8 Key Takeaways from the 2016 Digital Summit

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The 4th annual Digital Summit, sponsored by Laughlin Constable and the Diederich College of Communication at Marquette University, took place on Thursday, February 25, 2016. The daylong conference brought marketers and college students together to learn and discuss the newest trends in the digital landscape. Speakers from companies across the country provided key insights into how digital is the ultimate game changer in the marketing landscape.

Here are our main takeaways from the 2016 Digital Summit.

1. Technology has enhanced the perpetual importance of storytelling.

A compelling story that captures an audience’s attention has the power to make consumers listen to your brand. The many ways we tell stories have evolved immensely over time, thanks to innovative technology that has changed how consumers search for and digest stories.

Dan Williams, Midwest Sales Director at Spotify, expressed this concept with the emergence of the Streaming Revolution. Millennials are “soundtracking” their lives and curating playlists for specific moments or activities. For example, there are over 40,000 active “Shower” playlists on Spotify, averaging over 550,000 streams per day. Brands that strategically tap into these precise moments and weave their story with the consumer’s story will be reap the benefits of user loyalty and advocacy.

Laura Markewicz, VP of Digital Strategy at Laughlin Constable, touched on major technological advances, both historical and recent, that have changed the way stories are communicated. However, while technology changes, the power of a good story does not. As marketers, we must never stop using new technology to continue to tell stories and create experiences people love.

2. Meet your customers where they are searching.

Today’s rapidly evolving technology has introduced new media for consumers to search for anything at any given moment.

Joe Veverka, Search Insights Manager and Melissa O’Brien, Account Executive from Microsoft stressed why marketers should begin to consider the significant impact that mobile personal assistants such as Microsoft’s Cortana, Google Now and Apple’s Siri are making on paid search and digital advertising. Veverka and O’Brien emphasized that marketers should be adapting their pay-per-click (PPC) campaigns for voice search by using question words in certain keywords, such as “how,” “why” and “what.”

Veverka and O’Brien also explained that by 2018, Cortana is predicted to be the primary personal assistant for one billion Windows 10 powered devices. As mobile personal assistants continue to change the way consumers search through mobile devices, marketers must continue to adapt their paid and organic search strategies to optimize the reach and relevance of their content through this new search medium.

3. Stay authentic.

Now more than ever, it is crucial for brands to evolve with the quickly changing digital landscape, but stay true to their roots at the same time. Whether brands stay faithful to their heritage, are transparent at every consumer touchpoint or give back to the community, being authentic is the key to earning respect among brands’ target audiences.

Brad Heidemann, CEO of Tahzoo, defined the Experience Economy, where people value brands based on the experiences they have during their interactions with them, as the new market in which brands must compete to provide the most valued experience.

Patrick O’Brien, CEO of Paris Presents Incorporated, expressed the same idea with the Real Techniques brand partnership with Sam and Nic Chapman, two makeup artists and sisters from the United Kingdom, selected by Paris Presents Incorporated for their genuine interest in educating women on makeup tips. In their makeup tutorial videos, the Chapman sisters often use other makeup brush brands, allowing them to keep their audience’s trust and provide an authentic online experience with honest reviews, thereby growing their popularity and credibility as experts.

4. Dare to be different.

How can brands truly differentiate themselves and cut through the noise in their industries?

Laura Markewicz challenged her audience to pay close attention to what the competition was doing and find ways to do the opposite. For example, when other airlines charged their passengers more for tickets, luggage and assigned seats, Southwest Airlines took an entirely opposite approach. They chose to focus their whole brand around the customer experience. Southwest passengers have the liberty to choose wherever they would like on the plane and check their bags for free. As a result, brands like Southwest Airlines found competitive advantage through an entirely different approach than its competition.

When marketers choose to stop making minuscule changes, and instead strategically shift their approach to differentiate from the rest of the industry, the reward is often worth the risk.

5. Plan for your brand’s future.

As the digital universe grows, the potential disruptions in the future will have major implications for marketers. Instead of avoiding these major innovations, marketers must adjust and react to keep their brand competitive.

