Feature Image: The IN-NW 2016 stage backdrop. Photo Credit: Ilona V ldlis
IN-NW (“in northwest”) is a digital innovation conference with keynote sessions on a variety of topics, including engagement, marketing, and culture. This year’s IN-NW focused on innovators in digital marketing. This article is the first in a two-part series covering key takeaways from IN-NW.
At this year’s IN-NW conference, Hanson Hosein, Director of the Communication Leadership Program at the University of Washington, began the conference by reflecting on concepts from scientist, researcher, and self-professed geek heretic Kentaro Toyama in his book, Geek Heresy.
“Technology amplifies human intent and capacity; it doesn’t substitute for them.” –Kentaro Toyama
In the digital era, we sense the importance of technology and experience the power of how it changes our lives. However, as Toyama says, we should keep in mind that technology is just a way to amplify humanity. Knowing how to understand and maximize the effect of appealing to what is human in us is certainly the key to future marketers’ success.
There were many diverse and inspiring keynotes delivered at IN-NW, but three concepts were touched on over and over again. These ideas, according to the experts on stage, are the key to helping marketers understand what they should be paying attention to, and how to win their customers’ hearts.
1. Authenticity: Be true to yourself
“I build a brand by telling my own story,” says Moorea Seal, a designer who attributes the success of her fashion accessories business to her authenticity. Seal displays what she is obsessed with and be the most truthful version of herself on her blog, brand website, and social media platforms.
Seal’s authenticity has not only succeeded in winning her customers’ hearts, but has gained recognition as a powerful influencer across channels, leading to her collaborations with brands like Gap and P&G.
Her advice to entrepreneurs and businesses looking to grow? Take an approach that makes customers “want to be part of your journey.”
The story of Susie Lee, the CEO and co-founder of online dating social platform Siren, also shows the tremendous value of authenticity. Throughout her career, Lee was given advice on how to define herself and explore in her career path, but she soon figured out that “much of this advice was generic in the way that didn’t apply to me.”
By choosing to focus and express what made her a unique individual, Lee was inspired to create the connection-focused app named Siren, whose tagline is “Be Yourself.”
“Good content and good marketing is not about trying to find shortcuts in the most generic advice,” Lee explained. “It is about trying to find certain kinds of specificity that people are belonged to.”
For future marketers who face challenges in the competitive digital environment, showing the authenticity of the brand and telling the brand stories in a genuine tone go a long way to winning their audience’s trust. Truly authentic marketers avoid creating inconsistencies when delivering contents across channels, while establishing real emotional connections with the consumers. Consumers will actively engage with companies when they see being part of a brand story as another way to present and be true to their inner selves.
2. Empathy: Learn to see through their eyes
With the growing importance of UX (User Experience), VR (Virtual Reality) and big data, future marketers need empathy to harness these trends.
Ashley Karr, Program Manager at General Assembly, spoke about how marketers can work better by collaborating with the UX team and valuing their work: empathizing with users and to create the best experience for them.
“Marketers get people to the party; UX designers, make sure that people have a great time when they are there,” Karr explained. Instead of attracting the people to the party and leaving them an unsatisfying experience there, marketers should stand by the UX team’s principle—to create an experience from users’ standpoints—so that consumers will return, become loyal, and share word-of-mouth promotions within their communities.
“VR is kind of referred to as a great empathy machine,” said Ross Asdourian, Producer at Red Bull North America.
To engage consumers in a fun and adventurous VR experience, Asdourian said, marketers should build an understanding of the audience with empathy. This will facilitate marketers to make decisions on whether the brand should produce VR experience.
If yes, it further helps marketers to choose what content should be produced for VR and how it should be distributed. In VR, marketers will never provide only one perspective for consumers to explore, but enable them to move in their own unique path. Thus, future marketers should spend more time understanding individual consumers and creating VR experience that most of them will be interested in exploring.
Having empathy is especially beneficial for marketers who want to use big data smartly. Comm Lead alumna Adriana Gil Miner, who is also the Vice President of Corporate Communications at Tableau Software, expressed how data visualization is a way to show empathy and tell stories.
“We have the same data set, the same chart, but with a few different design choices, it tells two different stories and two different emotions,” Miner said. With more and more data, companies need to make smarter decisions that take into account the needs of different stakeholders. Marketers should better identify who the audience is, and use effective explanations and visuals to communicate effectively with their audience. That difference is what allows data to come to life and be meaningful.
3. Community: Let them share your vision
The concept of community is about relationship building. Successful marketers should be able to nurture a community where the brand to connect with consumers through creating positive emotional bonds, just like how people connect with each other. Kevin Wick, the Creative Director of Frog Design, spoke about how companies should approach creating this connection with their audience.
“When you connect in the same tribe, you’re now looking for opportunities to encourage somebody else, to give them the benefits of the doubt, to trust them,” Wick explained. “You want to be part of their success. You want their success to be part of you.”
Wick pointed out that how powerful it can be when people mutually benefit from being with one another in the same community. To develop an outstanding brand, marketers should be capable of building a strong community containing positive emotions and stories for its consumers.
Moorea Seal’s fashion accessories brand story is a great example of this principle in action, and it’s not difficult to see how the community creation propelled her business to success. By using her own name as the brand name, Seal said, she has to succeed by aligning herself with a community of people with the same attitude. In this community, Seal doesn’t just obtain fame, profit, and enjoyment from spreading her ideas to her customers. When her customers buy her products, they gain a sense of confidence and a feeling of amazement, thanks to the strong positive association with Seal.
If there’s one key takeaway from IN-NW 2016, it’s that prioritizing human connection is the key to future marketers’ success in the digital world.