Who else could really open the 2017 Festival of Marketing but National Treasure, Stephen Fry?
In many ways the antiTrump, a man with 13 million Twitter followers and an IQ the size of a planet was the perfect scene-setter for 2 days of immersion in modern marketing.
In an expansive opening interview/monologue, Fry touched on Justin Bieber, the shape of “human society 3.0”, content marketing, ice hockey and the power of Twitter to bypass mainstream media channels (for better or for worse).
Key quotes among the many were:
“Nothing is idea-shaped, everything is human-shaped” - on the ambitions of technology versus the way it ends up being used
“Everything about Facebook revolts me.”
“The heart is still a better route to truth than numbers” - on millions of years of revolution vs a few hundred years of data.
“The Czech for ‘slave’ is ‘Robot’” - on the potential of AI to take on our boring chores
“Good content marketing tickles exciting glands in humans”
“Keep your nose to the wind and eye to the skyline” - a wary approach to AI.
“Don’t skate to where the puck is - skate to where it’s going to be” - on ice hockey genius Wayne Grtetszky
We could have probably listened to Stephen ramble on all day, but he had to go and be fabulous somewhere else.
Are You In Your Creative Element? asked Claire Bridges of Now Go Create.
This session was focussed around the power of self belief and how creativity is impossible without it.
Covering Heineken’s creative scale (how they judge their creative ideas, below) the session also touched on how comedians “hold their ideas lightly” - don’t cling on to them desperately, just see where they go and grow.
Another key element of creativity is accepting failure - Clare highlighted a Space X video of shuttle launch failures, the company learning from each one.
Small, constant failures can lead to great things - like the stand up who is unafraid to constantly test of new material ahead of a stadium tour. Trust is a huge enabler, with companies that empower their employees to fail reaping the rewards.
Timely talk from Direct Line’s Mark Evans on Neurodiversity, or "whole brain marketing"- building teams compromised of all sorts of thinkers and brains from across the spectrum, including autism, dyspraxia and ADHD.
According to Mark, it will be “the thinking from the edges that makes the difference” to modern marketing, and companies need to recognise that some perceived weaknesses or disabilities are actually “superpowers”.
What better way to kick off a second, slightly more bleary, day than getting three fresh-faced, made-up young celebrities to sit on a couch and generally be lovely?
Reggie Yates, Tom Daley and Rochelle Humes spent half an hour discussing the power of celebrity/brand partnerships - which in essence boiled down to two things:
- The partnerships need to be authentic
- Reggie Yates is a GREAT GUY.
Onto a really interesting talk from the Duncan Gough, Tech Lead at the V&A museum, about how AI might need to go through a “useless” phase in order to find itself, and an interesting definition of AI - “Computers have got their own shit going on”.
According to Gough we’ve gone past convergence (your phone does everything), past peak converge to post-convergence - we now need things that do less, not more in a world of “digital landfill”.
In a conversation that veers from “AI is going to kill us all” to “It’s just a digital butler”, do we need “passive emotional software” that just uses AI to… be nice and add some emotional texture to our lives?
Here’s an example - Ara, an AI songbird that sings when she feels like singing, and has turned into a companion for Gough, who misses her when she’s in an exhibition.
Vue - beyond the “what” to the “why”
Interesting talk from Vue on how they’re looking to personalise their customer journey.
The key phrase was “anticipation, not personalisation” - pre-empting customer needs before the customer know they want it and delivering an experience accordingly.
Vue view “anticipation” as the new battleground - for instance your phone will sense if you’re running late for a film and give you a nudge as to when the trailers will finish or automatically offer to amend your ticket to a later time.
Interesting digression about how Vue’s chatbots can sense emotion (Frustration, anger), and seamlessly transfer the user to a human to defuse it.
In Vue’s new world, customer intimacy will be key- something they’re careful to balance with not being “creepy”.
The Marketoonist, AKA Tom Rushmore, started his talk from the perspective that “People are more loyal to their needs in the moment than to any particular brand”.
He drilled home how marketers have more media channels at their disposal than ever before, but also more noise to cut through - and the way to do that is to concentrate on making their customers feel awesome.
Rushmore highlighted Beta Brand, an American company that gives each item it creates a story and lets its customers be the stars of the business - a great example of storytelling through product.
Other words of wisdom:
“Serial is more important than viral” (ie consistency is king)
“Technology can’t save boring marketing”
“You can’t ask for engagement for its own sake.”
Ritson V Sharp: the people decide
And then to the prize title fight of the day, Mark Ritson, vs Bryon Sharp. The heart vs head of marketing, two behemoths of the industry with very different approaches.
In his book, How Brands Grow, Sharp claims having a point of difference to your brand is less important than mass reach. Ritson is a fan of segmentation, targeting and going with your gut. The debate raged back and forth, covering Apple vs Samsung, lack of pride in marketing and “brand cause”, something both think is useless.
Ritson won the debate by a fair margin, mainly due to his unflappable demeanour, brutal soundbites and laconic comic timing, but no blood was drawn.
Other FoM highlights included competing in a world record attempt to build a VR Pyramid (failed), walking off a VR plank and plunging 100 stories to a virtual death (flailed) and getting some personalised stamps printed off by the Royal Mail (mailed).
If you'd like to find out more about how AI can grow your business, how to personalise your CRM, or any of the other issues covered here, please drop us a line at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Until next year!