviting customers to uncover new collections and attend fashion shows in a digital reality. The trend is not new. Burberry released an online game B Bounce back in 2019, in which players were able to win both physical and virtual garments. Similarly, Gucci began adding a wide selection of games to its app a couple of years back. What’s different today is that games and online reality are not an alternative but the only reality where consumers can emerge themselves into the world of fashion.

Using games as a platform for brand storytelling is a powerful approach businesses should explore. With the industry on the rise and players representing a wide range of habits, needs and preferences - this cross-industry innovation is likely to reap the benefits and plug some gaps created by the lack of physical interactions.

Competitions boost participation and spirits. From digital fitness to online challenges, competitive activations replace physical events

Social media competitions have been a popular way to engage consumers online. Long before the Covid-19 outbreak, digital challenges and dares led by brands and consumers filled the online space. What’s changed recently is the format and scale of those activations. In the absence of physical events, social media provides the only widely-available platform to keep consumers and fans engaged.

Spain’s La Liga launched the Fifa 20 La Liga Santander challenge. More locally, Leyton Orient, an English fourth tier football club, leveraged Twitter to organise Ultimate Quatan-Team event, a competition which raised more than £50,000 for a charity. Global consumer brands like Nike and Adidas used social channels to invite fans to join world-wide challenges showcasing the spirit of community and trust they’ve built so far.

Brands don’t have to look far for inspirations. To combat boredom, consumers leverage their creative skills and social media encouraging thousands to follow suit. The #pilllowchallenge which asked homemade fashionistas to turn everyday pillows into a clothing piece generated thousands of responses (just under 40K in less than a month according to Radarly), including celebrities like Halle Berry and Anne Hathaway.

Everyone’s invited. Democratisation through social media

This digital era means that many events previously reserved for an exclusive audience can now become widely-accessible. Brands who offer consumers a sliver of glamour, disruption and “feel good” moments are in for the win, as many battle the effects of extensive lockdown measures and self-isolation. This year’s Met Gala is a great example. The culture and fashion obsessed audiences were “dragged into” the event and asked to showcase their favourite outfits and looks. The red carpet has always been an important part of the gala, something this year’s event lacked. The organisers' idea to encourage viewers to become commentators meant online conversation surrounding the event was still substantial, despite it actually not taking place.

Can’t stop. Won’t stop.

The emergence of new platforms and features means that social media’s popularity and impact is going to continue to grow. Consumers tend to be early adopters and brands should leverage the creativity and innovation coming from their communities to create content that is not only engaging but also rewarding. Digital barriers are being broken, consumers from across generations use online to connect and entertain, fans are open to new ideas and experimentation as long as their needs and wants are answered. From basic one like boredom to more complex requirements for stimulation and education - now is the time for brands to launch campaigns capitalizing on this new reality.

 

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