There were some very applicable themes to those concerned with all aspects of advertising at the INBOUND Conference in 2015 that are still relevant today. Having attended a few breakout sessions and watching some high-profile keynote speakers, I was also able to discern some key takeaways for those in the advertising, agency and adtech space to help them better differentiate, make an impact, and get their message across.
Take a look at the big 3:
#1: Embrace Vulnerability
The opening keynote featured Brene Brown, a research professor at the University of Houston Graduate College of Social Work and the author of two #1 New York Times Bestsellers. She and her work have been featured on PBS, NPR, TED, and CNN. She opened the conference with this idea of vulnerability: that is, the willingness to show up and be seen. Not to be confused with weakness, she argues that it is in fact the biggest demonstration of courage.
When it comes to constructing innovative messaging in advertising, it’s always easier to play it safe. If you have the courage to put yourself out there - or in this case, your brand in its most raw form - you will definitely be disappointed. Innovation always comes with a price - but what makes or breaks a brand is whether or not they choose courage over comfort.
#2: Curate the Experience to Predict the Future
A few of his key points he highlighted as being trends for brands included “everyday stardom”, which is delivering a VIP experience to the end user, customer, etc. wherever you can. Taking the time to understand while enabling personalization technology can make every customer feel like a VIP - increasing brand loyalty and customer retention. An example could be someone who uses some sort of travel planning app to book his hotel, and through a partnership with that app and the hotel chain advertising on it, when the user arrives they are automatically upgraded to the penthouse suite “just because”.Rohit Bhargava is a “non-obvious” trend curator, founder of the Influential Marketing Group and an expert in helping brands and leaders be more influential. He is the Wall Street Journal bestselling author of five best selling business books and teaches marketing and pitching at Georgetown University. He delivered his talk on how to predict the future by curating an experience: that is, focusing on gathering, aggregating and proving as a methodology to become a forward-thinking presence in your industry.
Another key trend highlighted by Rohit that advertisers can learn from is to be more fickle: take notes with sharpies so you really need to think about the key points you are trying to communicate to your audience without too much superfluous language.
#3: Be Bigger and Bolder
The last lesson advertisers can learn from would be from Ann Handley, who works as the Chief Content Officer of MarketingProfs, which provides strategic and tactical marketing know-how and training for marketing and business professionals. She also writes a monthly column for Entrepreneur Magazine, and is an occasional contributor to The Huffington Post, American Express OPEN Forum and Mashable.
Handley said the direction of brands is heading into bigger, braver and bolder stories. It involves all the components of #1 and #2, with the biggest missed opportunities being companies playing it too safe when it comes to messaging with their customers. Regardless of industry, businesses should shift focus from product-centered to a more value-based approach to advertising of their products into the context of what their customers are already talking about. At the end of the day, how does your brand make customers deeply smarter? How do you make the world a better place?
THE BOTTOM LINE:
Dare to be different. The worst thing the advertising industry can do is continue the approach it’s been taking for years - decades - and not do anything to change for the future. The constant challenge to be better and to reach potential customers’ expectations of transparency and honesty is intimidating, but well worth the risk.