Rules to execute by

Once I put together a list of the best examples of digital creativity, I started wondering what does it take for digital creativity to happen. If my list offers any evidence, it is not about creation of brand images, storytelling ideas, and media strategy for distributing them. It’s about creating conditions that allow something unexpected, fun, informative, communal, or helpful to happen. Also, almost by default, a lot of successful digital solutions have marketing built into their product. Groupon has done it really, really well; so has Pepsi Refresh Project, GroupTabs, and Best Buy Shopkick. To build upon the definition of digital creativity as a plan for arranging elements, I offer here the possible routes for executing this plan.

1. There are no shortcuts. It’s not enough just to release some commercial art piece and count on it to stir up consumers emotions; the hardest part always happens afterwards. In order to get a brand to be talked about and interacted with, an idea is only beginning of the job. The rest of the job here means coming up with solutions that build upon emotions long-term: for every idea that plays upon consumers’ emotions, there needs to be a set of follow-up tactics that give it legs. Sometimes that means 24/7 engagement (Twelpforce Best Buy), sometimes facilitating a community (Ford Fiesta Movement), sometimes making something useful (Lufthansa’s MyFlightStatus) or informative (Frito Lay’s Chip Tracker). Same token, I wonder where New Balance is going to take its Anton Krupicka partnership, and how Old Spice is going to continue interacting with its now considerable fan base.

2. Build Media Behavioral Plan. Having a very a narrow view of consumers actions based on them rating something, updating, RTing, checking-in, clicking on, etc. prevents from seeing impact that our solutions have on the larger behavior that we want to change/inspire. Too often we think about the most effective communication channels for reaching consumers instead of asking how to align diverse behavioral tactics in order to achieve a desired change.

3. Enter decision-making game. It’s always useful to wonder how different creative solutions will help consumers choose between different products/services/brands. That’s a good perspective that shifts the focus from the brand and its story to consumers and their point of view. To avoid the over-simplified model of consumers as beings with “limited info-processing capabilities” leading to the “cut through the clutter” requirement, the best is to think about creative solutions as resources. This means aggregating and curating stuff that already exists online (eBay Lookbook, Nike+ Foursquare), using group dynamic as a resource (Groupon, Pepsi & Food52 recipes on Stickybits, Barcode hero), visualizing info (OK Trends, Hunch Taste Graph), or amplifying the behavior (Don Q’s Lady Data).

4. Get rid of dead ends. This means always think what comes next: how some particular tactic or solution can be linked to the next one, and the one after that. Think the rules of improv, and apply them to digital (COACH Poppy Project and Jonah Peretti’s Start The Adventure are good examples). The point is: address a campaign as an interconnected system, not as a story (DonQ’s Facebook page, Don Q’s Lady Data on BuzzFeed). Then, keep it alive.

5. Digital is not about the tools. Rather than chasing the latest digital gimmick, it’s always good to think about digital as a network of relationships that are made both of behaviors and technology. Then it’s possible to explore how make some relationships visible (Netflix Rental Queues Visualization), how to create new relationship between people (HowAboutWe, Uniqlo Lucky Counter), how to create a new relationship between people and products (Tesco iPhone app) or between people and the brand (GroupTabs, Best Buy Shopkick), how to amplify/improve existing relationships (Pepsi Refresh Project) or how to simplify them (Rightcliq by Visa).

6. Think bricolage. Any combination of digital/physical (Nike Livestrong Chalkbot, Schnitzel & Things iPhone app), brand/community (Burberry Art of the Trench), communication/behavior (MTV VMA’s Twitter Tracker), mobile/web (7-Eleven + Zynga partnership), game/activity (RunKeeper) is allowed. Especially the unexpected ones. The point is to stick together different things to develop something new. It would be easy to think of it as a simple recombination: what’s great about bricolage is that it uses bits and pieces of radically different media and behavioral dynamics to create new formats.

*My title is an obvious play on Bud’s “Words to Strategize By” post that I very much recommend. But here’s a twist: instead of being interested in the ideas that may guide our thinking, I was more into coming up with the possible rules of thumb for their execution.

Originally published on September 27, 2010