After reading our Online Reputation Management white paper and taking notice of Wendy’s being cited as an industry disruptor with its trademark sass on social, I did some digging online and saw that the fast food giant would be presenting at Advertising Week 2018.
Despite being extremely unfamiliar with New York City and a conference newcomer in general, I would soon find myself alone in the hustle and bustle of Midtown Manhattan as an AWNewYork attendee.
AWNewYork is an advertising mecca that houses over 290 seminars and workshops on innovations in technology, creative storytelling, emerging data trends and more. With 51 featured speakers, including Procter & Gamble Chief Brand Officer Marc Pritchard and Mastercard CMO Raja Rajamannar, 773 registered press and premium sponsors like Amazon, Unilever and Coca-Cola, it’s a larger-than-life experience.
The opportunity turned out to be so eye-opening that I’m still in the process of absorbing an excess of material that I have scattered about on notepads, my phone and laptop. Between the workshops, interactive installations, TechX holograms and donut wall, I was in a state of sensory overload for the first 2 days.
Of the 12 seminars I sat in on, there were 3 that stood out from the rest:
Intent Redefines the Marketing Funnel
We know that on a very basic level effective marketing fosters growth. And more often than not, most marketers are expected to know the ins and outs of the marketing funnel and its linear customer journey that begins with awareness and usually ends in a purchase. While demographics are effective when used to inform targeting and segment buyer personas, they may not be doing enough to predict intent throughout the customer journey.
Mobile devices and digital technology offer users more control, so consumers expect immediate answers in the moments they want to do or buy something. Intent-rich moments like these influence journeys to shape out as diamonds, hourglasses and pyramids–rather than funnels–according to clickstream data collected by Google over the last 6 months.
Here’s an example of this new customer journey at play:
Kelsey, a twenty-something from Kentucky, is shopping for new makeup after learning from a friend that the products she’s been using for years may be irritating her skin. She begins her journey with a flurry of Google searches and learns that hypoallergenic makeup is ideal for sensitive skin. We see Kelsey moving through what appears to be the traditional funnel as her search narrows down to a handful of promising brands. But rather than making a purchase next, she begins a new search by looking up “rewards” and “rewards birthday gift.”
Over the next few weeks, Kelsey’s consideration expands and contracts several times as she does more research and watches makeup artists review products on YouTube. After browsing a few online retailers, “Beauty Insiders” from Sephora’s rewards program ultimately win her over.
Kelsey’s next move? A quick search for Sephora locations nearby.
Shopping behavior isn’t always linear. You would be hard-pressed to find someone who shops the same way for everything they buy online. As brands continue to carve out a presence on every addressable medium to meet consumers where they are, the customer journey is redefined in ways unforeseen by the funnel of years past.
Kristin Lemkau, CMO of JPMorgan Chase, closed the session out with her contention that while it’s a marketer’s primary function to drive growth, brand awareness isn’t a KPI we should be measuring for and brands should be seizing on cultural watershed moments even if they don’t make for airtight business case.
Her case in point? Chase’s #ThisMama commercial featuring Serena Williams that paid homage to working mothers everywhere, capturing the zeitgeist of 2018. #ThisMama challenged the longstanding portrayal of motherhood as a sitcom, and with 260 million impressions, it’s evident that the 60 second flick made viewers feel something that can't always be so easily quantified with an exact science.
Storytelling on Mobile
As someone who’s in the content marketing trenches daily, a session with a storytelling focus obviously piqued my interest. And since AR and VR are changing the ways in which brands connect and engage with consumers on mobile, one could reasonably expect other methods of storytelling on this device to change brand-consumer interaction as well.
TV ads are constrained to 30 seconds, as opposed to mobile ads that can span 3 minutes or be squeezed into “snackier” bits at 6 seconds. The content born on mobile is becoming so unhinged with this timeframe versatility that it acts as a powerful lever to motivate offline action.
Laura Joukovski, CMO of TechStyle, delved into what successful storytelling on mobile looked like for its sub-brand Fabletics. The athleisure line relies on its retail presence to be a touchpoint of brand discovery by offering a tactile experience that customers can only find in stores. Fabletics’ complimentary ad exposure on mobile links online and offline marketing efforts and has been credited as a key contributor to Fabletics’ success as the fastest growing fashion brand in history to date.
The Story on Instagram Stories
Storytelling was one of the more popular themes at AWNewYork this year, so the frequent reference of vertical stories throughout came as little surprise. Instagram has engineered stories to be spontaneous everyday moments juxtaposed by the avocado toast shots we're inundated with daily. A welcomed reprieve to say the least.
It’s working for them too, as Instagram boasts a global audience of 40 million users that swipe through stories on a daily basis to get closer to the things they love: e.g. brands and businesses.
When executed correctly, stories used for brand objective and direct response can be rather persuasive:
- 50% of consumers buy a product online after seeing it in stories.
- 31% buy a product in-store after seeing it in stories.
Jackie Titus, Global Head of Social Strategy for Nike, wrapped things up with some lessons learned in regards to the challenges posed by vertical stories:
- Take advantage of the ephemeral touch. If you pore over the creative brief of a story and come to realize later on that it wasn’t a hit with target audiences, it’s gone in 24 hours. If it exceeds your expectations, move it to Story Highlights.
- Embrace the mindset of failing fast to keep moving forward if your initial ideations missed the mark. Sometimes a simple tweak in copy or a shift in timing can make a substantial difference.
- Vertical stories are still considered a novel concept by most brands, which means while mistakes are inevitable, the big wins are too.
After rubbing elbows with other copywriters, account managers and strategists from agencies like OMD, BBDO, and Huge, I realized that whether you’re part of a Fortune 500 or a boutique agency, everyone in this industry could stand to learn something valuable at AWNewYork.
And just like that, it was over. I packed my bags for the flight back to Charlotte and thought to myself:
“Do I have really have to go back to the real world?”
As it turned out, I did have to go back. Soon I would be in the presence of gifted storytellers and savvy data analysts once again, only this time at an agency down South with a knack for live-action production and motion design & animation among other things.