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Snapchat has increasingly become a topic of discussion among brands in terms of driving business value and ROI. It has evolved since our initial evaluation of it in 2014, citing it’s lack of data tracking and its ephemeral nature, but it still has some gaps to fill. Our team has some strategic ideas around optimizing the platform currently and some that could hopefully come to life in the near future. You can view the complete list of insights here and below:

 

#1 If Snapchat can provide full transparency on users of their service, advertising can be done in an appropriate and highly focused manner. The data can be anonymized to respect privacy, while still achieving targeting goals. This data must be accessible to the brands advertising. It cannot be held only by Snapchat, since it is critical for planning.

  • IDEA — Open up a limited API, ala Facebook’s 30 days of data – brands must be able to access anonymized data to plan. Facebook has shown the way on how to do this and still preserve the integrity of the data.

#2 – Work with brands to develop relationships with Snapchat Stars – we all know the power of influencers. The stories feature of Snapchat is where influencers are emerging that have major impact for a brand. These stars are similar to what is occurring on YouTube, Vine, Instagram and other channels. For example, if BRAND X focused on beauty brands and emerging influencers for make-up tips, how- to’s for skin care and other related topics, this increases authenticity, supports the drivers of Snapchat traffic and helps your brand understand who has influence in Snapchat vs. other channels.

  • IDEA– Enable a brand to work directly with influencers in a category – this leads to more targeted earned and paid media; it helps the influencers gain additional influence; and it adds much needed authenticity for any advertiser. It is widely believed that advertising alone will not be accepted by the Snapchat audience, so new models of partnership are key to success.

#3 – Create a “Snap to Buy” feature – we need ROI. If Snapchat creates a “snap to buy” feature where users can purchase products or download important buying information for later use, we can better track funnel activity. This can work for a brand by partnering with emerging stars, “map” them discussing a topic, provide the option to buy direct (within the chat), and deliver directly or to a local outlet. For consumables, this scenario could generate simple couponing or co-marking opportunities.

#4 – Develop new content partnerships between talent, media networks and brands – a traditional ad won’t work in Snapchat. However, new models can open up opportunities. In other words, brands will sponsor other brands. Snapchat’s new media service called Discover, which will host branded propertieis for Yahoo, People, Cosmopolitan, the Food Network, Daily Mail, Vice, CNN and others.

  • IDEA – an example can be given for a TV show and a BRAND X brand. BRAND X works with the talent on a TV show. The talent on this show then Snapchats on a key topic that also includes the BRAND X brand. This would be a powerful way to integrate great content, keep the topic aligned with Snapchat user’s interests and work in a brand appropriately.

#5 – Innovate in geo-location – Snapchat is already innovating with picture filters automatically uploaded from your location.  Since interaction with geo-location based content is already accepted by Snapchat users, we think of new ways to build value.

  • IDEA 1– this is purely a matter of creativity.  We could create a contest based on geo-location use of certain backgrounds.  Once a certain level of use is reached, prizes are made available.  New filters that are highly topical could be provided by BRAND X brands, e.g. Olympics and any sports-related shots for certain sports, however the backgrounds feature the local athletes for that user to make it more personal. Or BRAND X sponsors Movember with idea that men are all shaving in the near future.  And on and on.
  • IDEA 2 – align Snapchat content from brands down to the store level.  If the retail networks of a country are aligned to geo-location, BRAND X can offer unique content and coupons/offers at the zip code level and you can snap to buy and it goes right to your closest store.

#6—Improve how “Stories” is handled within Snapchat – the “Stories” experience does not appear integrated with how users typically use the app, which is to interact with friends.

    • Stories are essentially paid content from brands in the Snapchat app
    • Most of the time, people use Snapchat to interact with friends
    • Stories do not appear “inline” when you interact with friends, but rather only if you go to Explore —> Discover in the app, which is a couple clicks off the beaten path
    • This is like moving paid content on cnn.com off the front page and into a section called “Paid Content”
    • If brands are having success, that’s what matters — but it’s an odd way to integrate paid

#7 – Partner with users to create a “brand studio” – populate the studio within Snapchat with brand content (images, video, quotes and other content) that can be used by anyone.  And encourage users to add their own ideas, make requests and participate in making each brand studio as cool as it can be.

