The Things I learned at the Gathering
By Noel Geer CEO of Connected Interactive
It was a good healthy mix of some high-level technical knowledge like Block Chain technology along with sessions focused on management toolsets and practices to assist in how to build a positive company culture and drive passion.
Many of the workshops were nice and small which is a great style of doing these events and the Keynotes were filled with a large audience of 1,100+ were well suited to the format and the speakers always made themselves available to talk to anyone afterwards if you were willing to be patient.
I’m not going to say that I found every workshop mind-blowing, but as with most things if you chose your content wisely and made sure you went where you felt you would get the most benefit it worked out well.
So with that what did I learn from this conference?
Super interesting topic and one of those subjects everyone has a lot of questions about, but very few seem to have the full picture.
In a nutshell, blockchain decentralizes information in order to make it independent of any need to be managed by a central Authority.
Go here for a youtube video of the speaker he did for his 8-year-old daughter:
We all know about BitCoin and other cryptocurrency opportunities popping up, but where does this fit into the marketing landscape?
Data feels like a Natural fit for me. Within this technology, you could essentially enable users to control the value of their personal data and assign to advertisers or brands as they see fit. A value exchange for their personal data to actually get something in return or align themselves with advertisers that they feel are aligned with their values and with that essentially make the users the ones to assign permission of their data and have control over it.
This sounds crazy, but with the onset of General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) in Europe and governance bodies trying to figure out how they are going to control personal data with respect to the rights of users and their personal information this could be a solution that fits into the future of this discussion.
It’s pretty idealistic to think the Advertising community will want to adopt this in the short-term as it disrupts their supply chain management and much of the value they derive in the Data Management landscape, but disruption is the key word here and marketing companies should be aware.
There are multiple facets in the advertising landscape that this technology could be integrated into and disrupt, from Smart contracts, to server infrastructure and even how further ease purchasing with seamless fintech infrastructure with reduced security risks on personal information which is probably the first application everyone thinks of with this technology.
The opportunities for disruption with this tech is endless, but as I see it user data feels like the opportunity ripe for disruption.
If you want to think about what you can do to be ready for this:
- Learn to code
- Learn and understand Artificial Intelligence
- Study Behavioral Economics
More resources on this tech can be found at
Management for HyperGrowth
Management is no longer a Pyramid and if treated like one, unless you are a massive immovable force with a lot of money, you will be destined to not achieve your potential.
Stop thinking about Millennials as the enemy of your business.
Stop even using that word and start thinking about what it’s going to take to empower your people and make them take ownership.
If you sit at your desk and use the term Millennials as a reason for failure or issues that seem to be happening in your company then YOU are the problem.
In today’s market, the concept of a management structure that has communication lines that reassembles that of a pyramid are old school and dated.
There is no question that when it comes to culture and overall attitude inside the workplace shit rolls downhill, but if you follow that same logic as it pertains to input and communication within the company then you need to make changes.
Your greatest resource is people and should be set up to mine the knowledge of your people as if it was the gold that sits in the minds of your entire workforce.
Create eagerness as a manager to get your people involved and make them part of the vision.
Figure out how to create ownership for your employees.
This is the symbiotic relationship that will fuel your workforce and allow for hyper-growth.
Keyword “Ownership”, make sure everyone has ownership and a stake in the end result. When people take ownership, their position changes on how they think about their job and what place they have in your organization.
How proud were you of the first car you owned even though it was probably nothing special?
Be active in asking people to “Own it” and push them to tell you what they think they own.
Create a shared vision and work as a team to understand it and execute on it. Shared goals create an empowered workforce and an opportunity to invoke some passion. With that, you have a key ingredient to creating a special culture and one of kind organization that retains talent and attracts more through the ambassadorship of your current workforce.
The last and hardest point of this lesson is Radical transparency. I say hardest because this is a point I struggle with as my dream is to be able to have everyone in the company aware of what’s happening behind the scenes and see how their own incentive is affecting company profitability, but how does one do this without creating a forum of ongoing questions from your employees, thereby adding a ton of additional work just to manage expectations. Additionally what if you have a down year, does that cause people to question the company? This is an issue I find extremely perplexing. (trust, more minds are better than one…others have different views and knowledge bases. Tap those to find ways to build or pivot.)
That said in the examples we see of radical transparency with everyone owning the KPI of the company can create a uniformed momentum that would be hard to stop.
My end take away from this lesson is baby steps toward the ultimate goal or Radical Transparency.
Lastly, the idea of linear communication was a big one. More evidence that encourages a Holacracy style of communication between management and employees was a success maker through and through. This aligns with the dismantling of the pyramid structure as it pertains to internal communication.
Companies like Zappos who got acquired by Amazon for 350 Million without a full buyout and able to negotiate a structure that kept them independent of the Amazon structure were huge advocates of the Holacracy approach and invested huge amount of resources to making sure everyone had a voice and were encouraged through incentive programs and internal conversation to speak their mind when they had an idea and when they thought there was something wrong. In fact this lines right up with the concept of decentralization and the Blockchain concept, which is an interesting conceptual link.
The book Originals by Adam Grant talks about this form of internal company communication netted a 98% success for companies that properly implemented it.
Culture is an amazing force behind success, but cult-like culture funny enough in the research Adam Grant conducted showed strong growth in the first 2 years with 95% success rate, but only a 50% success rate after strong growth periods. Cult-like culture while many times unique and fun tends to encourage the masses to follow instead of adding their personal or individual knowledge and empowering innovation. Instead of encouraging internal dialogue and linear communication can be the recipe to long-term exponential growth.
Here is a great chart that was shared with regards to much of what I just said
In the end, create your company KPI’s and share them always refining them.
Align everyone’s goals, company, team and personal.