As Mark Carlson, EVP of Strategic Planning at Laughlin Constable stated, “If you hate change, you’re really going to hate irrelevance.” As technology evolves, marketers cannot afford to wait for the next big change, because if they do, they’ll fall behind.

With the example of Facebook’s new “reaction” buttons allowing for different expressions online (e.g., love, haha, yay, wow, sad, angry), Carlson discussed how marketers will have to continuously monitor how Facebook’s new reaction buttons will evolve what these human, everyday emotions mean in a social media context. In short, the brands that analyze, predict and adjust to changing digital consumer behaviors will triumph.

6. Experience is the most valuable currency.

Customer experience (CX), as defined by Augie Ray, Director of Research at Gartner, is more than just customer service. It’s about providing value beyond your product or service, and ultimately making your consumer feel better, safer and more powerful.

An example of a brand with superior customer experience is the ride-sharing company Uber. From its founding, the renowned and beloved brand found a way to disrupt the transportation industry by providing a ride to the user’s location when he or she wants it, making both riders and drivers feel secure and empowered with ratings and reviews accessible to both parties. This innovative concept disrupted a stagnant taxicab industry that was in dire need of innovation.

Overall, marketers must place value in each interaction a consumer has with their brand, and work to make every experience one to remember.

7. Connect with your customers in the moments that matter.

Google’s La’Naeschia O’Rear, Matt Eschert and Marisa D’Amelio discussed how mobile is now a behavior, not just a technology. On average, people check their phone 150 times, or 177 minutes, a day. These instances of needs-based mobile moments are opportunities for marketers to capture mobile users at their moment of need or want.

An example of this is how YouTube has become a hub for influencers to reach consumers with useful, interesting content that provides value and answers their needs-based moments, in the moment, from any device. Brands like Lowes leverage YouTube to empower DIY enthusiasts to complete home renovation projects on their own.

Marketers must identify these micro-moments where consumers are looking for support during their needs-based moments, and support them with the content they need.

8. Think like a human, not like a marketer.

Marketers have a tendency to focus on selling products and gaining profit instead of delighting their customers.

Erin Ulicki, VP of Sales at Okanjo, provided key tips for reaching consumers through native commerce, or serving up shoppable ads that correspond with the content of the article or webpage. Putting themselves in the customers’ shoes can give marketers insight into how delivering the right message at the right time in the right place is crucial to delivering a superior customer experience.

Laura Markewicz proved this point further by rewinding back to the first banner ad ever, created by AT&T, which had a 44% click-through rate. Over the past two decades, marketers have ruined digital banner advertising through oversaturation, with today’s benchmark CTR at only .07%.

Despite evolving technologies and online consumer behaviors, marketers must be the customer champion by always keeping their consumers’ best interests at the forefront of every marketing effort.

Think Small to Win Big

I’m fairly certain Pete Townshend wasn’t referring to smartphones and tablets when he wrote “Going Mobile” more than 40 years ago, but the dude was right.

Mobile technologies and capabilities have undoubtedly made leaps and bounds over the past few years. Remember how savvy you thought you looked with your BlackBerry (no offense to those who still chat via BBM)? While your Curve 3500 is collecting dust in a shoebox, your iPhone 6 is getting more play than Angry Birds. So, what’s in store for the reigning champions of digital marketing and advertising?

Mobile is no longer a “nice-to-have” in the marketing mix. As it continues to expand its role as a connection and convergence device, mobile should be at the core of brands’ digital ecosystems. However, traditional media like print, TV, and radio still attract the lion’s share of advertising budgets across industries. To put it simply, dollars spent on mobile marketing don’t add up to the time we religiously spend on our devices.

Companies need to shift gears–but not go full throttle into one direction. Mobile marketing cannot be treated like desktop marketing—or any other channel, for that matter. Mobile is more than a medium. It’s an extension of the owner; a vital personal accessory; the one you inevitably say “good night” and “good morning” to; the one who wakes you up in the middle of the night because it needs your undivided attention; the one who isn’t creeped out if you ask for directions or advice. Admit it: You are madly in love with your phone. (Fact: 75% of Americans admit to bringing their phone to the bathroom.)