  • IDEA – co-create content with communities directly.

Innovative ways brands are using Snapchat:

I look forward to hearing your thoughts.

All the best,

Bob Pearson

This column first appeared in the June 1st issue of PRNews

The new definition of owned media is simple: If we create and approve content, it’s owned. It wasn’t long ago when owned media simply was the content on our website. Today owned media has moved from being a site to becoming how a customer experiences the brand’s voice in any channel

The paradigm has changed so dramatically that we as PR pros are required to meet customers and prospects at their favorite online hangouts. We can and must share the same content that is housed on our website on Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter and with key bloggers. After all, we are in the business of storytelling and story distribution. Facebook, bloggers and other platforms consistently reach more potential customers than our website. The good news is that our voice has become portable. Good and bad news: we control the official, but often not the initial, experience with our brands.

On the positive side, our websites can do almost anything we want. They can serve as a company store or teach consumers about an issue, a technology or disease.

The goal itself hasn’t changed too much really. We still want to take the company’s story and share our version of the truth directly with customers in the locations they prefer to hear from us.  

Timing has become important. It’s critical to reach customers throughout their PreCommerce journey, while they are learning, sharing or just having fun. Waiting until they visit our website compromises our ability to influence the final outcome. It’s imperative that we touch the majority of conversations, buying decisions and search behavior occurring outside of our official company channel well before final decisions are made about a purchase or even our reputation.

Customers learn about a new product via search, explore what others believe about it in forums, ask friends on Facebook about it and visit a company website to confirm what’s already been learned. After all that, the customer who decides to buy the product will usually do so at a site offering the best terms.  

How effectively we use owned media defines its success and proves our value. Here are five key examples of how to optimize the new version of owned media. 

 

1. Supply chain of language. Normally there are 15 keywords or phrases that the majority of customers are searching for to find your story or a related topic. It’s more important than ever that you develop a supply chain of language, so that you use the same keywords on your website, in social channels, as tags for new content and in press releases and statements. If you coordinate across the owned media supply chain, you’ll greatly increase search engine optimization results.  

Communicators are becoming the new search experts by necessity. Telling a good story is only as helpful as a potential customer’s ability to find it.

 

2. Network coordination. Are you sharing the same messages and a similar story across your website, social channels and via spokespeople? How do you offer different content by channel to match the customer’s journey?

We must become experts in how customers choose to learn about our brands to develop the right network strategy. We need to work as one team. 

 

3. Understand the role of each media channel. Are we teaching customers and prospects via YouTube, answering questions on forums and posting interactive contest on Facebook? What is the role of each channel? Can we imagine the customer journey, document what really happens online and ensure that what we provide matches with the customer’s needs? 

 

4. Ensure visits are customized. When we shake hands, we are connecting with another person. Customers search for certain keywords that lead them to our site. It’s a digital handshake. This little bit of information enables us to provide the exact content they want when they visit our site. 

Are you doing this? Imagine having 10 experiences available to match up with different keywords, so if you are looking for a job, you get the job site right away because you were searching for “company x, engineer of abc.”

 

5. Focus on the customer experience. Are we consistently monitoring all media we own to ensure the consumer’s experience is consistent?  How do we know? When I think of doing this effectively I recall advice from Gayle Fuguitt, president-CEO of The Advertising Research Foundation, who said, “Brands are built in the brain.”

 

Customer’s brains involve ten channels of online media, plus mainstream media, ranging from audio to search to video (see PR News, May 26, 2014). Are we building brands in the brain or are we simply sharing content and hoping for the best?  

 

3 Ways Owned Media Saves Money

Here are three ways I’ve learned to save money via effective use of owned media:

1. Use ads strategically to drive earned and shared media. Facebook ad buys are a great example. Don’t saturate your audience. Use ads strategically to drive your owned media story to the right people. Remember what Daina Middleton, head of global business marketing at Twitter, says: “Marketing through persuasion is over. Marketing through participation is here to stay.” Make it easy to find content you want to participate in.

