Digital marketers gathered in New York last week for the first Digital Leaders Forum, hosted by ClickZ in partnership with AVADO.
This new series of networking events is intended to create connections between digital marketers, but also to cut through some of the noise of the busy technological landscape, to provide actionable business insights for marketing professionals.
With plenty of opportunities for networking and talks on cutting-edge topics from industry leaders, there was much for marketers to take away from the event.
Below are some of the key talking points from the inaugural forum that focused on ‘what to do about digital disruption’.
Technology has always been disruptive, but the pace of change is quickening
As Nick New, MD North America at AVADO pointed out, there are echoes of the current technological disruption in the mass adoption of the steam train and the television. What sets the digital era apart is just how rapidly everything can change. The stage is set:we are on the cusp of even more flux with the launch of a slew of artificial intelligence and augmented reality products.
This should not be cause for consternation, however. There are underlying threads within this progress that point to the best way to take advantage of these new opportunities.
In fact, the smartest marketers use their skills to borrow moments from these trends, as seen at the height of Pokemon Go’s popularity when retailers used the game to drive footfall to stores.
Brands need to ensure they are equipped to capitalize on these moments. That requires the right technology, but also the right organizational structure, leadership and skills. The digital revolution has permeated every aspect of how we live and how we communicate, to the extent that ‘marketing’ and ‘digital’ can no longer be separated in any meaningful way.
In 2017, digital is everyone’s job, as Nick New highlighted. As a result of this new requirement, AVADO have seen a 64-fold increase in the amount brands are spending on digital skills training from 2014 to 2017.
Technology and organizations are asymmetrical in their development. Technology changes exponentially, with consumers habits are keeping pace. Organizations, however, tend to change logarithmically, meaning they often fail to keep pace. Nonetheless, there is a real impetus now for marketing teams to close this gap.
Data has leveled the playing field
‘Big data’ has been a hot topic for some years now in most industries, but we are still only scraping the surface with what we can achieve through so much freely available information.
As brands are becoming aware of just how much data is at their disposal, both through their interactions with consumers and through open databases, they are beginning to unlocking new forms of advertising that until recently would have been unthinkable.
Nick New shared case studies of this in action, from both large and small companies. British Airways’ Cannes Lion-winning campaign from 2014, for example, used data relating to the airline’s inbound flights to Heathrow to feed an innovative, endearing billboard in central London:
This level of creativity is not the sole reserve of global brands with huge resources, however. An example was also shared from an archetypal challenger brand, the Red Roof Inn hotel chain.
Without the budget to compete with larger hotel chains in a straight AdWords bidding auction, Red Roof Inn used flight cancellation updates from nearby airports and GPS-based traffic data to pinpoint the moments when they should bid to win on specific search queries.
All of this data is freely available for companies to use. As such, the key differentiator isn’t budget; it is in the willingness to explore new sources of information and the ability to turn this data into business insights.
This can be shaped by the creation of a shared language at every level of the business, with data at the core of all marketing activities. With clear responsibilities for the extraction, cleaning, manipulation, and analysis of data, any business can gain a competitive advantage if they are willing to experiment.
New technology can meet existing business goals
Gabe Garner, SVP Business Planning at Firstborn, demonstrated the potential to create products with a lasting business impact in a constantly shifting environment. Firstborn have developed a range of innovative VR/AR campaigns to help clients like Mountain Dew and Patron Tequila deliver their brand message.
These were available for attendees to trial on the night and the potential for getting across a more visceral message was self-evident. The Mountain Dew snowboarding campaign was a particular highlight, but it was also interesting to note how differently different brands use the same technology. Patron took a different route, using VR to tell a story and demonstrate the authenticity of their brand and its Mexican origins.
These investments can seem like a risk to many businesses, primarily because the technology is still relatively unproven. It is a bit facile to suggest that companies should take the plunge and trust their instincts, especially when so many digital marketing alternatives can provide an almost guaranteed, positive ROI. That caution is understandable, but it can be a barrier to innovation.
Gabe suggested a helpful framework for overcoming these concerns. By beginning with the business problem a brand is trying to solve, then taking into account all the options that are available (both tested and untested), it becomes clear which are viable for this particular purpose.
If a business is keen to see single-digit sales growth in the next quarter to hit their financial targets, building a VR snowboarding experience may not be the best way to go. However, as in the example from Patron Tequila, creating a VR experience to improve perception of the brand’s quality standards feels like a more logical link. As a long-term investment, this has been more than worthwhile and is still used to showcase Patron’s product over two years after the initial campaign launch.
The release of Apple’s ARKit on iOS11 will democratize this industry further by lowering the barriers to entry for developers worldwide. Nonetheless, the message remains: consider how AR can help achieve your business goals before getting started. There are brands for whom this seems an easy fit (IKEA have been early adopters, for example), but AR can be just as powerful as a branding tool if used correctly.
Takeaways for marketers
- No matter how quickly things change, the most agile marketing teams can borrow moments from new and growing platforms to reach audiences and get your message across. Technology helps people communicate better and faster; marketers have to keep pace if they are to make the most of this.
- Brands need to develop a shared language in this new landscape to keep everyone aligned on how to use data and technology. This applies to every level of the business, from the boardroom down.
- The barriers to entry for innovative campaigns are lowering and, in some cases, disappearing altogether. Marketing teams are investing heavily in education to ensure they are well placed to profit in this new reality.
- New technology can help deliver on age-old business challenges. The key is to keep a focus on what those challenges are, to avoid getting caught up in the hype. Futuristic technologies like augmented reality can help brands communicate simple messages in a highly effective way.
For more information on joining our next ClickZ Digital Leaders Forum please visit our website here.
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