Trends and Insight in association withSynapse Virtual Production

When Digital Becomes Vital

Digital Agency
Amsterdam, Netherlands
Creativity in digital experiences now is more important than ever, writes MediaMonks ECD Vincent van de Wetering

MediaMonks’ Friday beer time doesn’t budge for anything, so at the end of our first week of working from home due to the Covid pandemic, we turned our sacred tradition into a 250+ person video chat. Best attended group call in our company’s history by the way.

This got me thinking on how, especially in these times, digital has become vital in our lives.

Personally, this lockdown sure has been a true learning experience, in balancing home life and responsibilities with keeping up creative performance at work. Having my two beautiful kids (one and three years old) at home without the support of grandparents or daycare combined with my wife and I both being ambitious people with intense jobs is proving to be a sprint, a marathon and a tightrope all at once.

Thanks to science for our connected lives and all this technology we take for granted making this lockdown bearable. From ordering groceries online to video calls with the grandparents to cloud storage allowing my entire team to work from home.

What would we do without digital?

Audiences are relying on technology to keep them informed and connected - from the digital natives of ‘Gen Z’ to audiences who have not needed to be fully digital. All these audiences are in need of websites, platforms and apps that are not just functional, but also are enriching and connective experiences. And people are turning to digital for their entertainment and distraction too, to balance out the worrying news.

We’re already seeing the connectivity of our devices turning our homes into everything we need right now: a gym, a hangout and in our case: day care.

However you look at it, there are more people online, with more time to spend and in need of connection, comfort and entertainment. That combined with brands that want to help their base and their business survive, should lead to more creative innovation in digital experiences.

As a lot of brands have humanised their relationship with their audience in these last years, it's natural to expect them to want to reach out and help their customers. This crisis will push this evolution in brand-consumer relationships to the next level, making brands and their followers feel even more like tribes.

Digital requires creativity that adapts to change

The work we do has always been ever-changing, this is why I never get bored of this job. The tools and technology open up new possibilities, but the craft of creating something that evokes a response from people is persistent.

Having explored the latent creative potential in connecting people online since the days of dial-up at MediaMonks, we're constantly staying ahead of how digital consumer behaviour changes. 

Over the last decade traditional websites have become most direct and efficient, putting as little time and steps in between the user and what they're there to get. We might see a return to more elaborate, entertainment-driven online brand experiences of the early 2000s where websites took you on a ride and submerged you in the world of the brand. Such as Get the Glass and Weber Barbecue Cultures.

But in general, right now, we should push to be more creative in building digital experiences, contributing to making these brands and their followers feel even more like they belong to a community. It’s the chance for brands to reinvent their digital presence, because they’ll need to do it eventually. We’ve arrived at a point in time where all interaction we depend on is digital already.

Brands to make the first move

With digital technology, brand experiences have the ability to compress time and space—bringing together a diverse community of people from across the world to build something together. 

The six-week live stream series for Nike’s sporting community that launched last Saturday is a great example of this. The live stream series aims to keep them sweating every week and bring a level of normalcy and fun to people stuck inside. In the series, Nike Master Trainers, such as Kirsty Godso, live stream their training sessions on Nike’s YouTube channel. The first edition brought together people to sweat, chat and have fun together. This proves that well-executed ideas can allow brands to be in touch with their audience in a creative and genuine way.

Another example is Uncensored Library. Within a little more than a single week, more than 200.000 visitors have flocked to the virtual library battling press censorship, hosted in the popular game Minecraft. Apart from reading the censored press articles the library hosts, users also take to the platform to discuss press freedom, building a community that the library and the Minecraft platform facilitate. The project is a great example of finding an online way to circumvent offline limitations. 

These are the benchmarks that brand experiences must reach to meet consumers in the spaces that are important to them—perhaps not always on a video game platform like the ones mentioned above, but presented in a way that makes sense to the brand story, the audiences that brands are trying to reach, and in a way that provides a similar level of connection and intimacy between audience and brand. 

Graduate to digital expert

As all consumers graduate from non-digital natives to digital adaptors, brands should graduate to digital experts, taking their role to facilitate meaningful connections between people and their brand, using the technologies available in the most creative way.

The acceleration in the need for a full digital experience is certainly a tough situation for some brands—whether they’re smaller and lacking the resources, or are operating at a lower digital maturity. 

But if anything, now is the opportunity to break free from the ‘business as usual’ approach. Instead, brands can improve their social listening and reinvigorate their sense of purpose to build better, more creative digital experiences for audiences both local and global, both for digital natives and digital beginners.

People, brands and businesses need help, and the whole community of digital natives is equipped to do that. Personally, I look forward to the challenge.

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