Read our new manifesto

Visa’s Nick Jones warns brands not to let integration come at expense of digital innovation

Visa’s director of digital communications and corporate responsibility Nick Jones has warned bands and agencies not to let integration interfere with digital innovation, or they will risk digital “mundaneness”.

Speaking to The Drum Jones, who is also a judge at The Drum’s forthcoming marketing awards, said his biggest fear is that in the stampede for agencies and businesses to integrate digital into their offerings, they will create “digital donuts”, leaving nothing “truly” digitally innovative in the middle.

“There is a risk around that [integration] – that we create what I call a digital donut which has nothing truly digitally innovative in the middle, it’s just a ring of ingredients from other disciplines that are baked together. In which case we should all just go home,” he said.

Content marketing will remain a huge trend throughout 2015, with Visa also planning to step up its focus here, particularly with regards to video. However, marketers must resist the temptation to fall back on previous successes to shape their future direction, and need to keep experimenting, according to Jones.

“We must always be on our guard against sitting back and just doing what we did last time,” he added. To do so he cited the BBC show The Great British Bake Off as an example of what marketers should aspire to.

“Great bakers can still confect wonders. Mixing ingredients together doesn’t have to be mechanical - you can actually bake and inspire, and it’s the same for integration, which can be mechanical if not checked, and can render digital “mundane” rather than “transformational”.

It is this kind of creativity which he will seek in the The Drum Marketing Awards entrants, adding “it will be those who have managed to take perhaps a mundane brief of ingredients, and created a great piece of digital confectionary”.

Content marketing itself is beginning to mature in the sense there is a more “healthy” diversity of format, according to Jones. Last Christmas Visa began pushing video content that was more thematic rather than product orientated, which Jones described has the brand’s “first step” towards creating quality video content.

One of these seasonal b2b videos focused on thanking people who worked over Christmas – everyone from midwives to street cleaners, and picked up more than 45,000 views. Now it has established a content calendar to signpost those “accent moments” in which it can produce video that is engaging and interesting, and can have a longer shelf life.

“It’s less about being less reactionary content marketing and more about thoughtful, strategic content that can work for a longer amount of time,” he added.

However, he urged brands not to fall into the trap of jumping on every new online innovation that arises. “The classic problem with any innovation online is that the novel and effective [approach] can quickly become the mundane and ineffective because everyone simply jumps on the band wagon. So pause and think. Ask yourselves where is it going and is it worth it? As ever, self-reflection is important,” he warned.

This is also relevant for social media content, which plays a dominant role in any form of content and real-time marketing. Jones, who was previously director of digital communications at Number 10 Downing Street, advised brands heading up social media and by extension, crisis communications, to take a “common sense approach” and plan as much as possible.

“One of the great lessons I learned when working at Number 10 was knowing when not to tweet as well as when to tweet.

“Prepare and draft your approaches, content, gain the possible responses to it and role play the scenarios but be prepared to throw away more than half of it before it happens, as it will still happen in a way that is unexpected.”

The Drum 2015 Marketing Awards, sponsored by Havas and Hiscox, are open for entries until 13 February. Meanwhile, nominations are being accepted for The Drum's Brandarati, which will aim to find the UK's top brand marketers.

Join us, it's free.

Become a member to get access to:

  • Exclusive Content
  • Daily and specialised newsletters
  • Research and analysis