There’s a widely held belief in the marketing world that what you knew two years ago is no longer true today.
I beg to differ.
I believe that marketing, at it’s core, is about one thing and one thing only: communicating your value proposition to the right person in the right way. Strategies, tactics, and tools may change, but there exists an underlying understanding, an underlying knowledge-base, that makes for better marketing, regardless of the age we are in.
These are the kinds of learnings I took away from the Brand Innovators conference in San Francisco, which brought together the brightest minds from brand marketing. Here are my three major learnings.
1. Authenticity: the end all be all of marketing
Trust is at the core of every transaction. If you didn’t trust that saleswoman you just bought a million dollars worth of impressions from, would you have signed that deal? Heck no. As Ted Rubin, acting CMO of Brand Innovators, says, Return on Relationship, #RonR, is the key to success.
But let’s face it, brands haven’t always been the best at cultivating consumer trust. This needs to change – fast. In the digital age, people have more options than ever before, making it harder to compete for their attention.
Most importantly, people want to be treated like people, not like consumers. They don’t want your product to interrupt their Game Of Thrones episode. They want to see content that is informative, entertaining, and authentic. Content that makes them dream.
This is exactly what AnnMarie Baba from Adobe accomplished with her Make it with Creative Cloud campaign. The campaign inspired thousands of young creatives to use the Adobe Creative Cloud to create personal masterpieces and publish them on social media. Her learnings? “If you want to market to millennials, don’t advertise – be authentic”.
Another inspiring campaign was Skype’s Moment Makers program, which captures and shares the stories of Skype users transcending physical boundaries to communicate with their loved ones through Skype.
2. Empowering the storytellers
Perhaps my favorite nugget of wisdom came from Mary O’Connell, one of Adage’s women to watch. She lamented that “brands have an instinct of turning content into advertisements” and recommends that brands “stay authentic to their story and trust their storytellers to represent their ideals.”
Influencer marketing – the practice of partnering with social media personalities to share your brand message – is taking the ad world by storm, and Mary and her team are positioning themselves as leaders in the space. Her creative director, Amanda Mahan, explained that “creating content in collaboration with influencers is just as important to us as creating content ourselves”.
But how do you leverage influencers effectively?
Hamilton Brown, Sr. Director of Marketing at Taco Bell, explained how millennials love promoting their personal brand. To excite and engage them, brands need to find ways to allow their storytellers to reappropriate their brand message and add their own twist to it.
Justin Manfredi, Sr. Director of Digital Marketing at Activision, shed light on the different types of influencers with his “tiered influencer strategy”, which includes celebrities, content creators, and advocates. According to Jon Budd from Hyundai, the greatest ROI is found by partnering with the Internet’s up-and-comers rather than traditional celebrities. Not only do you get a better bang for your buck due to supply and demand, but also these influencers come across as more authentic and are easier to work with.
That being said, influencer marketing is not without its own difficulties. Noel Lee, CEO of Monster, the original designers and manufacturers of Beats By Dre, asked “how can you tell what personality can sell what products?” Although Monster struck gold with their headphone partnership with Meek Mills, other celebrity-backed products, like Ludacris’ Soul headphones are not doing so well.
“P. Diddy can sell Shiraz, but can he sell headphones?” That is the billion dollar question.
3. Curiosity and the need for accelerated change
The last 10 years have been nothing short of crazy for the advertising world. Social media has gone from being something you assigned to your intern to a $8 Billion market in the US alone, and advertising spend on digital is set to overtake TV by 2016.
The consequences of the Internet are felt across functions and industries. In the words of Marc Andreessen, “software is eating the world”. In my opinion, if you are not eating, you are being eaten. “I aim to instill a fear of the future in my top level executive team” said Stephanie Naegeli, Digital Marketing Innovation Manager at Nestle. To stay at the top of a fast-changing world, one must be constantly looking for evolutions in the market.
Kirstin Falk, Managing Director of Marketing Innovation at Charles Schwab, spoke about the need for established institutions to re-architect internal processes and install new technologies in order to adapt to the digital age. There also seemed to be a consensus among attendees that brands need to increase their social media budgets.
“Social ain’t free”.
Virtual Reality was of course a hot topic, and so was livestreaming. Offering a glimpse into the future, Ted Rubin, the Acting CMO of Brand Innovators and early Periscope adopter, warns: “assume that everything about your brand will be known. People will be Periscoping what is happening inside your stores, your cafes, your offices.”
We come full circle, back to the vitality of authenticity. In the digital age, ideas and information flow freely, everyday people are media powerhouses, and competition for consumer attention is more ruthless than ever before. To stay relevant, brands must re-architect their processes, empower their story-tellers, and while traditional advertising is our proven model, it is time to embrace new channels and use them to communicate differently with our consumer, who has already begun their exploration.
A special thank you to Marc Sternberg, Ted Rubin, and the whole Brand Innovators team for bringing together a great group of people.
Misha Talavera is the Co-Founder and CMO of NeoReach, an influencer marketing platform helping brands and agencies like Ken’s Foods, Horizon Media, The New York Times, and Focus Features identify influencers, co-create branded content, and run large-scale campaigns. Founded out of Stanford University, the company has raised $3.8M from prominent Silicon Valley investors.@MishaTalavera