Highlights from day 1 of #iStrategy London

I’m spending a couple of days this week at the iStrategy digital media conference. Whilst my current role is not strictly concerned with marketing, elements of it have led me to describe myself as a “geek marketeer” in the past and I hope that I’ll be able to do so again in the future. Either way, I live and breathe “digital” and we all need to be something of a marketeer these days…

iStrategy attracts a broad range of marketing professionals and executives from all sectors (a quick glance at a few badges shows a wide range of brands that we would all recognise) and, equally, features some high calibre speakers. Its multi-stream approach is both a blessing (allowing delegates to attend the sessions that mean most to them) and a curse (inevitably some sessions run up against one another but this post gives a rundown of some of the highlights from the sessions I attended yesterday.

The social media brandsphere

Kicking off the event, Adam Burns (@AdamRobertBurns) welcomed us to Stamford Bridge, home of the newly-crowned European Champions, Chelsea FC, before international speaker and author Brian Solis (@BrianSolis) spoke about what he calls “frictionless sharing”. I’ve heard Brian speak before and he is certainly entertaining and engaging but the subtext to his talk is “buy my book”, giving just enough to whet the appetite but not enough to make anything real (some might say that’s smart).

I’ll probably write a more complete blog post over the next few days but, in short, Brian suggests that:

  • We have lost our way in digital media, confusing brand engagement metrics with likes/comments/shares whilst missing the true metrics which are about how people feel and engage.
  • The challenge for digital marketers is to design a form of engagement which provides a worthwhile interaction, to make today’s more discerning “connected consumers” come back and to get them talking/sharing your content.
  • Context is now king: mobile and web, online and offline need to work together seamlessly because, whether we like it or not, customers contribute to the state of our brands simply by sharing their experiences.
  • Great content is consumable; and great social content is sharable – alwyas think about relevance, resonance and significance. What we say is far less important than what we do.

Mobile first, exploiting the potential of the mobile economy

The next session was a panel discussion about the use of mobile technology in marketing. I’m not a fan of these panel discussions and I’m sure I wasn’t the only one in the audience checking his email etc. as five people sat on the stage chatting amongst themselves with very little audience interaction…

The most useful points (for me) can be pretty much summed up with a tweet:

Yes! Apps vs. HTML5: not an either/or; make mobile site work (concentrate on UX); mobile accessible; apps about rich experience #iStrategy
@markwilsonit
Mark Wilson

(I’m not sure, but I think most of that was based on comments from Mastercard’s James Davlouros (@james_davlouros).

The (real) value of social media

Introduced by Alistair Beattie (@bicameralman) from Tribal DDB, this break-out session was a workshop looking aiming to ”look beyond the value of media in social media.” and to reconnect with the importance of the social graph, and with marketing as a whole.

Re-enforcing some of the messages from Brian Solis’ keynote, Alistair highlighted:

  • Interaction: the 200 top brands only get 1.3% interaction on Facebook and other social platforms – and that’s likes, commenting is even lower.
  • Reach: fans are only a small portion of the available market – and pages naturally reach just 5-20% of those fans.
  • Loyalty and advocacy: purchasing frequency doesn’t increase after becoming a fan – and, because of a phenomenon known as edgerank, likes aren’t actually seen by 250 friends – the real number is closer to 16 as not all friends will see that status update.

Regardless of the above, social media is still a powerful medium. When considered with the “Four Ps” of promotion, product, price and place we can use the social graph to improve connections and the session broke out into groups looking at how to apply this principle to a second tier shoe brand looking to retain and attract 16-24 year-olds to its brand.

Open innovation: how EMI learned to love APIs

Betrand Bodson (@bbod)’s case study session was another one that warrants a more complete examination in a separate blog post – and I found it very interesting to hear how EMI Music has managed to create an environment for open innovation (OpenEMI) in a market sector that is traditionally considered slow to adopt new business models.

By creating a secure, managed environment (a “sandbox”) for developers who have signed up to OpenEMI, the company provides a brief and content to for the creation of commercial apps for iOS, Android and the web.

The system is based on a partnership approach with regular reviews and a 60/40 revenue split between EMI and the developer/platform owner:

  • Developers are responsible for the apps, engineering, product development, upgrades and maintenance.
  • EMI provides content, manages the clearance with rights holders, and markets the app
  • The EchoNest provides a technical platform and tools, intelligence on app trends, and facilitates the creation of a network of developers.