2. Responsive experience improves conversion. When you provide the right content the first time via a website, your conversion is far higher. Dramatically. Create libraries of content based on the type of person who will visit your site and use targeting expertise to match visitors with the right experience.

 3. Content ‘capsules’ can replace Websites. You can now embed the equivalent of a portable website in any social channel, for example, via Business Wire’s news capsule.  If you take your best content for a story and create this type of portable website, you avoid the costs of driving people to your website and it costs a fraction of what you normally pay.                                      

 

All the best, Bob  

Facebook is like family to today’s millennials.  It is relevant in our lives, it’s sometimes annoying, it doesn’t always do what we want, but we know it will be with us for the long haul and we want it to be there.  For those of us who are parents, it sure sounds like us.

Millennials will always try what is new/hot and they know that Facebook will still be there at the end of the day ready to be of help.  Here is what our latest Millennial discussions led us to realize.

#1 – We shape our behaviors in middle school and high school – the majority of millennials make the choice to get on Facebook in middle school or high school.  When we think about it, we make a lot of choices that stick with us forever at this point in time.  Our favorite music, the languages we speak, our set of friends, how we consume content, what we eat and much more.  Social channels are part of this mix.  In this case, Facebook is “who we are”.  It’s grown up with us, so even if we criticize it now and then (like our parents), it’s going to be hard to let go of it.

#2 – We use Facebook to track friends, families and groups – millennials use the channel to track what their important groups are doing.  This means that Facebook is more a place to see a group notification or check out your family members who are not on SnapChat or to see if anything is interesting in your friend group (personal news feed).  This only takes 1-3 hours a day tops, so usage is less.  What’s important is that it is the only place where all of our people are available to track.

#3 – Millennials text or Snapchat more than FB Messenger – it’s more difficult to use Messenger since you need to go all the way onto an app, rather than just use your phone…and then you have to go all the way to Messenger, rather than just text…..and then you can’t turn off the read receipts on Messenger.  That’s the equivalent of boomers having to get into the family station wagon and drive to their friend’s house to see if they are home, rather than just using the phone to call them.  It may not seem like a burden to boomers to use Messenger vs. text or Snapchat, but to millennials, this is an unnecessary mountain to climb.  So they don’t.

#4 – Facebook is less relevant in the “now”, more relevant as “historian” – let’s say you go to a concert tonight.  A boomer will share a photo and a post.  A millennial will share updates from Snapchat during the concert and later in the evening after the show is over, they’ll place a collection of photos on Facebook.  Boomers see Facebook as relevant now.  Millennials see Facebook as their historian.

#5 – Controlled and/or private networks are the trend – you can control who gets your texts.  You have significant control on who receives your Snapchats.  On Facebook, the trend appears to be moving towards more privacy their as well.  The millennial perspective appears to be “if my other channels are essentially private or focused on who I know, why can’t Facebook be the same”?  So a major shift is occurring towards private and controlled networks.  Habits formed in new channels shape our overall habits.  Overall, this is good to prevent “creepin”, but bad for advertisers who prefer data being more public.

#6 – Friends define who friends are more than the individual – back in the “old days”, boomers had this antiquated idea that they would be friends with people they really knew, but not much more than that.  In today’s Facebook world, many millennials have between 500-2000 friends.  This happens because “who you are friends with” becomes the open door to becoming a friend.  This reliance on “mutual friends” as a qualifier is leading to much larger friend groups.  Mutual friends can be classmates, teams, companies and other groups.  The good news, from the boomer’s perspective, is that millennials do seem to want to know their friends…..they don’t just let anyone in and they rarely meet someone for the first time via Facebook.

#7 – Decorum sets in after high school – yes, Facebook trash talking occurs in middle school and then starts slowing down in high school.  That makes sense.

#8 – Millennials want Facebook to succeed – Millennials want Facebook to enable products to be bought directly similar to Amazon.com; they want to live stream movies from their account like Netflix; they want to “do it all” in one place, e.g. Snapchat, videos, messaging and more; they want to find a job within Facebook ala LinkedIn; and they want to be able to create media to tell their own story from within Facebook, like we can via PC software.  Basically, the message to Facebook is “bring it on”.

