Insights

5 marketing takeaways from Web Summit 2016

By Nicolas Deskos | 14 November 2016

Last week, 53,000 tech enthusiasts descended on Lisbon’s MEO Arena for the annual Web Summit conference, Europe’s largest technology event. The four-day event featured everything from augmented reality to chatbots, smart homes to high speed transportation. We spent some time at the PandaConf stage, where industry giants, global CMOs, leading brands, investors, agencies and adtech startups meet, to hear how tech is revolutionizing the world of marketing. Here are our five key takeaways:

Product is the new media

While some companies have been thinking long and hard about how to market their services on Pokémon Go, other brands have been using augmented media to engage their audience in innovative ways. This year,Max Factor created a one-of-a-kind retail experience using augmented reality, while Nestlé transformed millions of cereal boxes into interactive video games. Speaking on the PandaConf stage during day one of Web Summit, Ambarish Mitra, Founder and CEO of Blippar, showed how the medium allows advertisers and brands to digitally overlay messaging and content in the real world. “Most companies have tremendous data from the web, but little from how people interact with their products. With AR, the product becomes the new media for brands.”

Marketers need to think like startups

The digital revolution has revolutionised many industries, but few have changed as drastically as marketing. Faced with new technologies, a multitude of channels and a wealth of data at their disposal, marketing departments are under increasing pressure to get to grips with the digital landscape in order to retain their edge in a competitive climate. According to Pete Blackshaw, Nestlé’s Chief Digital Officer, marketers, especially in large organizations, need to be more entrepreneurial if they are to succeed in today’s digital, social and mobile world. “We’re in a world where we have to revisit a lot of assumptions especially around the rules of speed and agility. Part of our role as digital leaders is to be really smart curators. How do we take the best practices from a market and try to scale.”

Authenticity wins the day

Good marketing should start conversations, not force conversions. “Social media for the last ten years has been like a cocktail party, Just superficial engagements with no depth or connection”, argued Alexis Ohanian, Reddit’s co-founder. “In the days when everyone is suffocating with photos that have been photoshopped and the false versions of people’s lives, what we are starving for is realness and authenticity. But that kind of connection takes trust and security, and when people can act like themselves online real conversations happen.” Reddit, which boasts 250 million unique users a month, eight billion page views and over 40,000 communities, has recently become a new marketing platform for brands like Coca-Cola, who used the site early this year to ask consumers which Marvel characters they would like to see in their blank">Marvel Super Bowl commercial. By being authentic, Coca-Cola was able to activate and engage one of Reddit’s community threads.

Chatbots will become part of the branding mix

It would be an understatement to say that artificial intelligence was a hot topic at this year’s Web Summit. With the advent of messaging apps, chatbots, and advanced machine learning techniques, AI is laying the groundwork for more sophisticated one-to-one marketing. Brands are already experimenting with AI-driven chatbots to manage basic customer service queries. While chatbots cannot currently handle the complexities of human interaction, the more advanced AI gets, the more meaningful these interactions will become. Dutch airline, KLM, renowned for its award-winning customer care on social, was one of the early adopters of Facebook’s new branded messenger bots. A move that perhaps indicates where customer service is going in the near future. Because of the ability of chatbots to have personalized conversations with customers at scale, they are likely to be a crucial part of a consumer’s experience with a brand.

It’s about the content, not the context

As marketers, we love to talk about what’s hot at the moment. Whether it’s virtual reality, or Snapchat or Facebook Live. But by doing this, we put too much emphasis on the medium and not the content. “Every time there’s something new, we have an inability as people to apply historic rules to it and we’re scared of the new thing and go into defense,” said Gary Vaynerchuk. Founder and CEO of VaynerMedia. In other words, while the channels may change, the rules of storytelling to attract and engage an audience stay the same. During his panel discussion, Vaynerchuk argued that you shouldn’t be afraid to try out new platforms, if that’s where the consumer’s attention is: “You have to execute and storytell on new channels. If you’re an early creator, then don’t be afraid to invent the rules.”

Nicolas Deskos
Editor
When he's not cycling around Amsterdam, Nicolas is curating OnBrand events and writing frank, no-nonsense articles on branding and marketing trends. Coming soon to an event near you.