Being an attendee at an event like the Gartner Digital Marketing Conference is a lot like trying to drink from a fire hose. You can’t possibly take everything in, you just hope you’ll be hydrated throughout the event. This year’s conference was bigger than ever, nearly doubling attendance from last year. This was its fourth annual event, where presentations ranged from discussions on metrics and other block-and-tackle marketing issues, to strategic planning ideas focused around Gartner’s future predictions. Looking at the conference through a PR lens, I was most intrigued by the topics relating to the communications landscape and how I might leverage those insights to benefit our clients. Here are a few key takeaways that I found relevant and powerful:
- Consumer trust is waning so brands must deliver authentic experiences. As I mentioned in my blog on day 1 of the conference, Gartner predicts that in the next few years most global consumer brands will lose 20% of their brand equity value to declining brand perception and loyalty. This is due to disruptive platforms wedged in between consumers and brands – like purchases through Google and Amazon instead of going direct. Also, minimalist and private label brands that emphasize product quality and transparency are seen as more authentic and are able to differentiate.It’s become more important than ever to deliver authentic experiences that turn customers into advocates. Gartner says the number one rising consumer value is serenity, followed by security, so brands must also figure out how to connect with these important values. Offer customers control and value to regain trust in an increasingly skeptical landscape.
- Radical changes in technology abound so brands must stay open to new possibilities. Technologies like artificial intelligence, natural language, and voice-enabled devices are going to affect the way we communicate with each other. This means everyone is a newbie in these areas so it will be important to do some purposeful experimentation–that makes sense with your own business objectives of course. Look at the larger trends in technological disruptions around the world and determine if the ripple effect hits your own industry and how you might ride the wave or adapt.Phil Hanson, pointillist (an artist who creates images using tiny dots) and inspirational speaker at the event, talked of his background when he developed a neurological problem where he could no longer produce the same kind of “tiny dot” art, so he had to adapt and change. The lesson here: embracing a limitation can drive creativity and our success depends on our ability to shift in the face of challenges.
He talked about limitations as obstacles that block our path that you can get around, vs. self-limiting beliefs that block all paths and possibilities. I noticed several of the presentations discussed the importance of marketers to stay flexible – and when hiring new marketers, look for skills in flexibility and learning quickly on the job. Incidentally, Hanson created the image of Albert Einstein using tiny drawings that everyone in the audience submitted the night before (zoom in and you’ll see what I mean). Amazing!
- Marketing and martech are evolving to become more intelligent and savvier, aligning with smarter, savvier consumers. The marketing team and its required expertise is changing. Gartner talked a lot about its ‘fat T’ research vs. the ‘skinny T,’ where the ‘T’ is a diagram of skills on one axis vs. depth of knowledge on the other. Gartner believes that marketing generalists must increase expertise in more specialist areas of marketing, and to do that, they either need to hire marketers with greater breadth and depth of skills or hire agencies to fill the gaps in experience.And content marketing remains key to successful marketing programs and will continue to be the focal point – as well as a major bottleneck – so teams must be adapted to support and drive quality content. Content marketing tools (like the digital experience platform our client, e-Spirit provides) are getting smarter and provide tools like AI-powered personalization and cross-channel experiences to get your messages across better than ever before. They also enable the marketer to use data-driven ways to better understand what customers want.
I think the key phrase here is authentic content. In addition to the obvious themes for a Gartner conference, like technology and measurement, authentic storytelling that communicates a brand’s truth (remember a brand is anything you can talk about publicly regarding the company, not just your products!) was a big theme in this year’s conference and it’s what we love to do as PR practitioners. Let the AI and chatbots take all of the repetitive, boring tasks of digital marketing and focus your efforts on data-driven, authentic storytelling and you’re on the right path. We’re here to help!
Author: Anne Schneider
More than 20 years of experience building and executing global communications programs and managing relationships with the media, industry analysts & other influential communities.