Consumers who search on mobile devices are more likely to take action. eMarketer conducted a study in May 2014 and found that 50% of consumers who conducted local searches via smartphone visited the store within a day, whereas only 34% of desktop and tablet searchers combined took the trip. Additionally, 18% of local queries on smartphones ultimately led to a purchase. As consumers, our increased emotional dependency on our mobile devices is raising the bar high for brands, and it will continue to heighten as we become more reliant on products and services information that is literally at our fingertips. We frequently switch between our devices throughout the day—desktop at work, mobile on-the-go, tablet everywhere between—to search, shop, communicate, read, and accomplish tasks. We not only want, but also expect, brands to keep up with our wavering demands and quickly provide the information we need whenever and wherever we need it. With this, brands should not focus solely on mobile devices. Instead, they need to create appropriate messaging that suits their consumers’ ever-changing multi-device behavior.

Here’s the magic spell to mobilizing mobile: Marketers must tightly weave mobile into their foundational brand and digital strategies as well as pay close attention to how, when, where, and why consumers are on their gadgets in order to serve them the information they need at all the right moments. Thanks to mobile, we are able to deliver content and advertising experiences that are truly in the interest of the consumer more quickly and conveniently than ever.

Although mobile is the new cool kid on the block, marketers should not zoom out completely on its predecessors. They’re still one big happy digital family.

Strategy. Discuss.

I was assigned to a project with people I had never worked with before. We met around a conference table, made some introductions, and began assigning responsibilities. Nothing was out of the ordinary except I started noticing that nearly everyone’s role, no matter the person’s official title, included “strategy.” And it meant something different for each person.  By the end of the meeting, I had heard so many uses of “strategy” that I no longer understood its meaning.

I’ve since had time and space to recognize the thread that everyone’s “strategy” shared. It was the process of taking disparate information and condensing it into a goal. Within this definition, “strategy” adds depth and intelligence to a project, no matter its industry.  A strategic HR Professional uses “strategy”  to understand an existing team’s personalities and recruit employees with skills that will bring the team’s capabilities to the next level. A strategic mother understands the values she wants to instill in her child and plans a life around them to ensure it.

“Strategy,” according to the Merriam-Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary is “a careful plan or method for achieving a particular goal usually over a long period of time.” It is a necessary preparation for success and thus tempting to overuse it. Unfortunately the word loses meaning when overextended, and its value diminishes.

A solution is to strive to define one’s “strategy.”  I challenge myself and others to take a break from the term. Next time I catch myself using the word, I’m going to define it and help others and myself understand the work I do.

A Pitch with a Hitch?

A couple of months ago I wrote about two religions that use marketing (here and here) and I used the de facto terminology for describing religions’ marketing strategies,  “retention” and “recruitment.”  These words reveal an assumption we make when religions use marketing. They are either convincing members to remain connected to and active within their religious communities (retention) or influencing unaffiliated people to join (recruitment).

And we don’t use “retention” and “recruitment” to describe non-religion brands’ marketing efforts.  Traditional brands (1) create ads for “awareness” and “acquisition” goals (2). They inform a person of a product’s existence (awareness) or compel him or her to purchase it (acquisition). From a widely recognized beverage brand like Coca-Cola to an unknown tech startup to a nonprofit with an average level of recognition, these terms are used almost universally. Religion is the exception.

The different words we use reflect a view that religion is authoritarian. Both “retention” and “recruitment” describe a relationship with a clear power dynamic where the religion marketer exerts power over members and non-members to “retain” or “recruit” them. In contrast, the customer is the beneficiary in a non-religion marketing relationship. The customer gains knowledge through “awareness” or product through “acquisition.” Our speech attributes more unscrupulousness to religions than giant corporations with marketing budgets in the billions, even though many reliable surveys reveal that Americans trust clergy more than advertising and marketing professionals (3).  Perhaps the inconsistency between how we talk and what we think is the result of a strategic campaign the industry ran to improve a profit-driven image, whereas the language for religion remains honest and true to marketing’s goals. As a marketing professional, it sounds like the job for a good PR team.

 

 

(1) For lack of a better term, I use “traditional” to describe a brand that is not a religion. Feel free to reach out to me with a better term.

(2) From my research and conversations, albeit limited, I have found the retention/recruitment and awareness/acquisition divide to be somewhat consistently applied in the product and religious marketing spheres.