Incidentally, one of the other case studies in the same slot examined at how Macdonalds used crowdsourcing in Germany for its Make Your Own Burger campaign – and the challenges that presents to the business if adopted more widely. I would have liked to have heard that talk, but there’s only one of me so I can only be in one place at one time! Nevertheless everyone I spoke to who attended seemed to find it interesting.

Social unleashed: unlocking the transformative power of social media

After a pitch-side lunch, the afternoon keynote was probably the biggest disappointment of the day and, based on the RTs I received, I was not alone in my view that hijacking a keynote to promote your product is unacceptable – even if you have paid a lot of money to sponsor an event.

In fairness to Wildfire’s Doug Laird (@dougbytes) he was a substitute speaker but instead of using the keynote as an opportunity to be a thought leader he simply marketed Wildfire’s social media marketing platform and, ultimately, put me off any future engagement.

If “earned media” is the holy grail of social media marketing – exposure via word of mouth marketing – maybe 13,000 brands can’t be wrong but it all felt a little “me, me, me”:

Adaptive brands: delivering contextual value in a shifting world

In what was probably the best session I attended at the first day of iStrategy, Neil Clemmons (@neilclemmons) from Critical Mass got me on board right from the start when he said that everyone has a list with two columns: urgent (those things you need to do to hit your numbers) and important (those things that will become urgent if you ignore them).

Neil’s presentation was about the “important” things and examined how the 4Ps (used in the morning session on the value of social media) no longer apply – how brands need to adopt new attributes to adapt to a changing market as the emphasis moves from product to service to serving.

Much better than any synopsis from me, Neil’s team had his slides on Slideshare soon after he finished – and I recommend you take a look:

(It struck me as a little odd that fewer speakers are sharing their decks this way – after all this is a digital marketing conference…)

[At this point I missed Didier Drogba being interviewed an photographed on the pitch about his impending departure from Stamford Bridge!]

#istrategy Drogba on the pitch. Might be the last time we see him here. Id like £250k a week! http://t.co/ooOfGvax
@RobertArwel
Robert Arwel Hughes

Data and creativity: the near future of display advertising

Micheal Steckler’s session was full of insight into the future of display advertising as the data held on each of us allows for more personal approach.

Michaels own final thoughts make a good summary in that:

  • The data you own is still the most powerful.
  • Consider that most activity is talking to existing users online.
  • Differentiate creative, offer and pricing by user group (this is the future of display ads).
  • Use sophistication to marry data insight and creativity.

The social club

Hosted by Adam Burns, the final session of the day actually made the panel discussion format work (more chat-show style than discussion around the table). Some of the highlights from Gillian Muessig (@SEOmom), Kerry Bridge (@KerryatDell) and Azeem Azhar (@Azeem) were:

  • Corporate values have to match brand values – we can tie employees up with social media guidelines but not their friends, family – or our customers… and they will talk about their experiences.
  • When people come to your “place” to discuss something (your website, your blog, etc.) then you are the centre of the conversation… be that place for your industry or topic…
  • Dell trains employes in social media just as they do for presentations…
  • For proof that word of mouth is real – Telenord found that if someone has a frind with an iPhone, they are twice as likely to buy one themselves within the next 90 days. If they have two iPhone-toting friends, they are five time more likely – and that’s based on real world conversation (not social), together with Telenord’s insight nto phone data (i.e. who calls who).
  • We are putting more online… expect to see more companies seamlessly segment users – not as rough as influence engines but in same way might by, for example, postcode, today…
  • We often compare influence scores with credit scores but Experian would never disclose your credit score – that’s a key difference with influence engines (and credit is due to Azeem for his transparency and honesty in highlighting this!)

End of day 1

At the end of day 1, I have mixed feelings about iStrategy. As an event it has a lot of potential, but I’m not convinced the mix is quite right (maybe, given the early start, providing some breakfast might have put me in a better mood!) – and I’ve already given my views on Wildfire’s abuse of the afternoon keynote. Even so, I got a lot of value from some of the other sessions, so it can’t have been all bad – and I am writing this on my way back to London for day 2 after all! Watch this space for highlights from day 2 (and some more of the detail from day 1 too).

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