The 4 Ds of Digital Content

The 4 D's of Digital
Insight | Nick Rosier | digital content director

Digital is increasingly a part of everything we do and is integral to the way we experience the world. Whether it’s through the lens of your phone, to the systems that run the self-checkout in the supermarket, and the code that unlocks your car door in the morning, there is little that is unfamiliar in terms of pure technology. Users have come to expect the highest resolution, fastest, brightest, best designed experiences and the novelty has long worn off. In a similar way that VFX blockbusters in the film world don’t get the same attention as in the early days of CG, it’s not the ‘how’ that makes people care, it’s the ‘why’.

Brand engagement today is less about the product and more about the experience. What does your product make me feel? What can you make me think after I engage with you? How can you change my mind or give me that intangible moment of ‘I’ve never seen that before’.

The ‘show, don’t tell’ ethos has never been more relevant in our industry. Customers in both the B2B and B2C markets are ever more savvy and ever more jaded with the status quo of brand promotion: corporate messaging that talks to everyone and no-one at the same time, or flashy image tropes that become so ubiquitous that they become invisible.

So now that we have the tools, the skills and the accessibility of digital tools, what separates the good from the ok? What makes a truly meaningful experience? We’ve broken it down into the 4 Ds of Digital:

D is for Design thinking

Too often when talking brand experience, it’s tempting to jump right into the ideas and the doing. The number of times you hear ‘let’s make an AR experience’ or ‘we’ll make it interactive’ without any context or reason.
Ideas with no purpose are pure hot air. Creativity without a container is unproductive.
Working with a design thinking approach helps define scope, purpose and direction. The flow of ideas becomes targeted and solves problems rather than creating noise and distraction.

Let’s break down the classic design thinking model:

The first stage is empathy. What’s the problem? Not, what problem do we want to solve, but the problem our clients and the end users need to solve. Too often designers create solutions and then justify them afterwards. Taking an empathetic approach that puts the end user first saves selfish design and does away with the design ego. As the old adage says, “kill your darlings”.

The second stage is definition. Once we’ve managed to put ourselves in the shoes of the audience, and we understand the problem we’re trying to solve from their perspective, we need to consider why it’s important in the first place.

Defining a problem allows us to set boundaries and constraints. It quantifies things. There’s nothing more daunting than staring into the abyss of an open brief and not having a reference point to start from. Gathering all the data we have access to lets us start to fill in the blanks of that void and lock down the user’s specific needs.
From there, we go through iteration, prototyping and most importantly testing. It’s easy to land on the first ‘good’ idea and consider the process a success. Until that idea is tested, challenged and broken down from all angles with an objective and rigorous process, it can’t pass muster. If it fails the testing process? Drop it. Ideas are cheap - don’t let confirmation bias and attachment get in the way of better ones.

Digital solutions without design thinking often fall flat. Strong design thinking leads to empathetic and considered ideas that hit the mark far faster and far more often. Digital is just a tool to solve problems and make brand communication cheaper, more engaging and more effective.

D is for Disruption

Digital technologies outperform in effectiveness and cost. Software is by its nature cheaper to create than hardware. Consider the change: creating an 80 page brochure for a product range could be a many month long process involving designers, content writers, printers and the logistics around distributing those. Those brochures serve one purpose and once they’re gone, they’re gone. Now, we can take digital content and repurpose it for social, for web, for physical installations, billboard campaigns, showcase it on different platforms. Fundamentally, digital content remains dynamic and flexible after it’s been created, drastically reducing the cost of repurposing and reusing it.

Delivery is shifting from a one-to-many model to a one-to-one model. Everything that goes out can be personalised and targeted by effectively capturing and leveraging data. In a consumer facing campaign today we can deliver content that speaks to individuals on a personal level.

What’s more, this process can be semi-automated with the right software infrastructure.
Machine learning models can take the brute force out of this personalisation effort and automatically assign a recommended profile or content to specific audience. The more data we can leverage, the more effective the personalisation.

We are disrupting how stories are told by introducing entirely new formats and kinds of media. We’re disrupting the delivery of that content by creating new platforms and enabling this drastic personalisation.

D is for Democratisation

Fundamental to the reach of digital experiences in 2019 is the ease with which they’re deployed and consumed. Everyone carries a mobile in their pocket which can natively run AR, VR, video, interactive content, games and audio.

The barriers and costs to deliver digital content of all kinds to clients and customers has never been lower. What this means is that money that would be spent on infrastructure, expensive hardware or prohibitive software licensing can be turned to better use to create ever more engaging and personalised content. The numbers are undeniable: in Australia people are spending upwards of 9 hours a day on average consuming digital content, figures that are mirrored around the world and still growing.

A continuing development in this process of unification is geographical democratisation. From the earliest days of digital sharing, borders were broken down and content disseminated globally thanks to services like Napster, Limewire and later YouTube. The majority of traditional advertising and marketing has been regionalised based on the need to target specific audiences and the prohibitive cost of rolling out global campaigns.

Countries and emerging markets which were overlooked or too expensive to tap into in the past are opening up and bringing with them a host of new business opportunities. Mobile and tablet internet access overtook desktop access in late 2015. Even in sub-saharan Africa, mobile penetration is rising over 40% of the population, and rising rapidly.We all carry a supercomputer in our pockets and are increasingly at home in this new ecosystem; the new generation of consumers and companies alike are born digital.

Events have also faced logistical issues from the cost of transport to the need for expensive local gear to store and disseminate content. The problems the same: it was never easy to get the same message with the same quality and reach to all audiences at once.

The new normal: content is delivered from a centrally managed repository in the cloud and can be viewed via off-the-shelf hardware for consumer grade prices. More advanced solutions like digital rooms or large screen arrays can be leveraged to immerse consumers in flexible spaces that can be changed and updated instantly. Build and burn is shifting to build and re-purpose.

D is for Dematerialised

As technologies become more widely used and reach higher levels of adoption, the platforms that run them become cheaper and more highly integrated. Think of the home of the past: the phone, fax machine, radio, camera, maps, TV, games console have now been consolidated into one device: your smartphone.

Even more recently popularised tech such as AR and VR are being integrated at breakneck pace. Google’s Web AR and Google Cardboard combined with YouTube’s native 360 support have smashed the high barriers to adoption. These technologies have never been more accessible and have unlocked a cornucopia of opportunity for brands and advertisers to engage new audiences in new ways.

The same is swiftly becoming true of AV tech, projection mapping and screens. Whereas in the past each different system would rely on its own proprietary hardware platform with prohibitive software licensing models, show control is being consolidated to the point that a single system can run a global portfolio of shows, events and spaces.

Digital technology is relying on less on physical hardware and products. You can do more with less, for less.

What now?

Every brand has a story to tell, and customers are always responsive to meaningful, well crafted and innovative content. Using digital tools to help tell those stories in a more compelling way? You’re on the right track!

Good luck exploring the world of digital, you’ve come at the right time. Most of all, have fun.