How do you build a digital brand?

How do you build a digital brand — one that lives up to digital’s potential for immersion and personalization?   The following two recent Razorfish client launches highlight the roles of creativity and technology — and demonstrate some of the nuances of branding the digital way.

Billboard

Billboard posed an interesting challenge to the New York office of my employer Razorfish: reposition a brand for a consumer audience.  Through its event business, digital presence, and print media, Billboard is known primarily as a business-to-business brand.  The company asked Razorfish to inject more of a consumer-oriented look and feel to the Billboard.com website.  Although Billboard.com is a consumer website, Billboard’s reputation as a B-to-B brand contributed to a general assumption that Billboard.com is not for consumers.  Billboard saw an opportunity to make Billboard.com “behave” like a consumer site with improved interactivity.  The Razorfish approach:

  • Retain the Billboard name.  The B-to-B reputation notwithstanding, the Billboard name is so well established (115 years old) that we saw little need to adapt the name for a consumer audience.
  • Completely revamp the Billboard.com website.  Throw out the model of providing just basic information about top-selling songs and artist background via the flat website that existed until now.  Instead, turn Billboard.com into a playful destination where consumers can listen to and purchase music, vote on their favorite songs, and learn a ton of information about different artists, including their chart history and biography.  A new “Visualizer” feature makes it possible for you to see a chart that shows album sales throughout an artist’s career.  Playing around with the Visualizer unveils layers of detail such as peak positions for particular songs.  Moreover, with an easy click you can share content to social destinations like Twitter.

Exclusive video content available on Billboard.com

Using the Visualizer to track the remarkable 251-week Billboard chart run for Pink Floyd’s The Dark Side of the Moon

For more about the Billboard.com redesign, go here.

Channel [V] Australia

The challenge for Channel [V] Australia was different: launch a new brand online.  Channel [V] Australia is a cable TV channel that broadcasts musical content for a Gen Y audience.  Channel [V] wanted an online presence.  The solution from Amnesia Razorfish in Sydney:

  • Create a brand name for digital, [V] Music. We felt a new name was necessary for a few reasons.  First, Amnesia Razorfish wanted to more strongly associate the company with music because the digital experience is supposed to be the “source of all things music.”  And the name [V] Music would work better from an organic search standpoint.
  • Create an immersive experience so that consumers have a destination to explore music, including a video library that houses 1.3 million artists.  Enable personalization (via a My Music feature).  Moreover, a video player created by Amnesia Razorfish called “the Slider” allows you to watch videos continuously while you browse the website.  (Unfortunately because of Channel [V]’s licensing agreements, the videos are viewable only in Australia.)  The site also posts concert listings and links to special [V] Music accounts on Twitter, YouTube, and Facebook.  Amnesia Razorfish built the interface in Ajax to allow the page to dynamically update content as you slide across the page in real time (an effect seen only in Flash).

Through the [V] Music rebranding, Channel [V] now has an opportunity to expand its presence into music and even open up content overseas should the company elect to adopt different licensing models.

A taste of [V] Music

For more information on Music [V], check out this post.

For more Razorfish insights into digital branding, please review Joe Crump’s point of view on Digital Darwinism.

What does a digital brand look like, and sound like, to you?

Publicis Groupe/Razorfish: it’s all about the brand

On August 9, Microsoft and Publicis Groupe announced that Publicis Groupe has agreed to acquire my employer Razorfish.  (At Razorfish, we announced the agreement on Twitter.)  The deal is expected to close in the fourth quarter.  The rationale is simple: Publicis Groupe has a stated goal of broadening the breadth of its digital offerings. Razorfish accelerates that strategy.

Razorfish will operate as our own company inside VivaKi, a Publicis Groupe entity that includes Denuo, Digitas, Starcom MediaVest Group, and Zenith Optimedia.  Razorfish CEO Bob Lord will report to David Kenny, one of the managing partners of VivaKi.  VivaKi is all about technology, media, and digital, which are important to Razorfish.  Consider us digital cousins.  (And I love that wicked cool VivaKi logotype.)

In my view, Razorfish adds to VivaKi Social Influence Marketing expertise, consumer insight, technology, and our ability to create brand experiences across the digital world.  In turn, Razorfish will accelerate our own strategy of expanding globally and broadening our own offerings.

Microsoft remains an important client to Razorfish.  Razorfish will continue to service Microsoft as we did before Microsoft owned Razorfish.

Finally, there’s this: so often deals get analyzed from all financial angles when our clients and employees are the most important aspects.  Publicis Groupe bought Razorfish because of our powerful brand, which is the outcome of the service our people provide to our clients such as Best Buy, Mercedes-Benz USA, McDonald’s, MillerCoors, and Starwood Hotels.  About seven years ago, SBI bought Razorfish for $8.2 million, just a fraction of the $530 million Publicis Groupe paid, which is a testament to the value of our brand.  We’ve built that brand by making sure our actions — the work we do for our clients — speak as loudly as our words.  And we will continue to do just that.

Hello Publicis Groupe. Viva VivaKi.  Microsoft: thank you for continuing to be a great client.

Coors Light and organic branding

Razorfish client MillerCoors continues to introduce product innovations during a recession, including the draft-beer box discussed July 29 in The Wall Street Journal.  My employer Razorfish has helped MillerCoors launch new products, including an advertising experience, “Project:Cold,” that showcases the benefits of the new Coors Light cold activated can.  Project:Cold caught my eye because it also demonstrates how a company can make a brand more authentic by incorporating natural consumer behaviors instead of pushing top-down messages.

Project:Cold employs a rich microsite to raise awareness for the Coors Light cold activated can (which uses a special ink to turn the mountains on the can from white to blue when the beer is cold enough to drink).  The site uses videos and 3-D functionality designed to appeal to young males of drinking age.  A few highlights:

  • Consumers watch how the mountains turn blue by virtually playing with a 3-D image of a Coors Light can. Depending on where you click on the can, little surprises emerge.  For instance, a “Know Your Cold” feature reveals practical tips to turn beer cold, such as using a wash machine full of ice to give your beer cans an ice bath.
  • A series of tongue-in-cheek videos shot with “cold experts” has some fun with the do-it-yourself ethic for making beer cans cold.  In one video, a scientist combines ice with an industrial strength paint shaker to make his cold activated can “Cold Certified.”  Another video offers an inventive use of a gelatin mold to chill beer.  Moreover, consumers are invited to vote on whether they believe an approach is Cold Certified.  The site also makes it easy for consumers to share the videos on Facebook.

Using a paint shaker to get your Coors Light Cold Certified

To create the microsite, the Razorfish team was inspired by watching consumers naturally play with their beer cans — like the real-life videos that beer enthusiasts often post on YouTube to show their homemade solutions for chilling beer, or consumers who treat their Coors Light cold activated beer cans as devices for experimentation.  The account team saw what everyday people were doing and wondered — what would happen if we asked people with science or engineering backgrounds to make their own videos?  Enter the people depicted in the videos.

Results since Project:Cold launched in June:

  • The videos are driving engagement.  The average time spend on the videos is more than 3 minutes.
  • The interaction rates with the Project:Cold creative are 50 percent higher than the average for the overall Coors Light summer campaign.

Project:Cold is also an example of building a brand with an experience that has no expiration date, as opposed to a one-time campaign.  To be sure, MillerCoors and Razorfish are relying on a strong media campaign to raise awareness for Project:Cold.  But the media campaign supports the experience.