A different approach for day three, just to mix things up. Rather than a blow-by-blow account of the six different sessions I attended, I thought I would attempt to talk about some of the themes of the day (not that there was a direct correlation between the session topics of everything I saw, but I couldn’t help but notice similar themes are starting to emerge regardless of what I choose to attend). The observations below come from the following sessions (and expand upon the sessions of the previous two days):

  • Coca Cola – new rules of marketing and consumer engagement.
  • Facebook – the psychology and creativity of sharing
  • Youtube – how online video powers creative innovation.
  • OMD – leveraging success at home to seize opportunity abroad (an interview with Guido Barilla, chairman of the Barilla Group.
  • Leo Burnett – turning data into an idea (yes, another data session).
  • King.com – platform and social games.

Some serious heavy hitters came to give us their wisdom, and this was reflected in the sheer turn out for many of these sessions. Apologies to the speakers, but for the sake of brevity I’m going to reference them by their place of work. In a big picture sense, it was interesting to see that all speakers seemed to be on the same page, regardless of whether the speakers represented agency, client or platform / channel.

Thread 1 – social: now really is the time (actually the time was a while ago).

We’ve clearly moved from a time when social activity was the hallmark of a progressive brand. Across all of the speakers today, the integration of social activity and the presence of the brand in these specific channels is assumed as a given – the discussion has now evolved from whether you should be ‘social’ to the nature and value of the brand’s activity in these spaces. Are you truly delivering value and is there a shared value between the brand and the consumer? Are you giving value to get value?

For Facebook, they are expecting the term ‘social’ to eventually disappear. From their perspective, social is expected. ‘The social web’ will just become ‘the web’ and ‘social business’ will just be ‘business’ as social-ness becomes the norm and not the exception.

When it came to discussing games, the importance of the social channel and word of mouth was really at the fore.  Standard marketing channels can help kick start awareness around a game (though it was interesting how little focus there was on traditional media channels for marketing a new app, certainly compared to the power of the platform itself (in the case of iOS)) – as opposed to the perceived ‘true power’ of word of mouth communications.

Thread 2 – the power shift has already happened.

Coca Cola says we are now living in the time of ‘mob rule’ and it’s hard to argue with them. Consumers understand their power and their value. But for Coca Cola, this isn’t a time to be fearful – it’s a time which allows the creation of meaningful relationships between brand and consumer – based on mutual value and reward, and a time which can actually deliver business results AND true engagement (and advocacy as a by-product) from the audience.

Coke is bullish – believing that the current landscape will actually allow them to double their business before 2020 (essentially achieving in 8 years what it has taken them 125 years to do so far) because of the changed relationship. They embrace the change and challenge, and assert that any brand that doesn’t like change, uncertainty or the unknown will soon find itself irrelevant. Furthermore, Coke isn’t so interested in straight old fashioned metrics like impressions. For them, success looks like commentary from individuals, conversation and discussion – from their perspective these are the intermediary points between exposure to a marketing message and a transaction.

In Facebook’s mind the whole web will soon be ruled by the mob – in the sense that web experiences will be expected to be tailored to our social profile. For many, handing over our preferences, likes and interests isn’t about giving up our privacy to brands, it’s about making sure our day to day experience on the web actually serves our personal goals. Facebook used the example of Etsy – which has recently been running socialised experiments to tap into what we give away about ourselves – and our friends – to give us the information that is most relevant to us right from the start of our experience– as opposed to having to select a bunch of options to customise our experience. Sure Facebook may ‘own’ that data (which makes them dangerously powerful) but they (for the moment) provide easy hooks into that data to websites to allow them to bring relevance from the outset – and at the end of the day give the individual the option of whether to share that information or not. This seems to fit into the ‘give value – get value’ equation.

Facebook at one point also debunked the idea of ‘key influencers’ (take that Klout), saying that their research suggested instead that the most important influencers in our digital social lives are those that we know personally – not the ones who have many twitter followers or re-tweets. This was a bit of a throw-away line during the presentation, but instantly made my ears prick up. I thought the notion of ALL of us being ‘key influencers’ for someone was a really interesting one, and actually one more true to life – in an age when we are all more hardened to marketing messages – the thoughts and opinions of our friends maintain cut through. With this in mind, the notion of genuine one to one conversations becomes even more important, as that is the only way to create advocacy (through a lot of hard work) and then create what is essentially an army of influencers.

Youtube embodies the idea of the ‘great leveller’. Anyone can be a Youtube star – in fact some of the most powerful Youtube creators are not brands, not individuals backed up by money and equipment. Technology has democratised communication channels, driven by three key aspects – the ubiquity of recording devices (most pockets now contain an HD video camera), the simplicity of the tools (you can even edit video footage in Youtube these days if you want) and the pervasiveness of the platform – Youtube doesn’t charge to store and distribute your content – they’ll actually help monetise your content.

Thread 3 – digital mirrors real life more than ever.

This wasn’t really a thread so much as it was probably the most important thing Facebook had to say – so I’ll dedicate a thread to it. In many scenarios, social is added in as a final afterthought to a campaign idea – much as ‘regular’ digital was a few years ago.

Rather than trying to tack on ‘social’, Facebook argue that your starting point should be the social activity or story that you are trying to create – and that you should work backwards from that point, reverse engineering it to create your ‘socialised’ campaign. From their perspective, trying to engineer in ‘socialness’ at the last minute results in a kind of fake digital approximation of social activity.  The kind of social campaigns that gain traction online exactly mirror real world social activity – because at the end of the day whether you are talking online or real world, whether you are telling a friend at the water-cooler, or over Twitter – these social moments are driven by the same underlying human impulses.

Thread 4 – Authenticity, relevance, interest, risk.

  • Know who you are. Be true to who you are. Find your tone of voice and reflect that in whatever you do, whether it’s advertising or making content. (Youtube)
  • If you’re going to make content, take the blinkers off. People absorb and share content because it is interesting, entertaining or just plain cool (Youtube). Ask yourself whether it has pass-through merit (Coca Cola). At the end of the day people don’t want to sit through longer form ads.
  • What makes something shareable? We generally share to uplift our friends. Does it make their day better (by entertaining, being useful etc) – if so, there is a chance people will choose to share.
  • Without risk, there is less chance that whatever it is you are doing, whether it is creating content or socially enhanced campaigns, will be truly outstanding or memorable. Yes, you might fall in a heap, but if you engineer all the risk out of the process then you increase the chance of producing beige.

Day three was incredibly dense with information and thought provoking moments.  Easily the best day so far.

Follow Christian on Twitter @XtianOz