(3) See, for instance, these Gallup and GFK survey results.

Insight Summit Series: Digital Advertising

We’re excited to bring you the sold-out Insight Summit Series on Digital Advertising on March 20, 2013. We teamed up with Marquette University for the first time to host this one-day conference to a crowd of five hundred digital professionals and students.

The summit will feature thirty of digital advertising’s greatest including Marquette alum and industry experts from renowned companies and organizations throughout the Midwest.

Unable to attend? Follow along below.

http://storify.com/AbiNaumann/stay-connected-insight-summit-series-digital-adver

 

Advertising is the greatest industry. Ever.

When people ask me what I do for a living, I can’t tell you how proud I am to say, “I work in advertising.” The outside perception is that all of the people in advertising are fun, creative and outgoing, work in loft-style offices and wear jeans and sneakers. Well, they’re right. We do. However, beyond the stereotype we carry, there is so much more to it than that. You know it, and I know it. We are an interesting mix of people in all areas of expertise, under one roof.

Every day I walk by the strategists and planners who can define everything and anything, down to why you chose to wear Converse on Tuesday.

Every day I talk with the art directors and designers, who translate messages, concepts and ideas into images, pictures and art. Most of them know Lorem Ipsum by heart.

Every day I see the media team who speak a second language of acronyms: CRM, SEM, DMA, CPM, GRP and CTR. OMG.

Every day I run into the producers, who miraculously manage to secure locations, wrangle talent, make sure there is beef jerky at craft service and of course, control the weather, because they, together, are God.

Every day I work with account service teams who are truly the hub of all communication in the agency. Putting client needs first, they usually forget to eat lunch. And sleep. Wait, they don’t sleep.

Every day I see the PR folks who know way more about AP style than Microsoft Office.

Every day I walk by the studio production artists who are always ready to lend a hand with a smile, even though it’s the client’s 26th revision.

Every day I pass programmers who design code, write new code, understand existing code, modify existing code and verify that existing code still works. All under the influence of Mountain Dew.

Every day I work with magical retouchers who can transform a Pontiac into a unicorn—because they can.

Every day I see the highly caffeinated social media crew, who run around with laptops in hand all day, thinking 20 tweets ahead of you.

Every day I work with the ladies of accounting who help organize the potlucks and tirelessly remind us about our timesheets, while proudly sporting Packers sweatshirts.

And, every day I see my favorite, the writers. They get people to act using only words. They come from all walks of life and always find a way to make me laugh. Hell, I like them so much I married one.

Like I said, the outside world thinks we’re fun and creative. In fact, according to a recent study (to be unveiled next week) in Ad Age, 69% of consumers do think that advertising has the power to make our world a better place. Some said that it would be a fun job to have. They are correct (again). We do have fun.

So there you have it. We are surrounded by the most amazing group of people on the planet and the fact that I realize that makes me feel pretty good. How do we ever get bored in this business? The answer is, we don’t. We wear jeans, we swear and we’re paid for our unique thoughts, squeezed fresh from our brains. We’re in advertising, and it is good.

Like Ripples in a Pond: Driving Brands with “Why”

 

 

The Golden Circle. It’s how author Simon Sinek visualizes a person’s decision making process. The “why,” representing a higher cause, directs the outer circles. The “how” ring, or value proposition, and the “what” ring, the process that realizes the “how,” are intuitively guided by the Circle’s core, the “why.”

Successful businesses and leaders, Sinek says, follow this pattern. They start by giving people a reason to believe in them before offering practical details.  As a brand, Apple started with a purpose: to challenge the status quo. This “why” drove the design and innovative technology found in all Apple products — the “what” and “how.” In turn, people believe in the company’s cause and allow their actions to follow. They overlook Apple’s executional blunders (ex: the antenna on the iPhone 4 and Maps in iOS6) and continue to believe in its cause and show religious-like devotion. The pattern can even be seen in historical events. As a civil rights leader, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. gained prominence for his beliefs and convictions, not the specific plans he laid out for achieving civil rights. Dr. King’s “I Have a Dream” speech (not “I Have a Plan,” as Sinek jokes) attracted over two hundred thousand supporters who believed in his purpose and allowed it to guide them to DC. His legacy lives on well after the passing of Civil Rights Act just as Apple’s will even after their market share wanes. Sinek concludes, “People don’t buy what you do, they buy why you do.”  Communicating from the inside out drives behavior and creates long lasting relationships.

