As part of our ongoing effort to give our readers visibility into some of the key ideas driving unique, innovative brand work, we recently talked to Winston Binch, head of interactive production, strategy and business development at Crispin Porter + Bogusky. We walked away with a sense for how “productizing” marketing, and building branded experiences around the notion of usefulness – particularly in the digital and social media realm – should be part of every new campaign brief or discussion.
What work or ideas are you most excited about these days?
I’m excited to see more brands recognize that their most powerful brand marketing asset is the product – not the marketing message. Because of this shift in strategy, we’re beginning to see more agencies move into the product design and development space. Agencies are no longer confined to crafting the message but also empowered to create both standalone products and enhancements to existing product lines. Since digital is both media and product, it’s an ideal platform to facilitate “productized” marketing. And this means that we’re spending a larger percentage of our days creating tools rather than the ads. I get excited by the idea that I can actually now ‘use’ the marketing we make, not just watch or read it.
Can you identify any brands that embody this notion of “productized” marketing in the digital space?
It’s hard to talk about “productized” marketing in digital and not mention things like Nike Plus, Fiat Ecodrive, and Domino’s Pizza Tracker, but another good example is AmEx OPENForum.com, a B2B networking application we launched with American Express OPEN, their small business group, in July 2009.
As a means of expanding their product offering and staying ahead of the needs of the small business community, American Express created a web application designed to connect small business owners with the best in business, and give them ongoing and real-time access to the wisdom of business experts like Guy Kawasaki, Richard Branson, and Seth Godin. The idea being that OPEN Forum becomes the go-to, lead generation and education resource for the small business community. While there is plenty of small business centric content and tools already out there, none can boast one million of the best small businesses, OPEN Cardmembers, and such an extensive and impressive line-up of industry gurus.
Since both prospective customers and Cardmembers can participate in the community dialog and access a majority of the content, the tool is equal parts marketing vehicle and digital service. As people share articles via Twitter, Linkedin, Facebook, and email, they’re actively helping to market the brand, and as more people participate, the more likely it is that they’ll buy into some of the brand’s other existing and digital services, like charge cards and AcceptPay, a web-based invoicing tool.
OPENForum.com unlocks the true power of the OPEN product. You’re not just interacting with the plastic, but the community attached to it.
How has OPEN Forum performed for AmEx, and how is its ongoing success defined or monitored?
The primary goals are to increase traffic, participation, conversation, and the size of the community. American Express is continually seeing engagement increase by way of significant traffic gains on the OPEN Forum site—we’re seeing roughly 350%+ growth year over year in unique visits monthly—and a growing Twitter following, more than 7,800 to date. With any application such as this, we constantly monitor conversion, number of members added into the funnel and, of course, the key, critical site metrics: time spent on the site, unique and repeat visits, etc. We use this data and learnings for continual improvement of the product and content.
What’s next for AmEx OPEN Forum?
I can’t speak to the specifics of what’s next for OPEN Forum, but I can tell you that with all of our clients, we’re creating content and experiences across all relevant media channels and devices and will evolve to spaces where it makes most sense. Right now, that of course means moving our thinking deeper into mobile, the tablet, and physical realms.