The four digital program types vary in terms of how connected they are to the offering—from augmenting the offering, to supporting the offering, to amplifying marketing programs for the offering to being unconnected to the offering. They also will vary in terms of what aspects of digital are being employed. I’ll explore each objective. 

1. Augmenting or enabling the offering by extending its value proposition. 

 

Starbucks has an app that allows a speedy purchase, the ability to tip, earn stars to redeem rewards, find stores, find personalized offers and more. Competitors without such an augmentation will be at a disadvantage. When the augmentation is significant, a new subcategory can be created that renders competitors who lack that augmentation irrelevant. Offering augmentation can create unique “must haves” that define new subcategories. The result can be strategic, proving a sustainable advantage in the future that will need to be nurtured through ongoing innovation and an aggressive branding strategy with supporting brand-building programs. Augmentation can also be defensive, responding to the innovation of competitors to keep the offering relevant. In either case the staff involved in creating and improving the offering—from R&D, design, manufacturing and marketing—will need to partner with the digital team.

2. Supporting the offering and its use. 

 
This is accomplished by providing information about its benefits, how it provides value, the applications and how to obtain it. For some offerings or segments the digital route will be a primary go-to source of learning about the offering and a place to engage in interactive dialogue about the offering, its value and its use. 
 
For others, digital can enable a brand to provide customer validation to the offering. Walt Disney World’s Moms Panel, for example, answers questions about the Disney vacation that does not come with any commercial bias. Real moms provide information based on real experiences.  
  

For still others, digital can engage the customer in product development and evaluation. There is a win-win opportunity to get customers to both provide and evaluate ideas.  MyStarbucksIdea, started in 2008, has provided Starbucks with the ideas for the splash sticks that protect customers from hot drink spills, mobile payments, new flavors including skinny beverages and cake pop treats.    

Creating effective digital programs that will support the offering and its use will involve understanding the relationships of the target segment to the offering and proactively generating digitally driven solutions to issues and problems. Is the offering limited because of issues with visibility, perceptions, credibility or loyalty? Are there weaknesses or problems with the important customer touchpoints? Where there is a brand performance gap or weakness, how can digital play a role? In developing programs, the digital team needs to work with business and marketing units to generate ideas. Digital cannot simply “be there” in reactive mode.    

3. Amplifying other brand-building platforms by providing more depth, exposure and involvement. 

 
A program such as a World Cup sponsorship can only get so far with conventional media and attendance. Digital can create a website plus apps that will add value to the event with schedules, news and insights providing an interactive experience. A successful advertisement or video can have an extended life through social networks and outlets like YouTube. Brand building home runs rarely happen without digital amplification. 
 
Digital amplification will be maximized when two things happen: first, when digital works with each of the marketing programs during the plan and design phase, not after; second, priorities should be established across marketing programs so that digital programs that show the most promise are fast-tracked. 
 
 

4. Creating customer “sweet spot” brand-building platforms, centered on a customer’s “sweet spot” (interests and activities about which customers are intensely involved), in which the brand is an active partner. 

   

These sweet-spot programs are designed to create relationships and equity rather than support the offering. Although digital does not have to be involved in such programs, many are viable only because digital technology enables or drives them.