All the best, Brittany Pearson (millennial) and Bob Pearson (boomer)

This is a guest post by my Live from Stubbs co-host, Kyle Flaherty.

Let’s start with a bit of physics. In the theory of relativity there is something called “time dilation”, which is a difference of elapsed time between two events as measured by observers when they are moving relative to each other. This happened to me during our Live From Stubb’s taping with Amber Naslund of Sysomos.

The first time I ‘met’ Amber Naslund was August of 2008 when we struck up a Twitter conversation about Aaron Rodgers. We then met in person at SXSW 2009 and since then I’ve watched Amber from afar as she wrote and published a best-selling book, The NOW Revolution, and continued her successful career in marketing. When you read Amber, whether her book or blog, you get a no-filter, no-nonsense take on what is happening in the marketing world. I’ve always respected her thoughts, even when we disagreed, because I value honesty and authenticity above everything else.

Amber has marketing in her DNA. Watching her speak at the W2O Pre-Commerce Summit I was truly struck by her intelligence and storytelling abilities. And this is a critical component for all of us in marketing today as we are overcome by media channels, brands, and poor strategic choices. Thinking back, this is why I enjoyed talking with her in 2008, in between, and then reconnecting in 2015. Even before our Live From Stubb’s interview we were joking about how we have all been pushing the boundaries of marketing for decades now, yet some folks think many of us have ‘disappeared’ (watch the interview to see why).

Sitting with Amber in 2015 and talking about the current marketing landscape it felt both as if 2008 was yesterday and nearly a decade ago. Time moves, marketing evolves, but for me, I try to make genuine humans like Amber a constant.

You can see Sheldon Levine of Sysomos’s post about the interview here.

There is a saying… “if some is good, more is better.” Often, this saying is meant ironically because it is rarely true. But in the case of our 2015 events leading up to (and slightly overlapping) SXSW Interactive, we here at W2O Group were extremely pleased with the results. For the Readers Digest version of our events, you can check out the content capsule below (it includes a few select videos of our speakers, our PreCommerce Spotify playlist, speaker presentations and pictures from numerous events). We also led up to our events with some speaker interviews which I recommend checking out here.


We kicked things off this year with our second annual VIP Round Table — an event reserved for speakers and some of our more senior level clients. Held on the 55th floor of the prestigious Austonian building, the 40 person event was led by W2O Group President, Bob Pearson and tech mogul, David Kirkpatrick of Techonomy.

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The two and a half hour, facilitated discussion touched on topics such as innovation, the future of apps, security and mobile advertising. The day rounded out with an appearance by none other than one of the hardest working men online and on camera, Al Roker (Below is the episode of Live from Stubbs Jon Harris and I filmed with Al).

One of our two signature events this year was our fifth annual PreCommerce Summit. And while each of our past four summits have gotten better than the year before, this was the year where we really stepped up our game the most significantly. Not only was the venue a cut above (thank you Austin City Music Hall) but our event production team (huge props to Erin Disney and Team Clink) took our game to a new level. And then there were the speakers. I’ve pulled out some key quotes below but I would highly recommend spending some time reading the recaps/watching the videos for each.

 

 

 

Here are the speakers (note links to their blog recaps and a link to their presentations to the right of each name):

On Friday, we held our second annual digital brunch. This is technically our third or fourth but the second in our new office with food trucks and music. This is a great time for our clients, neighbors, partners and employees to mix and mingle, enjoy some breakfast tacos, Bloody Marys, take in a demo or two, all while basking in the warm Austin sun.

Here are a few pics of the festivities:

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This year, in addition to our PreCommerce Summit, we decided to take a page out of our earlier SXSW days where we had a smaller, more intimate room. At our first ever Geekfest moderated by Bob Pearson and our CTO, John Cunningham, we featured 16 speakers covering topics that ranged from the Apache Project to resonant charging to the importance of diversity in tech. It was a lot of good food for thought in a power packed four hour span. We will have the videos for these talks up soon but in the meantime, you can thumb through the blog recaps below.

