The debut of Brand Keys Digital Platform GPS, by the New York-based brand and customer loyalty and engagement consultancy, at the OMMA Global conference Digital Moneyball, in San Francisco today, provides marketers the ability to break down the wall between digital technology and brand strategy.

“With digital involvement growing at an extraordinary rate, truth is when it comes to brands, digital is where TV was in the ’50s,” said Robert Passikoff, Brand Keys founder and president. “Brands know a great deal about who is using which platforms and that helps in targeting marketing communications, but it doesn’t provide much insight into what the brand should be doing on these digital communication platforms.”

The Digital Platform GPS was identified in Brand Keys’ new 2012 study – the Digital Platform Engagement Index (DPEI) – that examined 83 product and service categories and identified how digital platforms connect with drivers (key decision criteria) of category and brand engagement. “As pervasive as is digital, surprisingly there was no single-source that identified the most influential digital platform categories available to marketers,” noted Passikoff. “We looked at 500 digital platforms on the basis of visitation and sorted them into 14 categories.”

The 14 digital platforms included: blogs, brand websites, browsing portals (i.e. Yahoo), classified, digital magazines, digital newspapers, email, gaming, mobile apps, music, online video, search, shopping portals (like Amazon), and social networks.
Among the 598 brands and 14 digital communication platforms examined, the following brands were identified as doing their digital best on specific digital platforms:

Blogs: Major League Baseball, Netflix
Brand Websites: Macy’s, Amazon
Browsing Portals: Samsung Flat-Screen TVs
Classified: Hyundai, FORD
Digital Magazine: Home Depot
Digital Newspaper: Expedia
Email: Costco, AT&T Wireless
Gaming: Patron Tequila, Coors
Mobile Apps: Apple iPhone
Music: Coke
Online Video: Call of Duty, Kindle
Search: Hilton Hotels
Shopping Portals: Skechers
Social Networks: Coke, McDonald’s

“The truth is, most brands have not yet answered the ‘should we be on Facebook?’ question. They participate by default because they’re afraid not to, putting their most friendly face forward,” said Passikoff. “But behind closed doors, CMOs don’t really know if social media matters to brands. Or, if it does, exactly how it should link to the drivers of loyalty and engagement in their category. And, that’s just Facebook. Those questions exist for the other digital platforms and must be solved if brands are to finally operate strategically in the digital space.”

Measuring Digital Involvement
The study also measured self-reported category-specific ranges of ‘Digital Involvement,’ the time consumers spent weekly on any or all of the 14 digital platform archetypes. Across the 83 categories usage ranged from a low of one hour to a high of 84 hours a week. “There are amazing differences when you look at category-specific digital involvement and don’t lump it into a single activity,” said Passikoff.

“One size doesn’t fit all. For automotive brands, the range is from one to 45 hours. For cell phones, from two to 84 hours. And, depending upon the range, there are differences in how digitally involved consumers emotionally and rationally view the categories and what they actually expect from brands, and that can truly affect branding and messaging and where individual digital platforms will have their greatest influence.”

“Currently we’re calling consumers who fall into the top 20 percent of digital category involvement ‘Higitals.’ But the way digital marketing and adoption is growing, when it comes to brand strategy, you might as well call it the ‘future,’” added Passikoff.

The Brand Keys Digital Platform Engagement Index survey comprises 49,000 customer interviews, M/F, 18-65 years of age, drawn from the nine US Census regions. Respondents self-classified for category and brand participation in 83 categories with 598 brands. Results are generalizable at the 95% confidence level using a methodology that has been independently validated. The DPEI provides a unique perspective on digital usage, platforms, category, and brand, and offers marketers the following:

1. Category-specific identification of ranges of Digital Involvement, i.e., time spent weekly on any/all of a set of digital platform archetypes (Social media networking, blogs, mobile apps, etc.).

2. The ranking of each digital platform in your category, based on the percent-contribution the platforms make to engagement and loyalty, offering a hierarchy that can finally inform where to best allocate resources in the digital space;

3. Exactly how those digital platforms connect with the emotional and rational drivers of consumer decision making in your category, allowing you to customize content when using those digital platforms;

4. How consumers with high-digital involvement see your category versus the general population to help you steer brands into a digitally-pervasive future;

5. Identification of electronic devices providing the “best” interaction with each of the digital platforms for each category.