New brand rejuvenation technologies
When I talk to account managers, strategists and creatives from various advertising agencies about the year 2022, which has already passed, I am struck by how many of them have had to face the rejuvenation of brands. After the marketing turn to Generation Y (people born in the 1980s and early 1990s), who had already boldly entered the labour market and, until the NBP's monetary tightening, were doing well in the property market, the time has come for Generation Z (1995-2010).
Sociologists call the Z representatives snowflakes (the snowflake generation), because they place an exaggerated emphasis on their individuality and combine a great appetite for experiencing life with a unique sensitivity. Although they want to be seen as a collection of differences, they have at least one thing in common - they all grew up in a digitised reality. A world without the Internet is a world before their time. In their linear perception of time, it is not the birth of Christ but the first exchange of data between two computers that they see as the most significant caesura in the history of mankind.
It is the Z-generation who are changing social media today, ignoring Facebook, closing Instagram accounts and playing with Tik-Tok en masse. It is the Z-generation who are driving the development of augmented reality, trying on virtual clothes and using AR (augmented reality) filters en masse. It's the Z-generation who are the first to populate the metaverse (where, among other things, they're mapping out the masses!) and who aren't afraid to exchange their pickle for cryptocurrencies - before one cryptocurrency exchange declared bankruptcy and the backlash against e-currencies began, it's likely that more than a few zetas impressed their parents with their ability to multiply capital virtually.
For marketers, this is both good and bad news. Good, because it is clear that Z-generation can be found in the digital world. The bad, because how do you keep up with them?
I answer this question on a daily basis for many branders and advertising agencies. But not only that. For my ambition is to be one step ahead of the Z-generarion or Alpha-generation. Together with my team, I therefore keep a close eye on new technologies. We know about many of them when they are in the so-called elite phase, i.e. when they are available to a small audience in the world. Even then, we assess whether they have the potential to go mainstream and capture the mass imagination. Because although technologies change, the process of popularisation has been the same for centuries. Think of the press, television or the internet.At first these media were available to a very narrow audience (Gutenberg's buddies), then to people who were richer but also technologically adventurous (Gutenberg's patrons), and only in time did they come under the radar (readers of the tabloid press).
Have I already boasted that we are among the first in the world to test technologies that you don't yet know about? If not, I'm just bragging! Seriously though, many of the digital solutions we test will never be used by any of you. They will die a natural death because they are useless and do not meet the needs of their audience. However, a few percent of them will conquer the world. Or, to put it another way, they will capture the mass imagination of the public. And if you know them, if you know how to use them, and find a creative use for them, you can, as a leader, use them to achieve the business goals of the brand you work for. We were among the first in the world to build an IT engine for augmented reality AR and advanced algorithms for deepfake (I'll explain exactly what that means in a moment) - both technologies our clients are already using successfully in marketing campaigns.
And here we return to the rejuvenation of brands. I'm sure you're familiar with Tymbark (a Polish juice brand). It has been with us for years. At breakfast, lunch and dinner. At picnics, matches and canoeing. At birthdays, name days and weddings. The Brainbox agency came up with an idea of how the brand could creatively and freshly bring together many different generations, including Y and Z. The hit song "Everything tells me that someone loved me" was used as a binder, for the campaign performed by performers as generationally different as Sanah, Artur Rojek, Vito Bambino and Kwiat Jabłoni.
Brainbox wanted to give every Internet user the opportunity to appear in a music video featuring these very musicians. The individualisation of the message here was a nod especially to the needs of generation Z. When the agency came to us with a brief, we selected the right technology for the objectives it had set. We opted for the aforementioned deepfake. This involves replacing the face of the actor who appeared in the video with that of another person.
The interactive video was to become a showcase for the campaign, so we counted on mass user involvement. We analysed dozens of available technological solutions. In the course of the trials, it turned out that they require gigantic computing power, and that creating an animation in which the user's photo is inserted in place of the recorded actor's face takes.... several hours. This was unacceptable. After all, nobody on the Internet is going to wait that long! So we took the decision to build the mechanism from scratch.
We first created a programme that performed machine learning calculations on graphics cards and, although it worked really well, it required the purchase of server space for several hundred thousand zloty. It was only after a series of experiments and trials that we were able to create software that took less than 2.5 seconds to generate a high-quality personalised video.
However, we recognised that for some users even that much might be too much. In order not to lose engagement at the final stage, we used a trick familiar from queue management at airports. At the start, we asked the user to take a selfie or upload a photo of their face. Our system would immediately start generating a video, while we kept the surfer busy by asking him to give his name or choose the order of the artists. Once he had done so, we were immediately able to present him with a video of him performing on one stage with Polish pop stars.
As I mentioned, the original estimate for the price of hiring the servers for the campaign was an astronomical several hundred thousand zlotys. During the work we also focused on the need to radically reduce this cost. And we succeeded - we cut it down tenfold!
The effect of the campaign? 16 million views of the clips on Youtube, 360,000 users on the campaign website and 21,700 unique videos created by the audience. Zetas in love with Sana or Vito Bambino took advantage of the deepfake and performed together with their idols on the Tymbark stage. The videos were eagerly shared on social media, virally increasing the reach of the campaign.
Someone will say: technology for technology's sake, art for art's sake. Well, let me be clear - used well, new technologies work for business effect. Proof. Despite a decline in the entire market category, Tymbark achieved a sales increase of 4.4 per cent. And together with marketers from the Maspex Group and strategists and creatives from Brainbox, we won two EFFIE and two Innovation awards for this campaign, as well as a Kreatura and KTR. Above all, however, with our joint efforts we rejuvenated the brand. And that is priceless today!
Co-founder of digital production house Gentlemen Programmers (www.p-programisci.pl) and UX design agency and product strategy Sparing Digtal (www.sparing.digital). He advises clients on how to create digital products wisely, which he then builds and develops with his team. He is the creator and owner of the first Polish digital fashion house Nueno Digital Fashion (www.nueno.fashion). He has won many industry awards, including Innovation, KTR, EFFIE, Mobile Trends Awards, Mixx Awards, AWWWARDS. He was a member of the Innovation by SAR competition jury.
The article appeared in issue 1/2023 of Sprawny Marketing magazine.