Last but not least in our string of events this year was the Geekacue. It’s hard to believe bu this was our sixth annual Geekacue and also the first year we didn’t host our event at an actual BBQ joint. For the last three years, we had the good fortune of taking over Franklin’s BBQ (owner and chef, Aaron Franklin, was recently named as a finalist for the prestigious James Beard Award). This year, we made the tough call due to space constraints and took our party over to the elegant confines of the Charles Johnson House. This of course meant that we needed to find some great BBQ and likely that we would need some entertainment as well. Mission accomplished on both fronts as we were fortunate enough to land new-but-not-so-new, Terry Blacks BBQ, as our bearers of brisket. The short version of the story is that twin brothers, Mike and Mark Black opened Terry Black’s in Austin in late 2014. However, the namesake of their new establishment is their father, Terry Black, whose father, Edgar, opened now legendary “Black’s” in the BBQ capitol of Texas (Lockhart) over 83 years ago.

In addition to some amazing BBQ, we also had the luxury of not one… not two… but three bands. Some of you may have only seen Monte Montgomery who opened or Black Joe Lewis who was the feature act. But for those lucky enough to stick around, we also had the red hot blue grass band, Whiskey Shivers, upstairs at the after party. All three were amazing and left us wanting more.

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During the Geekacue, we also kept our clients, partners and friends-of-W2O entertained with a dance party booth (video below).

We also brought back one of the staples of our Geekacue, the photo booth. We’ll have all the photos available soon on our Facebook page but in the meantime, here are some gems to give you a flavor.

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Key stats across all our events:

  • We had over 5,200 tweets tagged with our hashtag #sxw2o (I encourage you to scroll through the content there — it will make you smarter… and hungrier, I promise).
  • W2O Group held eight different events this year — our most ever. Look for that number to be closer to ten next year.
  • There were over 3,300 registrations for our events. Somewhere between 40-50% of those folks showed up plus walk ups. Subtracting out overlap, we had roughly 1,000 unique folks not including our employees attending our events.
  • There were over 60 briskets consumed at our Geekacue. Okay, I’m making that number up but it was somewhere in that neighborhood.

Last but not least, none of this would be possible without our wonderful partners/sponsors. They not only help fund (or in the case of alcohol, provide in kind donations) but they are also integral parts of our events as speakers, attendees, photographers and avid Tweeters. We appreciate you all and thank you for your support Sysomos, Clarabridge, Bayer, Datasift, Sprinklr, Business Wire, Synthesio, Sullivan Wine, Deep Eddy Vodka and Thirsty Planet.


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SXSW just ended in Austin, so we thought we would write this Millennials Unplugged post from the standpoint of “what matters to us”.  We’re not trying to create a better list of technology innovations.  We just talked this weekend about what we both care about. We also asked our W2O Millennial colleagues for their first-hand views, as well.   Here’s our SXSW summary. 

#1 – We are shifting from Call of Duty to Duty calls – Brittany grew up playing Call of Duty, often as well as the boys, who seemed to dedicate every waking hour to reaching the next level.  Well before women in tech was a theme, Brittany was waiting in line for the midnight launch of the newest Call of Duty game.  Just her and 100+ boys.  That was then.  Now, we see an explosion of wearables, 3D printing and, in particular, healthcare applications.  Bob always hoped that this generation who grew up on gaming would eventually apply their knowledge to the real world, although he was skeptical at times as he watched 5-6 kids shoot each other on screen, laugh and drink a diet pepsi. But it looks like it’s happening.  Kids used to spend time teaching others cheats and tricks of the trade for video games.  Now, we are realizing that as millennials get older, they will start applying tremendous technical knowledge to innovation that may not have been so obvious to us parents.  Yes, fellow parents, our kids did pick up new skills we didn’t fully appreciate.  And as their skills widen beyond Call of Duty to applications in life, it also opens up more opportunities for women in technology.  Duty calls and millennials are ready to surprise us with their innovative ideas.

