Editor's Cut: Every once in a while, it is really nice to just go to a marketing event…not as a speaker or organizer, but as a marketer.
In late March, I attended the 2014 Adobe Digital Marketing Summit. If you were among the 7,000 in attendance, you may have already soaked in this info, but for those who couldn’t make it to Salt Lake City, here are a few highlights from my experience.
• Community and customer are not synonyms. It is so easy to fall into the trap where community and customer take on the same attributes. And as Yancey Strickler, CEO of Kickstarter, shared, far too many of us blur those lines and fail to remember that in a community, “There is no ‘us’ and ‘them.’ There’s just us.” When we engage with a community as if they were all customers, we take certain liberties in tone, content and direction. We forget that in that situation, we need to be authentic and part of the community. There is a time to talk to customers, and there are even ways to mine for customers within a community, but the two should never be thought of interchangeably.
• Risk without reward is just foolhardy recklessness. While there isn’t a real way to predict if risk will pay off 100 percent of the time, we need to really embrace the idea that without risk, we aren’t even in the game. Being open to failure has become part of the marketing journey in this age of digital exploration, but sometimes risk is just downright terrifying.
But Robert Redford—yes that Robert Redford—said it best by declaring that “not taking a risk is the risk.” The beauty in today’s marketing is that risk can be calculated to some degree. We have the insights, data and overall ability to know and predict what our customers’ expectations will be. Given those healthy guiderails, taking the risk to see what new engagements and experiences will most thrill and excite our customers becomes a risk that can’t be avoided, but one that doesn’t have to be reckless.
• Know it. Live it. Love it. You have to have a plan. Richard Sherman—or should I say Cornerback Richard Sherman of the Super Bowl Champion Seattle Seahawks—had a plan from the moment he knew football was his path. And yes, he admits that he had a plan heading into the controversial game that gave the larger-than-life character his social moment.
Say what you will for the player, but as a brand, Sherman knows exactly who he is and who his customers expect him to be, and he celebrates that brand with every decision he makes. “Stay consistent,” Sherman told the Summit crowd. “There will be pros and cons in every situation, but I know who I am and where I want to go.”
After the NFC Championship game that caused such a ruckus, Sherman put his brand into overdrive, and this smart and brand-savvy 26-year-old knows he has to put his brand in the right place at the right time to connect with the audiences he wants to engage—whether it’s a team he is playing for or a sponsor he wants to sign him. But his word of warning was one that every brand, especially those who find themselves in a social moment or in the crosshairs, should learn: “You can’t say anything outrageous if you don’t have the evidence to back it up. I said outrageous things. But I had the evidence and facts to back it up.”
• Reinvention, re-imagination, revolution…pick a direction and evolve. Across every presentation and every keynote address, reinvention of marketing was the theme. But I started to question whether marketing needs to reinvent itself—potentially changing so much that looks completely different—or just keep the evolutionary journey moving forward. I would like to think that it should be a mix. There are things that we need to reinvent about marketing at the most fundamental levels so that we can continue to evolve and grow, not only as individuals but also as a tribe.
But Mr. Redford said it in a way that really struck home for me: “In this striving to create new things and reinvent things, what is lost is the heritage…that history.” When looking at his own career, Redford said that he had to learn to trust his instincts when looking to evolve, but he was always careful not to get too caught up in his successes.
For brands and for ourselves as professionals, there is a lesson here. There is a heritage in the journey we have taken with our customers—an authority we have gained through all of our bumps and bruises. Reinvention shouldn’t strip us or marketing of those bruises because that’s how we have learned…that is our heritage. So as we head into a fast-moving future, we have the ability to reinvent what needs to be changed, reimagine the goals and heights to which we can aspire, and evolve the role of marketing and the CMO.
• Pick a ship, any ship. There are so many options and directions out there for marketers. Sometimes, deciding which way to turn is the worst part of the day. But Mike Rude from FedEx boiled it down for us. “It’s like you have a ticket for a presidential cabin on a cruise ship, but when you get to the dock, you can’t decide which one to get on. Here’s the deal: No matter what, you will have a great room and go someplace. And if it isn’t the right place, the ship comes back, and you can get onto another ship. So don’t over-analyze which ship to get on. Take the risk, and just get onboard.”
Friends, you don’t get anywhere by standing on the dock. So ship ahoy, marketers!
Until next month!
Follow me on Twitter: @lizkmiller