Festival of Marketing 2015: here's what I learned | Festival of Marketing 2015: here's what I learned | DMA

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Festival of Marketing 2015: here's what I learned


Last week I was lucky enough to attend the Festival of Marketing at Tobacco Dock in East London. After two days of presentations, panels, keynote speeches, awards and exhibitor stands I left with a ridiculous amount of stuff churning around in my head. I’ve sifted through it all and extracted some of the key highlights from the talks I was at, shared here in the hope you’ll discover a few useful insights.

An entertaining opening interview with Lord Alan Sugar kicked off proceedings. He shared some interesting views on topics such as market research and the state of the advertising industry, but to be completely honest the only thing I can really remember was him ranting about “marketing t**sers” who “p*ss money up the wall”. Let it never be said that he panders to an audience.

Personalisation’ is a huge industry buzzword, and plays an important role in Channel 4’s strategy. However, Charlie Palmer, Head of Viewer Relationship Management, stressed the need to balance what the viewer tells you they want (either explicitly or through behaviour analysis) with lateral thinking and editorial judgement. Just because someone’s a sci fi junkie doesn’t mean they won’t enjoy a great new romantic comedy, even if they’ve never expressed an interest in the genre, so the channel needs to ensure its understanding of what might work for whom goes beyond tick boxes and analytics. This is a concept that can be applied to all of us in the communications business: don’t risk hyper-targeting at the expense of giving users a rich, sometimes surprising, experience.

Nina Bibby, Marketing & Consumer Director at O2, talked about the need for brands to shift their focus to absolute customer centricity, going beyond core products and services to offer genuinely great experiences. Doing this properly has required a rethink in team structure; instead of it being the marketing team’s remit, they’ve set up cross-functional ‘pods’ to work on objectives. For example, ‘How do we make new customers feel truly welcome?’ is a challenge that necessitates brains from customer service, marketing, data analytics and several other departments.

On to some personal development advice from Richard Eyre, Chairman of Media Trust, on the Realise Your Potential stage. He recommends writing down three words that you’d like a group of people to describe you with when you left the room. Then add in a fourth, ‘stretch’ target. Now do a Stop/Start/Continue analysis of your behaviour to help you maintain or become that person.

The Meet The Millennials session introduced us to three bright young women who’ve achieved incredible success on digital platforms. Lots of interesting insights shared, but the bit that stuck in my mind was from SoFeminine.co.uk writer Emmy Griffiths, who casually mentioned the fact that “no one in our office is over 28” and instantly made a significant proportion of the room feel totally past it (myself included).

Meet the Millennials

Businesses feeling overwhelmed by rapid advances in data and technology can take comfort from the fact that, honestly, we’re all in the same boat. Elliot Antrobus-Holder of Barclays and Chris Popple of RBS shared the challenges that both banks face in keeping pace with developments, particularly in understanding how to turn big data into useful insights and action points. The holy grail of the ‘single customer view’ is very much something they’re still trying to crack, according to Elliot.

Day 1 ended with a keynote speech by Commander Chris Hadfield, the astronaut famous for the YouTube video of him performing Bowie’s Space Oddity live from the International Space Station. One of the most charismatic, yet humble, speakers I’ve ever seen, I could happily have listened to him all day. Trying to distil his talk into a quotation or two is going to lessen the impact by about 1,000%, but anyway, here’s one take-away that works on earth as well as in space: visualise the future and how you’re going to get there, and then spend twice as long preparing for all the things that will go wrong. A lot of time on-board spaceships is spent figuring out “What’s the next thing that’s going to kill us?”.

Kenyatte Nelson, Group Marketing Director for Shop Direct, gave a killer Day 2 masterclass in using strategic social media to drive commercial success. Rather than jump onto every channel their Very.co.uk customers are using they’ve focused on having just two – Facebook and Instagram – and doing them at scale. They’ve learnt that what works for a current customer won’t work for a prospect, so now base their content planning on moving people down the funnel towards purchase, with measurable commercial success.

Kenyatte Nelson, Shop Direct

Julia Porter, Director of Consumer Revenues at The Guardian, talked about how they understand and grow their audiences through the use of data. She explained how focusing purely on lookalike audiences for prospect targeting won’t get the scale of growth they want – you run out of new people to talk to. Instead they need to make their brand feel relevant and appealing to people that look different from their current customers, who they’ve termed the ‘new potentials’.

The Guardian

The brilliant Sherilyn Shackell, founder of The Marketing Academy, urged us to seek out our sense of purpose. The ideal scenario would be to have a job that ticks off all these criteria, but finding enough of all four across all facets of our life combined is also ok (phew).

Sherilyn Shackell, The Marketing Academy

Sir John Heggarty gave a brilliant talk on the need for our industry to “re-engage creativity”. Advertising has always needed to both persuade and promote, but he feels that in recent years the balance has tipped much more towards the latter, which is having a negative influence on the content that’s produced. He also thinks that separating media and creative was “the biggest mistake our industry ever made”. Interesting food for thought.

And finally, a searingly honest closing talk from Monica Lewinsky on the impact that public shaming has on people in a digital age. With every advertising-generating click we give to a website, each of us as individuals is effectively exerting editorial control, helping to determine the nature of the content that gets published in future. As Monica puts it, clicking (or not) is a moral act, because “with every click we’re entering the colosseum”.

If you were at Festival of Marketing I’d love to hear about the bits I missed out on. Tweet me @GouldenRules.

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