#2 – Virtual Reality Drives Healthcare Reality – we are living in a time when we have tremendous technology advances and we have a health system in flux due to the Affordable Care Act.  Our colleague, Anke Knospe of Twist said “SXSW helped solidify that virtual reality is truly taking shape and offers potential far beyond video and gaming. Physicians have already been using aspects of virtual reality to conduct surgeries or help treat psychiatric/neurologic conditions, but video games and VR may even show promise as diagnostic tools and could potentially help improve the drug development process.”  Anke’s right, but what she said next is profound.  “While highly scientific, healthcare typically hasn’t been known to be the most innovative and, in the past, hasn’t attracted the (millennial) geek squad that has helped push social media/tech into a new era. The fact that we are now starting conversations around using video games and VR in healthcare and that companies like Akili are working on out of the box ideas like developing a video game to diagnose Alzheimer’s at an early stage are speaking to the fact disruptive thinkers are no longer steering clear of pharma and healthcare.”  Anke, we both believe you are right.  It is becoming cool to innovate in healthcare for millennials and beyond.  Let’s go!

#3 – Let’s break down the walls to connect and share – anyone who does this wins.  That’s why we like Meerkat, Periscope, Snapchat and iBeacons.  Help us connect faster?  Heck, even Bob likes that.  Help us live stream video to twitter?  No brainer.  Break down barriers.  Break down barriers.  Break down barriers.  The three things we both care about.  Meriel McCaffery of WCG added a very interesting observation. She said “Considering the (snails) pace with which some companies adapt basic social media (e.g. Twitter and Facebook), this for me underlines that we need to continue to push our clients and, as an industry, are obligated to make our clients uncomfortable.”  Meriel’s right in our book.  Technology makes innovation possible.  Consultants push the envelope related to what is possible.  It’s like Reese’s.  Have to have chocolate and peanut butter or it just doesn’t work the same.  At least that’s what Brittany says.  Bob’s on a diet.

#4 – Being a real person online matters…..a lot – it’s not all about technology.  We’re people and we care about making connections and doing the right thing.  Taylor Carr of WCG provided a great summary of what he believes matters about better understanding human behavior.

Unconscious Bias conversation – Sometimes, we don’t even understand our decisions, or why we’re making them.  We all loved Judith Williams of Google’s talk at PreCommerce who made us all think about what we do and why we do it.

Empathy at scale – Taylor really loved the Covey quote that was included in this presentation, “Most people do not listen with the intent to understand; they listen with the intent to reply.” Business today is tasked with actually understanding and listening to its audience.

  • It’s All About Strength – Truly tapping into people’s strengths and passions to really unleash them within their organization. In order to do that, you really have to deeply understand them.  Great talk from Mason Nelder of Verizon

Taylor said why this matters.  “We wear a lot of hats. Communicators, marketers, consultants, etc. Today, it’s becoming more important we add some others to our portfolio. Those of sociologist, psychologist and more. Digital technologies like our analytics tools are starting to allow us to “listen” to audiences, but a crucial layer isn’t just listening, but understanding them. Their behavior, emotions, habits, tendencies and more.

#5 – How about just getting to the point? Samantha Hershman of WCG was inspired by Al Roker’s talk and his point to do just that…..get to the point.  She said “I find Al Roker to be an extremely interesting person and appreciated his whole take on digital communications today. What I found impactful was when he talked about what we’re learning about consumers this year, as opposed to last year, and he said that consumers really just want people to be honest with them. He continued to say that consumers are looking for more value in their daily tasks – pretty much they want people to get to the point.”

#6 — Societal benefits of technology are important – a great example is a company started in Austin by Stephen Garten and Scott Jacobs called Charity Charge.  This new company, which was one of 10 companies selected by IBM at SXSW as a key social business start-up is “a for profit benefit corporation focused on creating giving tools that allow people to make the world a better place through simple actions. You use a credit card to earn 1% cash back donations to help the charities of your choice charge forward.”  Perhaps the next Toms is starting right in our backyard?  Let’s hope.

