Digital Essays 2014: Welcome to the age of phygital

Martin Yofre

Martin Yofre offers eight rules for the ‘Phygital’ world.

Don’t you just love the word phygital? I do! It sounds so cool and sexy. And you know what? It absolutely is!

The word ‘Phygital’ marks the dawn of the age of experiential marketing and was coined by our global counterparts at Momentum Worldwide. But the phygital experience doesn’t just belong to Momentum, rather, it belongs to brands that understand the power of building relationships with people both in the physical world as well as in the digital one. It’s taking advantage of the fast evolving world of technology and applying it to real world experiences, engaging with people seamlessly in both their physical and the digital lives.

Now that we’ve cleared what it is, let’s get into a bit more detail into the ‘how’ it works when it’s done right.

I’m very lucky to have worked alongside marketers who value the power of technology, and challenge my team to apply it. Al Hilal Bank would be a prime example. Rather than donating to a charity effortlessly, they took a leap of faith with their #DonateMySmile Ramadan campaign that ran last year. And provided me with a clear example to illustrate my point.

Ramadan, being a time of giving, often meant donating food, money, clothes or time. However, in Islam it is said that even a smile can be charity. So, Al Hilal Bank launched the #DonateMySmile social campaign asking people to share a photo of themselves smiling onto their social media platforms, using the hashtag #donatemysmile. In the physical world, special interactive stands were set up in prominent malls inviting people to donate their smiles right there and then. For each smile, Al Hilal Bank donated AED 1 to charity. Simple, yet memorable and powerful. Suggesting that a small act everyday, as small as a smile means more than dropping money into a box. The very simplicity of the activation, in that it didn’t ask much of people’s time, and the messaging of it, a small act going a long way, allowed for it to quickly become the most trending topic on social media and it garnered huge attention online while staying true to the bank’s vision of being a bank of the future.

Because technology is so fast moving, it is imperative that our industry continuously keeps on learning and experimenting. If you can think it, chances are you can do it.

The simplicity of an idea does not immediately equate to simplicity in execution. This is where having a creative technologist within the team can open up the confidence to try new things, knowing that you will always be able to deliver a bullet-proof experience. We live in real time and we have to create, react and improvise, in real time.

Rules for the phygital world

  1. Start with a brave client. A client who you know is already tickled with the idea of experimenting with his
    or her brand in a space that is new and innovative.
  2. Suggest a ‘big idea’.
Make sure your idea is scalable and can evolve.
  3. It’s key that your ‘Big’ idea solves a communication problem for the brand you are representing, and make sure it’s within the brand’s overall tone of voice and positioning.
  4. Be aware of new trends in technology and access what’s relevant to the idea. At the speed of change, almost anything is possible.
  5. Keep in mind the types of technology that your audiences are using – make sure whatever you ask them to use is simple and to their level of tech involvement.
  6. Play with technology! Experiment. Have fun with it. This is the best way to gain a deeper understanding of its potential. Create prototypes, test them and suggest new applications relevant for your clients.
  7. The customer experience needs to be seamless. Create as many touch points as you can think of so that they can interact with your platform with ease.
  8. Don’t use technology for the sake of using it. Use it because it would add value – either in terms of utility, entertainment or greater brand affinity.

To conclude, my two cents to agencies – Hire a creative technologist today. He or she will be a huge asset in supporting your activation. You need a combination of creative and technical teams to execute a project properly. To marketers – Take a leap of faith. Yes, ideas may seem a bit crazy and far-fetched at times, but our audiences need a little crazy from time to time! Be inspired by brands like Al Hilal Bank, Fanta and Sony who have taken that leap with great returns.

The phygital revolution is here. Our industry has never been more exciting and more participatory. It’s richer than ever with the voices of our consumers elevating our brands. Viva la revolucion!!

(Martin Yofre is GM business unit at Momentum Dubai)