Encourage feedback and allow that feedback to be something you may not want to hear, but don’t let people just tow the company line. Reward them for stepping out of the shadow and challenging your ideas.
Drive Ownership. Make people, “ OWN IT”. I’d like to make this a company motto.
Make your people your ambassadors, hell, tell them to make their own podcast.
Be Transparent and make everyone who works for you an insider and work with him or her on their personal goals to align their career goals with their company goals.
Create clarity on your company values and operationalize them.
Align, Share, empower and GROW!
Storytelling in Advertising
We had the pleasure of getting insight from lots of Global heads of marketing for some major brands like Jeep, Beats by Dre, Mountain Dew, Jack Daniels and many more.
The biggest take away I got from this which should have been obvious is they don’t get excited about media very much and especially care less about simple display ads.
Be it data-driven or interactive or anything you can dream up, if you aren’t talking about how you’re connecting to consumer’s emotions then your voice will have less impact at the brand level and you will be lost in the forest of noise they hear every day. Hence the impact creative agencies have on overall strategy with the Brands
The biggest thing that mattered to them was how you can draw an emotional connection and draw from either their rich history as a brand, show how cool and hip they are in a new age or make some sort of empathetic connection to users to drive an emotional response that lifts the equity of the brand.
If you plan on talking to these bigwigs in charge of 100’s of Millions in ad spend you need to figure out how to show how our data can connect them to moments or something in parallel to that.
Data is extremely cool, but to those in charge of the message you need to align it with the relevance of the brand message.
Measurement showing consumer reaction and measuring purchase could be something that gets the Heads of the brands excited because it’s essentially the measurement of consumer reaction.
One theme I found interesting was the need for sound that I heard from Jason from Beats by Dre. Yes very topical for that particular brand but after being mentioned there seemed to be the consensus from others that sound is a key factor that drives emotion and the combination of this and video is why TV commercials continue to rule.
That said our streaming and radio exchanges could allow for the application of user Data to execute audio ads and could be an interesting way for advertisers to mix visual targeting with sound through a frequency strategy that combines visual ads retargeted with audio ads and finally video and TV as a great way to escalate emotional connection.
There is technology as well that could allow us to trigger audio in the ad units that don’t typically create sound in a few different ways. Triggers on a display ads that turn on when you roll a mouse or finger over the ad, visual queues like musical notes floating from the unit to make users curiosity trigger sound, give users a reasons or incentive to trigger sound or similar Facebook strategies that use copy from a video and if it’s interesting they click on it.
In the end, this is why digital video will most likely be the winner as it pertains to dollars in the digital advertising industry and driving brand movement.
Evoking Passion and connection
Finding Passion in your work and the ability to sustain high energy over a long period of time is a major ingredient to success.
I heard from the Head of Global Marketing for Beats by Dre, Jason White how Dr Dre and Jimmy Iovine still after decades of work have as much energy in each project as they did when they first started.
The biggest issue with that example is the reaction from most people would be they are making music and doing what they love. Don’t kid yourself though, even when you love what you do sustaining that energy and passion, is one of the hardest things to achieve.
The point on hyper-growth talked about building internal passion with your team through growing ownership and empowerment, but what about the question of how to keep that passion and energy over extended periods of time.
Everyone experiences burn out from employees to executives and especially entrepreneurs.
Our last keynote speaker Afdhel Aziz had a lasting effect on everyone and clearly moved the audience with his story on his decision to change his career path focused on generating good in the world instead of simply having a record of helping brands push product and sales. With global experience heading up brands like Nokia back when it was a dominant player and more Afdhel realized that what he was doing wasn’t moving the needle in terms of making a substantial difference in the world.
Author of the book Good is the new Cool, Afdhel now focuses on how brands can win by doing good in the world and in affect raise their brand equity and evoke a connection with their consumer as well as passion from those involved internally.
Additionally as hard as it is for many to passion in work, if you can see that what you are doing is resulting in creating some difference and creating something far bigger then yourself this is a great way to unlock that internal passion and drive sustainable energy long term.
This hit pretty close to my heart as my father just died suddenly in a bad car accident only 4 weeks before this event. My relationship with him went deep as a mentor, advisor and friend and he and I always talked about making sure we can say we made a difference in the world before we die. With confidence I could he accomplished that, but I couldn’t say the same for myself.
This past Christmas as a company we experimented with an idea whereby instead of buying our clients gifts like we do every year we pooled all the sales teams budgets together for gifts and sponsored 12 families for Christmas (3 large families and 9 mothers with newborns).
We did a little piece telling our clients what we did and gave them info on the whole process. The feedback was amazing and internally everyone felt amazing to be a part of this whole process.
What a great way to spark passion by aligning your team with the ability to do some good in the world and evoke deeper connection internally.
With the unanimous feedback from that initiative, some current life events and now triggered by this great Keynote it’s time to act on an idea I three years ago on how to unit brands with charities in such a way that drives funding for the charity through alignment with the marketing KPI’s for the brand.
I’m now dedicated to making this solution a reality and will be working towards bringing this to life in 2018.
Finding purpose can feed that energy long term when you can see and measure some result. In the case of Dr Dre, I’m not saying his energy was fueled because of how his music changes the world, but think about the lives he’s affected by building peoples careers. Thinking about making someone famous is probably a shot of adrenalin for him and Jimmy in addition to the fact they love what they do.
If we can find ways to align our careers with our own personal values and as well empower our people with the same vision the power of that can be something so special as well as sustainable.
In the end, a lot has been learned from just a couple days spent with some great people listening to inspirational stories and as with most things the question now is how to apply it.
The market is changing so drastically all the time and if there is one overall theme I can take from this it’s understanding how the world is changing and how you can thrive as a manager, entrepreneur and leader in this evolving world.
Now “OWN IT”!