#7 – Automate our lives, please – yes, automated cars are good.  Energy transfer by wifi (Witricity)to allow us to not carry cords in our backpacks or charge an electric car in the future is good.  We’re not scared of what’s next.  Yes, bring it on.  The no brainer of no-brainers for both millennials and boomers. Automation will soon not only assist, but replace the need for human intervention and operators.  That sounds more cool than scary to us.

That’s what we know.  Enjoy, Brittany and Bob Pearson

Our next column will be on Facebook.

We just completed an awesome series of events during SXSW in Austin.  We heard from leaders of key companies (Intel, Verizon), leading online companies (Twitter, Google),  leading thinkers (David Kirkpatrick/Techonomy, VJ Yoshi), leading innovators (Witricity) and leaders in media (Al Roker, Bloomberg).

We created this content capsule with our friends at NextWorks so that we could share the presentations, blog posts, videos and photos with you directly.  This is designed so that you can share it internally with your teams or simply share it with your network via social channels.

On behalf of our partners at Sysomos, DataSift, Clarabridge, Business Wire, SprinklrBayer and Synthesio, we hope you can join us next year at our PreCommerce Summit, GeekFest and Geek-a-Cue.  In the meantime, we hope you enjoy the summary of what we have learned from some of the smartest people in our business.

Enjoy, Bob




A Brief Recap of the Digital Marketing and Design Panel – part of Saturday’s GeekFest events

In a continuation of the day’s theme of emerging trends in the technology and communication landscape, this panel featured experts sharing their experiences and perspectives on new ways to foster connections. While each of our four experts shared their very approaches, all of them were all rooted in active listening and seeking more meaningful connection points.

Learning from each other

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Daina Middleton, Head of Global Business for Twitter, shared her personal passion for seeking connection through identifying the unique perspectives different team members share in approaching leadership and problem-solving. Middleton has been studying communication phenomena in different time periods, specifically the Old West, when traditional male and female work roles expanded because of need and the harsh environment. Her research has focused on identifying how to create stronger teams by recognizing and valuing the different approaches women and men generally take in the workplace.

Middleton organizes these different approaches with the monikers ‘grace’ and ‘grit’, with ‘grace’ representing the attributes females tend to employ, and ‘grit’ representing the male approach. Middleton explained that, “women use communication as a tool to enhance social connections and create relationships,” while “men use communication to achieve tangible outcomes and establish power.” While neither approach is patently right or wrong, each can be polarizing or limiting. It is only by listening to each other, and working to each team members’ best strengths that we overcome the limitations of a single viewpoint and have the greatest chance to succeed.

Pattern identification on social

Matthew Zito

Matthew Zito, VP of Products at Synthesio, shared his approach to listening to and exploring social patterns and data to create behavior-based profiles of customers and more individual buying journeys. These highly personalized profiles offer insights into customer preferences and personalities in a way that goes beyond demographics or clicks, and demonstrate a much deeper need for marketers to get to know their users as humans, not just buyers.

Zito shared examples of how profiling customer interests (beyond just interest in your product), brands can align their marketing plans with more personal and directed customer journey steps. These plans can even include specific times of day that will be most relevant to your customers. As Zito says, “don’t just measure your customers, understand your customers.”

An anthropological approach

Jon Kolko

The best way to learn how to help customers is to immerse yourself in their personal experiences through living them – challenges, successes, and

all.  That’s the message from Jon Kolko, Director and Founder of the Austin Design Center, speaking about how to listen better and use empathy to create products people love. Sharing some of the principles of his newly-released book, Well Designed, Kolko shared some of his experiences in designing products that are natively customer-first.

For Kolko and his team, customer-first means literally living with your end-user to get hands-on with their experience, hear how they absorb the world in their own words. Kolko shared that in one project, this immersive process involved living with college students, recording and analyzing their comments, and then designing an app to offer specific recommendations about the job application and recruiting process. This work highlighted expectation gaps between the students and recruiters who were filling jobs. Without having that deep experience, Kolko said the team would not have learned certain key insights, including what messages to focus on, what platforms and language to use, and how to make the app useful, while still being fun and appealing to students.

