Marketing Summit 2013

Marketing summit 2013 – a view from the forest

According to Anne Godfrey, the recently elected CEO of the CIMA, companies controlled at least 80% of their communication output a few years ago.  These days this figure has dropped to just 20%.  It soon became evident that this was one of underlying concerns of the CIM 2013 summit in London last Friday, held at the swanky offices of Bloomberg UK.  One of the key questions for marketers and communications specialists is how to adapt to this ever-changing scenario without losing our clients, or our marbles…

But it was Daniel Rowles who set the tone of the day with his incisive presentation.  His empirical research revealed that the three most discussed topics by marketers for the last twelve months are, in this order, ‘Google Glasses’ (good PR work from Google!), ‘Big Data’ and ‘Content Marketing’.  On the topic of data alone, 16 years of viewing time is currently uploaded to YouTube every day and 24% of it comes from mobile devices.  It is clearly impossible to view all this data and even its mere analysis is something that is keeping major governments incredibly busy, as events of the last few weeks testified.

Mobile content was another hot topic of the day.  With mobile access, communication agility is key.  Responsive design and highly honed broadcast processes are built with the sole purpose of engaging with what audiences really want to receive, rather than what companies would like them to read.

Bring parallel thinking to online marketing

The old paradigm of companies basing their online content strategy on their own core competences is dead as potential customers may not necessarily be interested in the same keywords and phrases but may be looking for an answer to a parallel solution.  Therefore, this all elusive ‘solution’ is what businesses should focus on in their communication efforts.  For example, if you want to lose weight you may be searching something like, ‘I am too fat’, rather than the more obvious ‘How can I lose weight?’  Addressing the former concern may open your business up to a more receptive audience than the more obvious traditional approach, contributing to a higher Google ranking for your products and services.  And ranking these days may even be aided by peer reviews that allow your customers and supporters to enter content on your behalf.  Risky?  Well, welcome to agile and responsive 21st century communication strategies!

Understand a buyer’s journey

But what about big data?  One thing we are not short of in the digital world is data.  In fact, it appears that there is now far too much of it.  Take a look at your Google Analytics, add a sprinkling of social media data, plus your own sources and you will soon end up with vast quantities of mostly indigestible data, or information of such gargantuan complexity that you will need to end up hiring a team of Harvard postgraduates to analyse the lot.  You can, of course, cheat (like most of us) and just pick and choose a specific metric.  Or, as Matt Hollingsworth of Acxiom mentioned later on in the day, you can act as if you are walking in a forest – follow your path but remain fully aware of background noises, especially if anything peculiar comes to your ears, like the distant clap of thunder that may herald a storm.

The additional problem with data is that a lot of time and effort is spent in its acquisition, rather more in fact than in its use to understand a buyer’s journey; yet understanding this essential experiential voyage from the moment a need is identified to the instant when the customer is ready to part with his or her hard earned cash is key to a successful online strategy.  But how many companies can really be confident that they fully understand this journey?

Integrative communication strategies

Michael Dick, Head of Strategy MEC Global, touched on the topic of what clients want from agencies and how businesses need to create a cohesive communication strategy.  His seven I’s (Interaction, Ideas, Integration, Implementation, Internationalisation, Impact and (Ro)Investment) represent quite clearly what a client wants from an agency, providing probably one of the pithiest answers to this specific topic – food for thought for many of us.  More emphasis on content from this speaker too, especially about allowing people to tell their own story, which explains the success of experiential sites like TripAdvisor.  An integrative communication strategy of this kind would deliver value, as well as extending outreach beyond the scope of your initial campaign.  By letting your champions talk on your behalf you may even save your company’s money.  But don’t just think that you can fire your copywriters by letting your customers do the spade work for you, as you will now need to employ more people to monitor content and to react, as quickly as possible, to any of the moods.  It’s agile communication all over again…

Just after lunch, Louise Brice, Research Director IPSOS MORI flexed her muscle by presenting a wealth of data, demonstrating both this company’s supreme ability to deal with research, as well as the fact that you should never let a data analyst loose with a presentation.  Much of the data on offer supported mobile marketing – just in case a few marketers in the room, or the 2,000 or so online, had lived for the last few years in a monastic community and had missed out on these trends. Nevertheless, figures like only 39% of all web sites being fully mobile optimised made for some sobering reading.

In conclusion…

Mobile strategy continued to be at the top of the agenda with the question of whether we should stop thinking about optimisation, creating instead content specifically aimed at mobile platforms, to reflect, for example, haptic technologies.  An interesting parallel was drawn by the discussion panel with TV, a now fully digital medium, but one still reliant on cumbersome and illogically laid out hardware, such as our too familiar remote controls.

You may have been disappointed if you had expected earth shattering revelations from the Summit, but what was revealed instead was a deeper overall understanding of the way ahead, together with the realisation that marketers and businesses are no longer in full control of their message.

In short, stop controlling, don’t get too hung up about all that massive data, use just what really matters to you, keep an ear to the ground, be human, enjoy what you are doing with genuine passion and commitment and respect other people’s opinions – digital communication strategies are perhaps stimulating a return to common sense.

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One thought on “Marketing Summit 2013

  1. Maurizio –

    Good summary of the conference. From the themes you identify, it sounds like the tectonic plates of traditional marketing are definitely on the move. I particularly like how you recognise that the issue with Big Data is less to do with access to data and more to understanding the customer and, by implication, the questions we need to ask which Big Data may be able to answer.

    Thanks also for the link. It all helps. 🙂

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