'The concept JWT has had for over 135 years is the concept of the building, caring and nurturing of brands, and Digital@JWT is looking at how we take those brands into the digital space,' says Stuart Sherman, Managing Director, Digital@JWT....

‘The concept JWT has had for over 135 years is the concept of the building, caring and nurturing of brands, and Digital@JWT is looking at how we take those brands into the digital space,’ says Stuart Sherman, Managing Director, Digital@JWT.

After all, J. Walter Thompson is virtually the king of branding, having been the first advertising agency in the world. But these days Marketers are concentrating on customer relationship management (CRM), often shifting their focus from branding to technology when planning to touch consumers directly. It is through the consumer relationship with the brand that real marketing successes occur. ‘That’s really the business we’re in,’ says Sherman. ‘… understanding how those brands can touch consumers and still convey the brand experience, the brand idea, and have a meaningful relationship, either informational or transactional.’

The aspect of CRM that Digital@JWT specializes in is the self-directed and ‘Consumer-Controlled’ CRM, where the consumer wants to have a relationship with the brand and actively seeks it out through the website or call centre. ”Consumer-Controlled’ CRM occurs when the consumer engages the brand as opposed to the brand engaging them, ‘ says Sherman.

In the world of One-to-One JWT helps companies think as a one and see the consumer as a one – but it’s not a quick fix. says Sherman. ‘The issue is how to implement a staged solution and organize it around the concept of the brand. It’s not just about creating portals, intranets and extranets. Doing that without a deeper plan is pointless, ‘ he stresses. ‘You’re allowing a technological solution to override the marketing requirement. What you really need to ask is ‘how does our brand communicate with consumers, what does our brand feel like?’ ‘Its not just keeping the graphic look and feel that you have in traditional media; it’s conveying the brand aesthetic, and the brand aesthetic is a deeper, more archetypal thought than the actual look and feel of a brand. You can make it orange and say it’s Kraft dinner, but that’s not what Kraft dinner is about. There’s a lot more to it than just being orange. ‘

So Digital@JWT examines the brand and works to understand what it needs to say to the consumer. It also finds out why the consumer is coming to the brand. ‘It’s anticipating what the consumer wants and how the consumer feels, and making sure that’s delivered in a credible, brand loyal, brand correct way,’ says Sherman. It’s also about delivering on a promise. When that promise is not honoured you have disappointed consumers.

‘The company and the concept of brand are also merging into the media that portrays them, ‘ says Sherman. To the consumer, the company is its website, because the Internet has physically brought the company to the consumer in electronic form. ‘It’s the ‘bricks-to-clicks’ idea,’ says Sherman, ‘and companies are trying to communicate to consumers on a one-to-one basis and say, ‘come to our website and talk to us directly.’

‘For many large companies that is a big stretch,’ he adds. How can a big multinational company talk one-to-one with a consumer? JWT’s answer is to create brand-building applications, as opposed to just a website that provides a touch point for the consumer. ‘It’s really looking at the digital space as another marketing tool in a group of marketing tools that any company has.’

Digital@JWT is the international, digital face of JWT with over 250 employees. They provide solutions compatible with both their clients’ offline and online media, and work very closely with them to make sure that all aspects of their business, from their website to their internal systems, is reflective of their brand promise. ‘The relationship consumers have with the brand – ‘what have you done for me lately, how easy are you to deal with, how well did you respond to me’ – is all part of the ‘Consumer-Controlled’ Relationship,’ says Sherman. ‘That’s the critical stuff because that’s how you keep clients and create customers’.

An excellent example of a good customer relationship is the De Beers site, which has won many awards, and is of particular appeal to consumers because of its highly personal design. De Beers is a worldwide client but its brand is completely integrated across both print and online media and has a local feel. ‘Being able to design your own engagement ring [on the website] is a very personal thing, and that is the idea of De Beers,’ says Sherman.

JWT isn’t reinventing branding. ‘We’re just doing it in the really customer-controlled, self-directed space,’ he says. ‘It’s not necessarily how you communicate the brand, but how [in the digital marketplace] the interaction with the brand occurs, because that’s really what’s different and that’s what everybody is struggling over. People think that websites are advertising and they’re not. They are consumer-controlled experiences.’

For Listerine, Digital@JWT created an e-mail distributed game – the ultimate consumer- controlled interaction. In it, consumers battle their own personal monster – gingivitis. The campaign began with an action movie-style poster in theatre lobbies. The poster showed the brave consumer ‘hero’ battling the gooey green (gingivitis) monster. Then it became a magazine ad and finally an e-mail game. ‘The whole idea was that it was an action hero movie but it was all about Listerine,’ says Sherman. ‘It reinforces the brand message and at the same time it’s fun. There wasn’t a budget for a Listerine website, but there definitely was a budget to communicate the brand idea on the Internet.’

Why has Digital@JWT been so successful? ‘What we have is experience, and an understanding of what the approach needs to be,’ says Sherman. ‘But the difference between a consultant and us is that we will actually be part of the implementation, so we’re still with you when the results come in. We learn and adapt as we go, and the client is a partner on the journey with us. It’s a true partnership.’

Also in this sponsored supplement:

- Overview p.E1

- Armantus p.E2

- BAM Solutions p.E3

- Modem Media p.E5

- Vickers & Benson Direct + Interactive p.E5

- MacLaren McCann Interactive p.E6

- MarchFIRST p.E8

- p.E10

- Devlin Applied Design p.E12