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Kurt Holstein

In a presentation called ‘Personalization – Are the ads from the movie Minority Report almost here?’ Kurt Holstein, President of Azoic Ventures, shared the current status of dynamic ‘DOOH’, or Digital Out of Home display advertising. This is the kind of advertising that is often placed in large environments like Times Square, but is also emerging in smaller footprints like interactive digital signage (think directional kiosks) and in proximity sensors like beacons. In keeping with the theme of learning from listening, Holstein shared the benefits of these types of dynamic ads – both to the marketer and to the end user.

End users will soon have the opportunity to have a much more personal experience with a brand based on customization (assuming they opt in) to share data with brands. In its current form, these beacons and personal approaches rely on apps and active input from the customer, and are best for driving offers or location-based information.

For marketers, new technology like Active Camera Technology (ACT) can recognize visitors and respond to visible demographic data. Age, gender, ethnicity can be combined with location, time of day, dwell time, as well as more individual characteristics like facial emotion markers – all to allow a display to respond and react to the identified characteristics. Combining the more personal beacon technology with the ACT will allow marketers to achieve the ‘Minority Report’ level of personalization – but only if our customers want it. It will be up to us to keep listening to them to balance promotion and privacy and foster good relationships.

For more information on our SXW2O events and speakers, please visit our website: http://w2oevents.com

gayleAs I mentioned in our set up post for our PreCommerce thought leader series, we are interviewing several of our speakers during our events the week of March 9. Next up is Gayle Fuguitt, CEO of the Advertising Research Foundation. For more information about our events during SXSW, go here.

Gayle became the first woman to lead The ARF when she became CEO and president in April 2013. She spent 32 years at General Mills, where she was lauded for bringing the voice of the consumer to the decision table. She has served on the board and executive committee of The ARF from 2005 to 2012.

[Aaron Strout] How is the advertising industry changing (beyond the obvious)?
[Gayle Fuguitt] The future is here, it’s just unevenly distributed”  (William Ford Gibson). We are obviously in a fragmented, dynamic, complex world filled with new fears like bots and fraud, but it’s more important to see the amazing opportunities that have been created for marketers today, and I’d like to make that distinction:  The c-suite is asking “do my marketing dollars drive growth and sales?” and “where should I spend my next dollar?

We have an amazing opportunity through our measurement mandate to embrace and advance new technology for better business decision. Media buying and planning is more sophisticated than ever before.

At the end of the day, it’s important to get down to our number one ground truth, first declared by the ARF in the early 60’s and then again in 1989:  Advertising Works.

[AS] Where do you think we are headed?
[GF] New technologies will catch up with the consumer today, but in pockets, and we will need to find the best of the best and evangelize and scale them across industries to drive the kind of business sales growth that our C-Suites are demanding.

The best insights will still come from a keen understanding and quantification of  “heart”:  What consumers’ values are and what they value that can be translated into brand value. We will get better and better at those insights, but the exciting breakthroughs are in the measurement of how the “heart” and emotional reactions connects to the head. Our second Ground Truth:  Brands are built in the brain, so we rely on neuroscience to unlock deep insights and predict sales growth better than ever before, to the feet where sales data can now be more easily aligned to media delivery.

[AS] If you had one piece of advice for marketers, what would it be?
[GF] Set aside 10 percent of your budget for pure experimentation and give it to the next generation to design and execute.

[AS] What are your thoughts on the rising importance of Storytizing (using the art of storytelling via paid, earned and shared channels)?
[GF] There’s nothing more important than a powerful story to drive personal connectivity to behaviors. Word of mouth is more important today than ever before. Consumers want and need to be connected, they seek each other out for ideas, inspiration, affirmation and solutions.

[AS] If you’ve attended SXSW in the past, what was your biggest takeaway?
[GF] I’m not even at SXSW, and I’m already blown away!

[AS] What is a trend that you expect (or hope) to see talked about most at SXSW this year and why?
[GF] Growth and Innovation, Art and Science combining to drive to new, never seen before solutions. Storytelling of successes AND failures, experimentation, trial and error. These are exciting times, and there’s never been a better time to be in marketing advertising or insights and analytics. Our time is now.