Recent studies in psychology and biology reveal the distinction between meaning, the “why,” and happiness, the outer two rings. Achieving meaning is allowing the “why” to drive the “how” and “what” and often necessitates a person to sacrifice along the way.  On the other hand, happiness is an emotion for the present. It is achieved by fulfilling fleeting needs and desires and then it fades as a person’s needs change, much like how a business’ “what” and “how” must evolve as the culture and technology around it change. The pursuit of meaning, researchers find, often counteracts “happiness” but ultimately leads to increases in overall well-being, life-satisfaction, and self-esteem.

We as marketers often speak about creating long-lasting and meaningful relationships with our customers. Advances in our understanding of the human mind point to the necessity of a brand or company standing for something people can relate to, believe in, and trust. This purpose, the “why,” should be the starting point for a brand. The details will follow.

 Sources:

  1. http://www.theatlantic.com/health/archive/2013/01/theres-more-to-life-than-being-happy/266805/
  2. http://www.ted.com/talks/simon_sinek_how_great_leaders_inspire_action.html

In Our Hearts

Some of you may know or remember Jim and Tracy Xavier. While working Christian Louboutin uk at Laughlin Constable, they met and fell in love. Now married with two lovely daughters, they continue to grow within their Christian ministry. After spending many years serving the Lord within the United States, they recently relocated their family to Japan Christian Louboutin outlet to continue their work.

As you can imagine, the recent quake and tsunami shook their discount golf equipment world. They report that they are safe, but heart-broken for the loss that is felt all across Japan. Their work in Munakata-shi, Fukuoka continues although “the event stirred Japan to its core. Recovery will continue for years to come.”

They covet your prayers for their family and the people of Japan.discount golf clubs

Satisfaction May Be Satisfying. But Excitement? That’s Exciting.

I had the pleasure of being in a meeting this week with two co-workers who had recently bought the iPhone 4 and were using the time before the meeting started to get some questions answered. The looks on their faces as they discovered new features was priceless. Big smiles – bordering on giggling.

We’ve all seen this iPhenomena in action. And there are many real world – non Apple – examples, from Netflix streaming to OnStar. Excitement is going mainstream. McKinsey & Company released a report last month titled Wow! Exciting Customers, Creating Value. It’s central premise: Satisfaction may retain customers, but it doesn’t attract them.

If your brand is looking to grow, you need to stop thinking in terms of good and start thinking in terms of great.

Technology is a double-edged sword. The same force that is making it easier for competitors and categories to settle into a pattern of symbiotic parity is also making it easier for that environment to be recognized as such. In many ways, technology facilitates more ennui than energy. And that should be a wake-up call for brands.

While we can all agree that a brand is a valuable asset, The Trouble With Brands reports that most consumer brands are not creating value. And a brand is a terrible thing to waste.

The brands that do create value? They have energy – defined as vision, invention and dynamism. That dynamism “creates excitement in the marketplace.” And, according to the authors of the study, it’s the most immediately visible of the three components. Excitement wins again. Three important reminders about this increasingly important brand equity:

  • Exciting is not extreme satisfaction. Satisfaction is a hybrid of rational and emotional factors. It is a need. Excitement is emotional. It’s a motivation. Don’t try to satisfy your way to excitement.
  • Excitement gets people to talk. Another McKinsey gem: Word-of-mouth is the primary factor behind 20 to 50 percent of all purchasing decisions. So surprise, fascinate and delight. If you’re about to invest in something that won’t incite sharing, it’s time to at least press pause to consider if that investment can be better spent.
  • Excitement does not have to be dramatic. It can live in the little things. Intuitive functionality. Elegant solutions. A cookie on your milkshake’s straw.

The trick for brand managers? Make the journey to Wow! shorter. Because in this case, it’s the destination that matters.

Interested in more stuff I find interesting? Follow me @casey_flanagan on Twitter.

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