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Offline vs. Online


I recently attended an account strategy seminar and met some very interesting & innovative people.  There was a mix of people from account managers and principles from either the online or the offline world of advertising & marketing.  Some offline agencies did a little online, and some online did a little offline marketing strategy and design for their clients…  After having a variety of very good conversations between seminar topics, one question continued to surface…

How do you transition offline marketing strategy into online efforts?

This question could use some attention.  It not only comes up in account strategy seminars, but also in client conversations.

Originally, I came from an ad agency that was 75% offline and 25% online in capabilities and strategy.  Now, I am 100% focused on the online world but work with clients that have pain points in connecting offline campaigns.  The question, “How do you transition offline marketing strategy into online efforts?” is a great question.  It addresses the need to spend money wisely and communicate with your customers & prospects appropriately.

As I continue to have this conversation, it seems to lead into two reoccurring advisable points:

  1. Offline is a great driver to online, if done well.
  2. What you say offline does not always translate well online.

Let us start with “offline is a great driver to online, if done well.”  This is obvious.  Look at any strong brand campaign, and you find that they are driving both current and prospective clients to their online resources.  A fun exercise is to note all the commercials running and noting the “online initiative” from the ad.  Companies have gone from “brand awareness” to “online brand awareness.”  It is a simple driver to watch the spikes of online activity, and reduces companies cost per acquisition when done right.

A good example of an offline to online brand driver is Progressive Insurance. Check out their TV spots that note consumer control, and finish with “call or click today.”

Which works best?  The 15+-minute long phone call or a quick online experience to know where you stand in the insurance world.  This would most likely be followed up by continued online research, but you get the picture.

Progressive does two things well here.  It prepares inquiring minds through their brand campaigns on what their online experience will be.  It also softly drives prospects or reminds current users of the valuable tools and “personalized products” that they have in store.  It targets a demo that wants empowerment.

2008 article from www.blinkx.com stated that:

Nearly 70% of adults in Britain go online at some point while watching television. Over 20% of 16-24 year olds say they always use the internet while watching television.”  It continues to read “of those using the web while watching television as many as 30% searched for products or services featured in programs, while 27% searched for advertised products.

An interesting fact to consider when referencing the relation of offline to online and how important one is to the other.  It is important to consider this when making the relationship work and see returns on your marketing dollar.

Let us continue to reference insurance when addressing, “What you say offline does not always translate well online.” Compare Progressive’s offline campaign to the online experience. Then take a look at GEICO who has multiple branding campaigns (Caveman, Help Tell Story, Somebody’s Watch’ in, Gecko vs. GEICO and the recent “Rhetorical Questions”).  All though GEICO does have a great brand presence, and constantly promotes “15 minutes could save you more…” considering how all these messages translate to an online experience is important.  All these messages seem to miss the boat when driving traffic to www.geico.com .  I think that questions arise:  Where’s my Caveman, where’s my money with eyes?  Am I at the right place?  Oh, there’s the Gecko, but where is everything else?  What am I supposed to do again?  Should I just call?

Progressive nails it, in my opinion, using a congruent message, look and feel to reduce anxiety when delivering them to a relevant with the offline experience.  GEICO for example, has tons of messages that do not support the online experience, causing confusion and, most likely, drop-off.  You went from various brand messages, to one direct message which equates to “get your insurance online.”

So many clients come to us with requests to optimize a basic online digital piece.  This piece is sometimes a direct mail piece turned into an email or a newspaper insert turned into a landing page.  You cannot just copy and paste.  You need to understand the online culture and how to pick up the offline message, translate to a more actionable/ empowering message that supports end conversion.  End conversion can be further engagement (learn more, request a quote, etc) or actual product purchase.

The transition of ideas from offline to online is a work in progress.  It is a wonderful, trackable work in progress.  Tie in and test messages, test design based on offline campaigns and see how it is working online.  Be empathetic for someone who is using a computer (with at least 3 other tabs open) to experience your product or further explore your brand promise.  Be true to your brand, but make your brand relevant in the digital world using some offline consistencies.   Start by doing some of these things, and you will be taking the right foot forward to a successful marriage of offline & online.