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.

Social Media | Governor’s Small Business Summit

I was recently asked by long-time client, Travel Wisconsin to put together a breakout session on social media for the 2014 Governor’s Small Business Summit. A social media breakout session is always a tall order because inevitably you have an audience that spans novice to expert. Unknowingly, I found myself approaching the deck through Aristotle’s three methods of persuasion: ethos, pathos and logos. (Tangential history lesson: Some 2,400 years after Aristotle’s death, these principles are still the backbone of oral and written communication.) Plainly defined:

  • Ethos: An appeal to the authority or credibility of the presenter
  • Pathos: An appeal to the audience’s emotions
  • Logos: An appeal to the audience’s logic

Every summer from age 16 into my college years I worked at my father’s lawn and landscape company answering phones and processing. I was able to see the inner workings of a small business and relied on this anecdote to establish credibility alongside my 6+ years of experience working in social media for Laughlin Constable.

I kicked things off with a simple premise: Customers are far from rational. Most people lack the motivation, time, or information to make a purchase decision based on function alone, so they rely on other factors, factors they might not even be consciously aware of: emotions. For example someone might feel safe in a Volvo, energetic while drinking a Coke or excited in a BMW. At the end of the day people are emotional creatures and therein lies the benefit of social media: a relationship building tool.

Let me tell you, humans as irrational creatures wasn’t a tough sell on a crowd of small business owners, but to appeal to logic I shared a few compelling stats laddering into the question of “Why Social Media?”

  • 53% of consumers report that they will purchase a brand’s product or services after following them on Facebook
  • 47% of consumers are more likely to visit a brand’s website and 35% are more likely to buy from a brand after following them on Twitter
  • 21% of Pinterest users have purchased something they found on the site

With the stage set I took the audience though Laughlin’s 3-step approach to social media strategy: plan, build and engage. We talked content creation, channel management, reporting, social advertising and beyond. At the end of the day I was reminded of the need for agencies to ruthlessly simplify. Put it into laymen’s terms. Provide a visual. Read the room and rely on your principles of persuasion.

LC_SocialMediaProcess_Overview

Sources: Twitter, The Next Web, Gallup

Riding the slipstream

It’s Monday morning after the Super Bowl. Your feet drag as you walk into the office. You stop by your desk to put your bag down and then charge towards the coffee machine. You pour your first cup of the day. The guy who is always wearing a short sleeve button-down shirt regardless of the weather approaches you and starts chatting about his favorite ad from the game. You take your first sip and before you go for a second, you look up and spot a small group of people heading towards the coffee machine that is not even two feet behind you. They pour their coffee and join the conversation.  Two minutes of commercial-mentioning pass:

GUY WITH BUTTON DOWN (GWBD): How much did that spot cost to air again?

WOMAN FROM CUBICLE NEXT TO YOU: The average price for thirty seconds of Super Bowl air time is 3.8 million.*

GWBD: That’s just for the airtime. Don’t forget about the added costs of actually creating the commercial.

Conversation ensues for another minute until GWBD mentions his workload and everyone returns to his or her desk.

 

The nearly four million-dollar price tag is the highest amount the networks have ever set. Many marketers, such as the creators of Go Daddy’s commercial, point to the volume of conversation their ads created on social media to justify the multi-million dollar price tag. But does a brand need upwards of $3.8 million to take advantage of Super Bowl hype?  Not necessarily. This year, two brands got people talking without a huge price tag:

Oreo Takes the Cake 

Oreo cookie has been declared the winner of the Super Bowl’s blackout, beating other brands that used the power outage as a marketing opportunity. Within minutes of the power failure, @Oreo tweeted a photo of an Oreo cookie in a lit corner against a black background. White text under the cookie read: “You can still dunk in the dark.” The satirical, simple, and relevant message resonated with frustrated viewers, most of whom used the interruption to check their Twitter feed and revisit the snack menu. At the time of writing, the Tweet had more than 16,000 retweets and more than 13,000 related news articles. The photo’s production cost was minimal and the media buy was nothing.

Even with the considerable cost associated with setting up a war room for senior management and the client, this social media execution still cost significantly less than a Super Bowl commercial would. And it got people talking.

The Commercial You Didn’t See

Old Milwaukee Beer’s Super Bowl antics are not novel to 2013. For the past couple of years, Will Ferrel has been writing and starring in “crazy fun commercials” for the beer. He spends very little on production and shoots all of the commercials in small towns like Terre Haute, Indiana. The beer company airs the commercial during the Super Bowl in small markets like North Platte, Nebraska, spending very little on media. They then post the video online and allow the powers of the internet to take over.  The beer company’s adept manipulation of the Super Bowl hype brings awareness to the brand at a low cost. And, despite its affiliation with the hyper-commercialized Super Bowl, they successfully maintain their branding as an underground beer. At time of writing, the 2013 Super Bowl ad had more than 3 million YouTube views and nearly 7,000 related new articles.

 

A huge budget is not a requisite for owning a piece of the Super Bowl conversation. True, some of the bigger spenders own a larger chunk of the conversation, but that’s okay. Perhaps ideal. For a brand like Old Milwaukee, a multi-million dollar commercial isn’t appropriate for the image they are working towards. Their method fits with the brand and thus provides a high value at a low cost. Plus, we benefit from brands like Old Milwaukee Beer and Oreo by seeing how creativity, ingenuity, and wit can take a brand places that no money could ever buy.

 

*Note: While quotes are direct, characters are fictionalized

 

 

Steps Two and Three: Identify and Remove Barriers

Next Tuesday offers our yearly opportunity for a collective fresh start. A new beginning. A clean slate. I trust you may have a few resolutions already in mind. But even if you know where you want to go, getting starting can be hard. Which is why we recommend a very simple first step: just start. But where to from there?

Last September’s Harvard Business Review offers clear-headed, straightforward advice. The issue was organized around the concept of “The (Surprisingly) Simple Rules Of Strategy.” Two different articles shared an important theme. Here are excerpts from the executive summaries of each:

Bringing Science To The Art of Strategy
…The authors outline a strategy-making process that combines rigor and creativity. A team begins by formulating options, or possibilities, and asks what must be true for each to succeed. Once it has listed all the conditions, it assesses their likelihood and thereby identifies the barriers to each choice. The team then tests the key barrier conditions to see which hold true. From here, choosing a strategy is simple: The group need only review the test results and choose the possibility with the fewest serious barriers…

Simple Rules For A Complex World
…This article describes the authors’ subsequent research into why simple rules work and how firms develop them. Typically, after setting its priorities, a company will identify a bottleneck preventing it from making progress toward them and then create rules for managing that bottleneck…

If you want to reach your goal, identify the issues that may keep you from success. Then manage against them. New year? Clear paths. It’s a (surprisingly) simple – and often overlooked – approach that can greatly improve your chances of turning your resolutions into your case studies.

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

The Origin Of Creative Executions

 

The creative execution is an evolution of a concept.
The concept is an evolution of an idea.
The idea is an evolution of the brief.
The brief is an evolution of the strategy.

A single brief can give birth to a number of interesting ideas. Ultimately, the fittest concepts survive. Some characteristics of the original strategy carry through. Others morph. Many disappear.

And it’s why strategy matters. That kind of growth – those myriad of possibilities – must be built on a strong foundation. With the proper conditions, truly incredible things can come to be.

Those incredible things are why I don’t mind being the ape.

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