Love & Discipline: Winning the User in Today’s Digital World

Social and mobile technologies have changed how we live our lives and upended marketing as we know it. To keep pace with digital’s huge influence on consumer media habits, a brand’s integrated marketing strategy must incorporate digital marketing from the start.
Moving consumers from awareness to purchase through a traditional marketing “funnel” is dead. Digital is driving new terms of engagement and reshaping media consumption across both old and new channels. Today’s brands must continuously maintain relationships with potential and existing customers across a broad ecosystem of digital channels and devices. Brands that are succeeding in today’s world recognize that the new customer’s decision journey is transparent, interactive, and 24/7.
So, what does digital discipline mean? As with all things marketing, it’s part art and part science. It’s about creating human connections through storytelling, dialogue with users, and digital experiences that continue to engage and delight. Done well, it builds user love and allows brands to gain an ever-greater share of relevance and conversation.
Let me share a few personal insights to illustrate what I mean. I joined Microsoft and Skype about seven months ago and I couldn’t be more excited about the digital marketing opportunity ahead of us. In particular, I am inspired every day by the genuine stories of people using Skype in universal, useful and wonderful ways. Sometimes, it’s hard to keep up as the Skype name is tweeted more than 150K times a day by people whose lives are touched by our brand. This volume is nothing short of breathtaking and it also highlights our great opportunity.
To further broaden the relevance of Skype and nurture the interest and usage of our products, we are focused on a simple but inspiring mission: Build User Love.
Our Customers Are Our Story
Coca-Cola, one of the best known brands in the world and famed for expertise in storytelling for more than 100 years, has embraced a new type of brand value by leveraging customer stories in digital storytelling. Through social media, Coca-Cola is encouraging fans to share photos, videos, blogs and other original content reflecting Coca-Cola “happiness” moments. In so doing, Coke is transforming the customer into the hero of their happiness narrative. This tact inspired a newly launched corporate website, Coca-Cola Journey, which they call “a dynamic, digital magazine” with fresh and interesting user-generated, co-created, and branded story content.
Since 2010, Coke has grown its fan base from 2.7 million Facebook friends to more than 57 million. The stories of these fans and customers provide fertile ground for viral campaigns, and cultivate closeness and repeat engagement. People like to be part of the Coke story. The question is: how can the rest of us in our own jobs invite users in a more effective way to be part of our various stories?"
For more details behind Coke’s content strategy, check out their impressive “Content 2020” video. (It’s 17 minutes long, but it’s a good one for marketers to watch.)
Close the Conversation Gap
Instead of talking at customers with marketing messages, companies are talking with customers through digital channels at scale. And the best part is lots of customers are joining the conversation. At Skype, we partnered with the Microsoft Customer Insights Center, an innovative team that is part of the Microsoft U.S. Marketing group. Together, we’re closing the conversation gap by enhancing our presence and response in social channels. Fans who share their brand love and unique stories about their uses of Skype – whether it’s holiday reunions, birth, weddings, or everyday moments – are delighted when we respond and are often happy to let us amplify their content in other channels. Check out this amazing user story from Marc Smith who shares a very special moment in his life:
Skype Twitter
We are also using social channels to serve customers who want to get advice on using Skype features or products. They appreciate our quick feedback and tips, reciprocating with generous additional social content. When necessary, we also connect them to customer support to help solve problems and show them we care. Our customers have ideas – often great ones – and by inviting them into the conversation, we’re gaining insights from them too.
There’s Nothing Like Converged Content and Experiences
Often the production of an offline branded event can set the stage for telling a broader story through digital channels. Skype’s partnership with Lady Gaga created a unique offline experience that tied the excitement and possibilities of Skype on Mobile to the momentous “Born This Way” tour. The program converged online and offline, and combined paid, owned, and earned content to drive an even greater share of buzz, excitement, and product engagement. The experience started with the user in mind – the social connector fan – and introduced Skype as an ideal way to enhance and extend fans’ love of Gaga.
Lady Gaga
By converging content and experiences, we engaged Gaga fans with Skype products in new ways. Skype transcended a single channel and became a bigger part of our users’ lives. This cross-channel approach is critical.
Video is the Ultimate
Across the many powerful digital channels like Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Instagram, YouTube, Flickr – as well as our owned Microsoft digital platforms like Bing, MSN,, Skype, and – we have a huge audience of fans and tremendous potential for new fans. We will win them with great video. Video is immersive and tells a story like no other vehicle. I believe brands that create effective, shareable stories through video will earn a disproportionately larger share of audience participation and conversation. Just take a look at the stats:
  • 100 million internet users watch online video every day.
  • 52% of consumers say watching a video of a product makes them feel more confident with an online purchase.
  • YouTube alone attracts 136MM unique viewers per month.
  • More than 100 million people take a social action on YouTube (sharing, liking, commenting) each week.
A great example is LG’s recent “So Real It’s Scary” video. To show off how real and life-like the picture quality can be on their monitors, they retrofitted the bottom of an elevator with LG screens. When elevator passengers were least expecting it, the elevator floor “dropped out” from below them. The results were powerful. People who watched the video found it to be hilarious (although I can’t be sure that all of the passengers did), and the metrics proved successful. LG told a great story, provoked real conversation, built user love, and in the process generated 17.3 million views of their video on YouTube in three months.
Our mastery and use of video as a key digital tool will become even more important as we continue to blur the lines between storytelling, creating experiences, and selling products. All of it is digital marketing!
Where Do We Go From Here?
Digital discipline is an evolving form and we are fortunate to be working on the frontiers of defining what is to come. From making customers part of our story to starting conversations with customers to converged content and experiences to creating great videos – we are changing the face of marketing.
Digital channels and tools continue to multiply and staying on top of all of the rapid change can be a challenge. And it’s also true that we can’t get distracted over every new trend. Digital discipline means having the right strategy and execution across all relevant channels and devices and being purposeful about execution.
Only with a coherent approach can we effectively create digital experiences that truly help build user love.
Elisa Steele
CVP Marketing – Skype