Using fat bears to explain my take on the future of digital marketing

Fat bears and digital marketing
October 4, 2019

Jo Fraser



Last year, 409 Beadnose took out the competition for the fattest bear. She struck a resounding victory and beat her competitor by around 3700 votes. Run by Katmai National Park and Preserve in Alaska, the competition is far from being a body-shaming exercise. Bears need to gain as much weight as possible to survive through winter and their long period of hibernation. It is only right that we celebrate their rotund bellies, chunky thighs and, in the case of 409 Beadnose, her disproportionate nose.

Needless to say, I was hooked on the competition from the start. I watched their 24/7 bear cams for a glimpse of bear 32, Chunk. I followed the complex voting, liked the Instagram, scrolled the National Park website and then went back to watching the bear cams again (Chunk was nowhere to be seen). Like thousands of people around the world, I was invested. And with the competition about to start again this year, you better believe I have my mouse button poised, ready to vote.

It was cutesy, addictive and really good marketing –– it was marketing that I didn’t mind. It turns out animal cams are a popular fundraising strategy for zoos and national parks. According to this Wired article, there are over 16,000 nature-focused remote video feeds. If you work in finance or insurance, a video strategy isn’t really going to help. No offense, but no one wants to watch office busy work (or do they? The internet is strange). The idea is that we’re entering into a phase where people are becoming attuned to — and wary of — marketing. There will always be a place for advertising, from the sexist ads of the 50’s to now, where you’ll find it on the seat in front of you on your next flight –– just above the sick bag and the safety card. It’s not going anywhere, but what smart companies are doing is investing in digital experiences. It’s marketing, but marketing that people don’t seem to mind.


What is a digital experience?

Here’s what it’s not: advertising. Digital experience management platform Instart Logic teamed up with Propeller Insights on a survey of more than 1,000 adults in the U.S., and they found that respondents were annoyed with their ad experiences across the digital universe — from social media sites (45%) to retail sites (36%) and news sites (34%). I would consider myself part of this disgruntled group. Despite the fact that I sit in a marketing team, I realized how long it had been since I looked at a piece of advertising or marketing material with wonder instead of dread. And then I remembered the bears.

And then when I stopped thinking about the bears –– a good 20 minutes later –– I thought about my morning. I had woken up and checked the app for Deutsche Bahn (DB), which is German’s train network. The app allowed me to choose the train I wanted to take to work that morning and add it to my trip. Once it was added as a trip, the app gave me a countdown until when the train pulled out of the station. I checked the app again when I was brushing my teeth, and again when I sat down for a coffee with my partner. This feature makes me feel gloriously in control; I don't have to do mental gymnastics to figure out when I have to leave or whether my coffee would be chugged down or slowly savoured.

When I got on the train, I read the news on the screen above me, and then showed the QR code ticket, stored in my app, to the controller (a gruff man with a moustache). By the time I got to work, I had interacted with DB digitally six or seven times. Their digital services had made my morning easier, fed me the news, kept my ticket safe and made me a happy customer. I had been marketed to, but guess what, I didn’t mind.

Digital experiences are not just content, nor are they just webpages. While it’s true that marketers must heed the importance of a well-designed webpage, it’s no longer the only thing that matters. Instead, we must start moving towards providing multiple digital touchpoints. These take the form of online web pages, in-store interactions, billboards, ecommerce systems, wearables and voice apps. And they must be connected, synchronized and 100% consistent in branding and level of service. Connectivity is important here: CMS wire says “ Digital experience platform (DXP) comes from the push toward a fully connected experience where every interaction a customer has with any touchpoint is fed back to optimize the next interaction. DXPs focus not only on the interactions that lead to acquisition, but also on every touchpoint that helps maintain customer satisfaction, such as service portals and help desks”. In other words, forget what you know about useless, cheap-thrills marketing –– it’s not good enough anymore.

And going back to the Katmai fat bears, digital experiences must delight. It’s no longer good enough to be forgettable.

You can’t have a digital experience without content (and a headless CMS)

Your digital experience is only as good as the content you create for it; you can’t connect with your audience without it. And it’s not just something you can set-and-forget. Digital experiences require regular content updates. If you think back to the bears, they were juggling live cam feeds from multiple cameras, a web page, social media updates and much more. I don’t know what CMS they were using to manage this content, but if it was a legacy CMS, they would have been in for a (beary) bad time. The legacy or monolith CMS just wasn’t made to handle such an influx of content, nor was it created to be used on so many digital devices.

Contentful was created for the digital marketing future

Unlike older CMSes that act similar to a telephone book –– good as a directory but a terrible user experience –– a headless CMS manages and distributes all your content, no matter where it’s going. It’s one centralized hub to store your videos, live footage, photos, writing and more.

Send each piece of content where it needs to go with one click; that image file you created for your app works on your webpage, too. A product video? You can push that to a digital sign, your app, and have it appear on your ecommerce website. There’s no need to create content specifically for each device. Contentful separates your content from its presentation layer, perfect for creating a seamless, harmonious digital experience that is genuinely useful to customers, visually-pleasing and consistently good.

I would argue, with the help of those fat bears, that this is the trajectory of digital marketing. At its core, a digital marketing experience is marketing that we don’t mind.

If you’re ready to upgrade your marketing, we have many resources available. Should you be turning your company, no matter what it does, into a digital factory? Take your next step here.

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